General Liability Insurance for Referee and Umpire Association
Sports officials need General Liability insurance to protect against lawsuits that arise out of allegations that their negligence resulted in bodily injury (typically to a participant or spectator), property damage, personal injury, and advertising injury. A General Liability policy covers legal defense costs and pays settlements or adverse jury verdicts up the policy limits.
Accident Insurance for Referee and Umpire Associations
Accident insurance pays for covered medical bills of injured sports official participants on an “excess” basis over and above any existing family health insurance. The policy may be subject to a deductible ranging from $0 to $250 per claim. Given the increasingly violent environment of our current sports scene, this is an important benefit to protect injured sports officials.
- Medical Expenses (Accident) – limits of $25,000 to $250,000 are available
- General Liability – limits of $1,000,000 to $5,000,000 available
- Cost if purchased for the entire association is as low as $8.45 per official
Referees and umpires of youth and adult leagues can face lawsuits that arise out of their officiating. Such lawsuits are costly to defend, whether or not they are merited. Accusations of negligence by a sports official have become all too common in our increasingly litigious society as players and parents look for monetary damages when injuries occur.
Negligence claims against sports officials fall into two categories. Bodily injury is one area, which can arise from a failure to inspect the playing field and/or equipment, control the game, failure to enforce safety rules, halt a game in risky weather conditions, keep the playing field free of equipment, debris and/or spectators, and failure to protect and warn participants. Bodily injury claims are covered by General Liability insurance.
The second area calls into the question a sports official’s decision while on the playing field. Such cases rarely go forward as the courts are reluctant to get involved with game decisions unless there is evidence of corruption, fraud, or bad faith. This second category of claim would require Professional Liability insurance.
For information on which states currently have legislation on the books that affects referees and umpires, click here.
Risk Management for Referees and Umpires
Officials deserve to arrive at the game, do their job in a safe environment, and leave the venue safely. Emotions of players, coaches, and spectators run high in sports, so it’s important to decrease risks and prevent bad behavior from happening. Below are risk management steps that officials can take to reduce the odds of an injury.
Prior to the Game
- When officiating at a school, request that a game host or administrator meet you upon arrival. Ask to use a locker room separate from the teams if one is available.
- If officiating in pairs or crews, travel together if possible or arrange to arrive and depart at the same time.
- Park in a well-lit area, preferably at a distance from the fans and teams, with clear access to the entrance.
- Discuss potential safety issues with the school administrator prior to the game, including team rivalries and what to do in the event a fight breaks out. Know how to contact the administrator during the game.
- Communicate your expectations to the game administrator in case something gets out of hand.
- Conduct a field/court check inspecting damaged surfaces, clearances, and buffer zones.
During the Game
- Have a no-tolerance stance when it comes to the safety of players or officials.
- Do not respond directly to belligerent or loud fans. Let the game administrator to resolve the problem.
- Do not tolerate physical contact. If you are bumped or pushed, eject the offender. If you are assaulted, defend yourself and seek assistance from other officials, the game administrator and/or security/police.
- If a scorekeeper or chain crewman makes unnecessary comments or improper gestures, take care of those responses immediately.
After the Game
- Leave the field or court as soon as possible, unless your state or conference requires that you observe the handshakes.
- Don’t engage any fans on your way out.
- If officiating as a pair or in a crew, depart the venue together.