Racing fleet insurance

Moderator: GreenLake

Racing fleet insurance

Postby kokko » Tue Dec 15, 2009 6:26 pm

In addition to sailing my DS1, I race my Catalina 22 with a local club. Our website is http://www.bbyra.com/

I got the following note from one of the officers, and hoped someone in one of the DS fleets would have some advice. The question is how we could structure our club in order to avoid liability, and therefore liability insurance.

I have been discussing our liability insurance with fellow board member Paul Mueller. I guess he contacted you at some point about this and we were supposed to get in touch. I am not sure this kind of thing is up your alley, but I will put it to you.The main question is whether there is some legal angle, perhaps designating the club as some special type of organization, which would render us immune from liability claims or somehow make it unnecessary to carry liability insurance.Let me know if you have an opinion or some information about this.
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Postby algonquin » Wed Dec 16, 2009 1:56 am

You can avoid the insurance by not buying any. :?

Not sure that would be practical though. If your club is open to the public and you hold public classrooms and sailing functions under the sanction of your organization you are taking considerable risk. Whoever participates in your events in addition to the sailors like safety and judge personnel and their craft are at risk if anything out of the ordinary happens. Individual boaters may consider purchasing their own insurance. It doesn’t take much of a situation to get into real trouble with injury or property damage. Seems that we all take risks but the results can be catastrophic. Kinda takes all the fun out. Brad

I would bet if you surveyed boaters you would find that most are uninsured. Not a good situation.

There is an open class sailing club near me that sounds similar to your situation. Peter’s Cove Yacht Club. They seem to not be insured. Their E-mail is: Paul Lapointe 04730@yahoo.com
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Postby jcalvinmarks » Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:18 am

First, the standard disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I do not hold myself out to be a lawyer. I don't even play a lawyer on TV. I am giving my strictly amateur opinion based on nothing more than my own thoughts and a very basic understanding of civil law.

You've been warned.

Your club can take measures to limit it's ultimate liability, such as having written policies about individual members being responsible for insuring their vessels and their actions, and having carefully written policies which detail what the club does or does not do, how it does or does not do it, who should or should not be doing it. That way, if an action were to be brought against the club, it would be a relatively easy to show that policies existed, and that reasonable effort was taken to act prudently and enforce the policies, and that the club is therefore not responsible for damages.

Say, for example, a Race Committee member setting and retrieving buoys collides with a boat during race causing injury to the racer. If the club had policies that RC members should possess the necessary skills and qualifications to operate a boat in the waters where the race is taking place, and the club reviewed his credentials before allowing him to operate the RC boat as part of the club's race, and he was operating his own boat in this process, and was clearly acting in violation of Club safety policies, then the Club should be able to avoid ultimate liability. They're sort of throwing their RC member under the bus in so doing, but the club avoids liability.

You cannot, however, take measures that render you immune from having a suit brought against you in the first place. The message from your fellow board member makes it sound as though he wants to be able to say the "magic words" and hey-presto, nobody can sue them. Not even the federal government is immune from lawsuits. It's part of the problem of living in a litigious society as we do that lawsuits can be brought against anyone, at any time, for any reason. And you must respond, no matter how frivilous the complaint, otherwise the plaintiff will often win a default judgement.

The bottom line is this: be very careful as an uninsured club, or buy the insurance and be slightly less careful.[/i]
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insurance

Postby kokko » Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:25 am

I tend to agree. Our membership form requires us to have insurance and make the skippers responsible for their own boat and crew. Crew members say they will hold the club and skippers harmless.

I do not think that any contract will protect you from negligence (or alleged negligence). If a member damages someones' property or causes injury, it is tha skipper's problem. If the race official or te committee boat does so, it is the club's problem
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Postby jcalvinmarks » Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:38 am

The real issue is negligence. That's what it all comes down to. In my example, if the club did not take any measures or exercise any due dilligence to ensure that the committee boat was operated safely, then the club was negligent, and they can be held responsible. The RC member was probably also negligent, so both parties can be held liable.

If the club is careful and dilligent, then ultimate liability for damages should not be an issues.

Lawyers fees and court costs are another matter, and that's where the insurance angle really comes in.
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Postby algonquin » Wed Dec 16, 2009 3:30 pm

Just another two cents here. Property damage or injury may be to someone who was an innocent bystander with no affiliation with your organization. If the actions of your club sponsored activities was in anyway responsible you may be in a world of hurt. It doesn’t matter if individual boats are insured or not. Your club could still be held responsible.

Another thought about due diligence. Your club may take many active measures checking paperwork, safety equipment, training, registrations, verifying insurance of participants, boat color, etc etc. Now through your own efforts you may be held responsible when there is an incident because you forgot to cross one T or dot an I. Brad
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Postby GreenLake » Wed Dec 16, 2009 5:11 pm

One aspect to consider is whether your club has any significant assets. If not, then there's nothing that needs to be protected at that level.

However, you still want protection for all the volunteers (unless they are all without assets :) ). It's been my (layman's) understanding that the usual personal liability insurance does not necessarily cover activities that are performed under the auspices of any organization.

If you search the web, you'll find offers for just such a type of insurance for clubs that don't own significant assets. Some of the rates that were quoted seemed rather moderate, if they can be split over enough members.
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