Forums: Skydiving: Instructors:
Instructor Liability risk

 


drdive  (D 29619)

Sep 28, 2010, 10:55 AM
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Instructor Liability risk Can't Post

I am planning on taking my AFFI course this fall. I love working with students, our DZ needs AFFI's, and I want to give back some of what has been given to me in this sport. However, I have some ? about potential liability. I am a physician, and even with waivers, worry about being viewed as a "deep pocket" if there is an accident with a student. Even with the waivers, there is always an attorney willing to sue. Just wondering if this issue has bothered others?

Ed


(This post was edited by drdive on Sep 28, 2010, 11:50 AM)


AndyBoyd  (D 16728)

Sep 28, 2010, 11:24 AM
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Re: [drdive] Instructor Liability risk [In reply to] Can't Post

Here is a thread about instructor liability.

http://www.dropzone.com/...g=liability;#3262506

Yes, it is a real problem, and you should seriously consider the potential risk before instructing students.


GLIDEANGLE  (D 30292)

Sep 28, 2010, 11:44 AM
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Re: [drdive] Instructor Liability risk [In reply to] Can't Post

I have been an AFF instructor only a short while (~3 months; ~90 AFFI jumps). Things I have learned relevant to your question:

AFFI course gives the candidate only the BEGINNING of what they need to know. The AFFI rating is sort of a "learners permit". I am lucky to work with wonderful experienced AFFIs who give me the continuing coaching I need.

I have made more than my fair share of mistakes on AFF jumps. None of us is perfect, and mistakes of judgment or performance will occur.

Dress for success (to match student fall rate). Struggling to get to a student who is above or below you is WAY MORE EXCITEMENT (and risk) than you want/need.

I suspect that my greatest liability exposure is related to things outside my control: lousy student performance of EPs, or lousy landing technique....."You didn't teach me well enough".

I have learned that every AFF jump is like a box of chocolates... You never know what you are going to get!

I remember hearing a story about a wealthy jumper who stopped working as a AFFI due to his fear of being perceived as the deep pocket.

I think you are prudent to ask this question, and I wish you the best, no matter what you decide.


drdive  (D 29619)

Sep 28, 2010, 11:56 AM
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Re: [AndyBoyd] Instructor Liability risk [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks, Andy - the thread has a lot of food for thought. And thanks Glideangle for your points. That is part of my concern - even if you do everything right, things can go wrong, as everybody in the sport should know.

I was all excited about the course, but on the advice of a fellow jumper at my DZ, started thinking about the liability issue. I hate to alter my life due to some risk, but also hate to risk my hard earned assets on instructing.


stratostar  (Student)

Sep 28, 2010, 12:10 PM
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Re: [drdive] Instructor Liability risk [In reply to] Can't Post

Dr.Dive,LLC


Premier SkymonkeyONE  (D 12501)

Sep 28, 2010, 12:48 PM
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It is my personal opinion that people who are so concerned about potential liability issues should refrain from instructing. It's all about your personal risk analysis. I choose to accept the bad with the good and that makes me a more confident instructor. AFF is VERY challenging and you ARE going to have some bad jumps. Being willing to work through those problems, though, makes you a FAR better instructor.

Chuck


funfall  (C 1)

Sep 28, 2010, 1:22 PM
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Re: [drdive] Instructor Liability risk [In reply to] Can't Post

Look into an excess liability ("umbrella") insurance policy.

Here's one description:
http://www.ehow.com/...ility-insurance.html

And read the discussion AndyBoyd provided a link to. Very helpful.

(edited to add the last comment)


(This post was edited by funfall on Sep 28, 2010, 2:30 PM)


drdive  (D 29619)

Sep 30, 2010, 12:35 AM
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I am thinking about the LLC - not really sure how much that will help. Was planning on an umbrella too. Aw hell, I am going to take the course. I like working with students. Can't spend my life worrying about what might happen. See ya in a month, Kip.


DiverMike  (C 40024)

Sep 30, 2010, 5:47 AM
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I set up a sub-S corporation a few years ago to protect myself when teaching Scuba. It cost about $100 bucks to do in Ohio. The down side is in order to be protected by the 'corporate veil' you must follow strict procedures or the veil can be easily pierced. Any funds received from the DZ would have to be paid to the corp. Income from the corp would transfer through via K1. If you are a Doctor, all of this is probably pretty familiar to you.
I kept the corporation alive for 8 years, then realized the chances were slim enough that I wouldn't be successfully sued in an assumed risk sport if I taught correctly.


JohnnyD

Sep 30, 2010, 8:00 AM
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Re: [DiverMike] Instructor Liability risk [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
I set up a sub-S corporation a few years ago to protect myself when teaching Scuba. It cost about $100 bucks to do in Ohio. The down side is in order to be protected by the 'corporate veil' you must follow strict procedures or the veil can be easily pierced. Any funds received from the DZ would have to be paid to the corp. Income from the corp would transfer through via K1. If you are a Doctor, all of this is probably pretty familiar to you.
I kept the corporation alive for 8 years, then realized the chances were slim enough that I wouldn't be successfully sued in an assumed risk sport if I taught correctly.
Of course with an S-Corp you also have the added burden of W-2 wages and payroll tax returns.
LLC is the way to go.


tuffyjensen  (D 25830)

Oct 1, 2010, 8:22 AM
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Re: [JohnnyD] Instructor Liability risk [In reply to] Can't Post

The attorney that I work for has told me that if you are doing the work yourself, then the hiding behind a company name will not do much for you. Meaning that you are the person who physically does the work (truck driver, doctor, skydiving instructor, etc.), you as the individual and the company will also get named in any lawsuit. Then you as the owner of any company own the net assets of the company as well, hence still leaving you potentially liable. With all that said, most waivers do list negligence (a mistake) being covered as part of the waiver, but never be grossly negligent (knowingly doing something that wasn't right), your neck is possibly on the line then. If you follow guidelines that are set forth and don't deviate from them, then you have a greater chance that the waiver will hold up in court.

When people are signing the waivers, since they tend not to read it, clearly tell them and I suggest make them watch a video of a very short to the point explanation of it with a spot on the waiver signing they seen the video.

"You are signing a waiver release of liability saying there are inherent dangers with jumping out of an airplane and you are agreeing that you are willing to accept those dangers for the thrill of it. Somewhere in that waiver it says that you cannot sue anyone and no one else can sue for you no matter what happens. Somewhere in there you also agree to pay for my attorney to defend your stupid ass (maybe leave ass out) lawsuit if you or someone else does try to sue, since I just told you that you cannot sue. Once you get done signing the waiver you will have absolutely no rights when it comes to filing a lawsuit for any reason."

Fairly short and VERY to the point and should leave no question in someones mind, and I will say it out loud in front of any wuffo's that came with or have them watch the video, so they are aware as well. The more protection the better and my attorney thinks that is great. Any other opinions are more than welcome.

Dennis


davelepka  (D 21448)

Oct 1, 2010, 9:43 AM
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Re: [tuffyjensen] Instructor Liability risk [In reply to] Can't Post

 
Some DZs will actually video tape you signing the waiver as proof that it's your signature, and I think they make you confirm that you knew you were signing a waiver. Perris did this at one point in time.

My DZ has a paragraph explaining the fact that this is a waiver, and you are signing away your rights, and you have to re-write the entire paragraph on the page below to confirm that you at least read that part.

Your boss is correct, that if you are doing the work, you will be named in the lawsuit. If you start an LLC and hire an employee who is involved in an incident, they will personally be named in the suit and so will the LLC. In that case, the LLC can get away 'free' as long as the employee was properly rated and qualified for the job the LLC had the employee performing.

As a single person LLC, your benefits will be largely in the area of taxation. Every state has different regulations, but through the LLC you can write off a good protion of your income for things like travel to the DZ, gear purchases and upkeep, and additional training (aka fun jumps). Check the local laws in your area.

As far as personal liability goes, the best you can do is adhere to the 'standard industry practices' when dealing with students. Toe the line in terms of everything from wind limits to cloud clearances. Don't be a part of anything that could remotely be construed as 'negligent'. Go over the SIM and the ISP with a fine toothed comb, and read as far into everything as possible becuase you know that the lawyers who bring a lawsuit will be doing just that.

If you do everything by the book, the DZ waiver should cover you. People (juries) know that skydiving is dangerous, and that people sometimes get hurt. If you can show that you followed the rules, and did everything exactly like you were supposed to, you should be able to avoid liability. This means that when other instructors, who may be counting on jumping to pay their bills (and have less to lose) want to push the wind limits to get the students out, you have to stand down. Just don't be a part of it.


AndyBoyd  (D 16728)

Oct 1, 2010, 5:36 PM
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Re: [davelepka] Instructor Liability risk [In reply to] Can't Post

I believe this was covered in the prior thread, so I won't belabor the point. Dave is right -- you can minimize your liability as an instructor by following the rules and using common sense. But if a student gets hurt on your watch, even if you were doing everything right, even if there is a solid waiver, you can still get sued. You'll probably win, but it may well cost you thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees to defend the suit. The only way to avoid instructor lawsuits 100% is not to instruct.


riggerrob  (D 14840)

Oct 4, 2010, 11:48 AM
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Re: [drdive] Instructor Liability risk [In reply to] Can't Post

Try thinking of skydiving waivers the same way you think about medical malpractice insurance.

..........................

Or maybe just refuse to jump with students who don't already have serious medical insurance.

That would be one way to encourage Americans to sign-on with President Obama's medical insurance legislation.


AndyMan  (D 25698)

Oct 4, 2010, 4:10 PM
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Re: [riggerrob] Instructor Liability risk [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
Or maybe just refuse to jump with students who don't already have serious medical insurance.

That's not any help at all. One very large source of medical related litigation is insurance companies seeking to recover their loss.

_Am


riggerrob  (D 14840)

Oct 4, 2010, 6:09 PM
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In reply to:
In reply to:
Or maybe just refuse to jump with students who don't already have serious medical insurance.

That's not any help at all. One very large source of medical related litigation is insurance companies seeking to recover their loss.

_Am

...............................................................................................................

... and the latest "joyous" news is that the Province of British Columbia is suing everyone vaguely related to a hot air balloon accident to recover medical costs.


Andy9o8  (D License)

Oct 4, 2010, 11:49 PM
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Re: [riggerrob] Instructor Liability risk [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
... and the latest "joyous" news is that the Province of British Columbia is suing everyone vaguely related to a hot air balloon accident to recover medical costs.

Ha. And you hosers say you don't wanna be like the Americans eh.



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