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woppyvac

Instructor Waivers / LLC / Insurance

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I've been an AFF/Tandem instructor for just over a two years and have basically gone under the assumption that the DZ waiver would be sufficient in providing me protection against any lawsuit, etc.

That mind set has changed after hearing horror stories regarding lawsuits wiping out folks assets etc. - but those weren't skydiving related incidents. Anyways - I want to build whatever buffers I can to further protect myself.

I have created a single member LLC to use and now I'm trying to find insurance... But it dawned on me that those things mean nothing if the student doesn't sign a waiver for my LLC - correct?

So that is my question: Do I need a personal waiver for each student to support my LLC buffer? My own assumption would be 'Hell Yes!' as well as a contract with the DZ acknowledging that my LLC is a hired entity and not me personally.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. I have a couple calls out to my legal friends - but experience in the field is valued just as high IMO.

Thanks in advance.
Woot Woot!

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Well.... for what it is worth to anyone else who may run down this path. I spoke with my attorney. Creating an LLC with a separate / designated bank account is about the best I can do.

Other than making sure my DZ has the LLC's certificate of organization on file and pays all future checks to that entity there isn't much else to do.

Insuring my LLC may actually make my LLC a target in a lawsuit where as being non insured means they would only be able to go after what is in the actual LLC bank account. Maybe more if they really really want to lawyer into going for my personal assets.

Waivers may just be overkill. And it sounds like I should actually read the one at my DZ to see if it already stipulates that the DZ and any of it's affiliates / employees are to not be liable etc.

So there ya go. Hope this helps someone else one day. If it does - let me know...
Woot Woot!

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woppyvac

I have created a single member LLC to use and now I'm trying to find insurance... But it dawned on me that those things mean nothing if the student doesn't sign a waiver for my LLC - correct?



When someone makes a jump with WoppyVacLLC, does he jump with the LLC's employee? If so, the employee can be sued.

Mark

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No dropzone is going to want to have a separate waiver for every person that comes in contact with their students.

However, if you have an LLC or Inc., then there is no harm is specifically naming your LLC in the dropzone waiver, and that is reasonable other than printing costs.

We go out of our way to name every corporation manufacturer, aircraft operator etc in our waiver just in case. This came out of the SunPath lawsuit many years ago where part of the defense was tossed out since SunPath was not specifically named in the DZ waiver but was generally named under 'manufacturers of equipment'. The court thought that was not specific enough.

So now we list all that we can think of, and we print waivers in smaller batches making it easier to make changes as new people and companies come on boar.d sample attached.

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Yeppers! All of that makes complete sense. I'm pretty content with my DZ's waiver. It explains that it's employees may be independent corporations / llc's etc. and that they are not to be held liable just as well as the DZ isn't etc.
Woot Woot!

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Waivers protect against everything except "gross negligence."

Waivers also prevent frivolous lawsuits. In that respect, waivers protect the wounded against the prolonged stress of an 8-year-long lawsuit. Guess how I learned that????

Thirdly, if your bank account is small, lawyers will ignore you, because lawyers are only interested in money.

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Most drop zone waivers stipulate that that the student agrees not to sue the DZ, any DZ related LLC's and legal entities, the employees, and independent contractors.

Even if your LLC is listed specifically in the DZ waiver, it doesn't mean they won't sue your LLC, and it doesn't mean they won't sue you directly.

If you are doing the jumps yourself, no amount of corporate shells are going to protect you from the liability you are personally exposing yourself to by your own personal conduct.

Best thing you can do to limit liability is to do everything by the book, don't give them a single thing they can use to prove gross negligence.
"The restraining order says you're only allowed to touch me in freefall"
=P

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You are not likely to get much business requiring dropzones to have your waiver signed alongside theirs. Most DZ waivers cover instructors as well as your own would.

JM2C

Uncle/GrandPapa Whit
Unico Rodriguez # 245
Muff Brother # 2421

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I'm not a lawyer, but a lawyer once relayed this piece of sage advice to me: There's a misconception that an LLC will prevent you from getting sued. In the US, at least, you can get sued for just about any reason. Just because you have an LLC doesn't mean they'll sue just the LLC. They'll sue whoever has the assets, and try to get past the LLC.

The LLC/corp can help protect assets, but it's not guaranteed. It certainly won't prevent you from getting served.

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riggerrob

... Thirdly, if your bank account is small, lawyers will ignore you, because lawyers are only interested in money.



Not hardly: a competent lawyer (and even most incompetent lawyers) will sue just about any and all persons and entities he can identify that could even remotely have been involved in any incident. (And they won't ever know what's in your bank account until they name you as a defendent.)

And if it wasn't your fault, you are more likely to speak up and point your finger at who was at fault (with useful details about why they were at fault) if doing so will help you avoid liability. (IOW, you are more likely to throw someone else under the bus if *not* doing so means you might get run over.)

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they probably will not sue you just yet. You will initial requests for information, usually introducing themselves and the purpose for their inquiry in a letter, i.e. my client got injured.

They then ask about the limits of your liability insurance policy (at least every one we have ever gotten). Which is easy. we do not have liability insurance.

And that is almost always where it stops. Depends of course on state laws as well. Seldom does anyone ever just get 'sued' without an initial discovery of who to sue.

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Yeah, last comment is pretty accurate. Civil cases are costly to wage and personal injury attorneys usually work hoping to get a piece of the settlement, insurance is in itself a liability. If you have a $10,000,000 insurance policy, attorneys will droll over the chance to sue you, if you don't have insurance then their incentive goes away (unless you also happen to be a millionaire or something). There is also the whole "I'm not suing the TI, I'm suing their insurance company" psychological aspect, people are less inclined to sue other people over frivolous stuff, but insurance companies are fair game (no one cares about them).

It also depends on where you are, a lawsuit against Skydive Deland over a Porter crash (2005-ish) saw the waiver be upheld even under "gross negligence." So at least in FL the waivers are holding up in court, but every state is different.

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DougH

Even if your LLC is listed specifically in the DZ waiver, it doesn't mean they won't sue your LLC, and it doesn't mean they won't sue you directly.

If you are doing the jumps yourself, no amount of corporate shells are going to protect you from the liability you are personally exposing yourself to by your own personal conduct.

Best thing you can do to limit liability is to do everything by the book, don't give them a single thing they can use to prove gross negligence.



100% Correct. Forming a Corporation or an LLC will not insulate you from personal liability for your own negligence or alledged negligence.

And even if the DZ's waiver mentions releasing its "principals, employees and agents" (Lawyerese for "everyone"), it won't cover an Instructor who isn't an an actual "on the books" employee or Independent Contractor. Not casting any aspersions...

I can also think of a few other arguments that could affect the enforceability of a DZ's waiver in a claim against anyone other than the DZ/DZO...
"I shall not die of a cold. I shall die of having lived." Willa Cather

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Sadly, lawyers devote enormous numbers of "billable hours" trying to penetrate "corporate shells." Lawyers only succeed when the corporation has deep pockets and committed gross negligence.
Waivers discourage frivolous lawsuits and protect wounded against the long-winded, exhausting, frustrating, expensive process of suing to reclaim damages.
Fortunately, now that Obama-Care requires everyone to carry medical insurance, there is less incentive to sue.

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My experience and understanding of studying law for 8 years says that you are not an agent, principal, or employee. You are nothing to the student. Because there is not an exchange of financial medium between the student and the IC, there is no ethical obligations that exist which means there is no liability. As an IC, our obligations lie with the principal (dz entity) as that is where the exchange of currency happens.

Gross negligence equates to malicious intent and I can sit here and tell you I will never do anything malicious in skydiving. Making a mistake is not an example of malicious intent. That helps me sleep at night knowing I'm covered in that regard.

As far as using an LLC to provide services to an organization, I suggest looking into each State and weighing it with your specific standing as far as taxes, health insurance, vehicles, living situation, etc.

For example, NV has no state sales tax, which can be good when ordering large dollar amount items from your LLC account. On the flip side, NV has the highest car registration fees of any other state (they get the money somehow) and they require yearly emissions, another form of tax to use private property.
Another example, MT, has the cheapest car registration fees, no emission, permanent plates, NO SALES TAX, and allows you to register "movable goods" (vehicle, plane, RV) under your LLC.
Just an FYI: Whatever locality (State) you're in also has requirements (if a vehicle is in the State more than 30 days it must be registered) so that's another thing to consider (can you show it left the State every 29 days?). For owners of rv's this is often times worth it if your lifestyle fits the bill.

SD and FL are also held in high regard as far as LLC freedom.

I consider an LLC to be paramount for privacy reasons. Through an attorney in that state of your LLC's residency there is attorney client privilege. Since they act in the capacity of registered agents your name is withheld from public filings and any service of process goes to the registered agent (attorney, whom calls you privately). You will never be served at home or work because those addresses are private and privileged. Movable goods are registered to the LLC and also has that address on it. I pay my attorney 100$ a year to maintain my LLC.

Each State has different health insurance pro's and cons as well, if that's a priority to you. Aside from emergencies, I go to another country for all my health needs to avoid the massive government overhead.

I also suggest looking into a YouTube channel called "all up in yo business" hosted by a hella cute lawyer that does well to explain LLC'S in everyday you and I English. Also suggest consulting with an attorney in the LLCs state and your state of domicile, as well as a tax professional. It's best if you learn a little about it beforehand because lawyers are officers of the state in official capacity and something said "wrong" to a lawyer may force him by ethical obligations to not act in your best INDIVIDUAL interests, but those of the State he is an employee of (124 F. Supp. 257 and Loughlin vs US, Pearse vs US, Nebraska State Bar vs Jensen, VA.-Holt vs Com.)

Hope all this helps and sorry if this is considered hijacking.
Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.

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NowAndLater

My experience and understanding of studying law for 8 years says that you are not an agent, principal, or employee. You are nothing to the student. Because there is not an exchange of financial medium between the student and the IC, there is no ethical obligations that exist which means there is no liability. As an IC, our obligations lie with the principal (dz entity) as that is where the exchange of currency happens.



I'm not a lawyer, but I think you are wrong. According to what I read, and what others in this thread have said, if you personally cause injury to someone, you personally can be sued. For example, if I'm running down some stairs and bump someone, causing them to trip and fall and break their face, they can sue me as I caused their injury. Does not matter what LLC I have.

Same thing if I was a TI and my student broke their leg on landing. They can sue me personally. An LLC won't help. The DZ waiver should help, if it is written well.
It's flare not flair, brakes not breaks, bridle not bridal, "could NOT care less" not "could care less".

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Seth is correct. The Plaintiff will simply sue both you and your LLC. Your LLC status does nothing for you in regard to protecting you from liability or getting sued. The LLC (Limited Liability Corp.) is effective if you are in business and making contracts, etc... but it is meaningless in regard to your liabililty in case of personal injury. Really a waste of your time and energy.

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That's good to know, thanks, although not citing a reference is hard to confirm, other than what people (myself included) "say on a forum". I've done some 1099 in the past but injury was never a concern. Accidentally bumping into someone has no malicious intent. Purposefully shoving them on the other hand...
I'd be surprised if any of that would hold up.
Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.

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NowAndLater

That's good to know, thanks, although not citing a reference is hard to confirm, other than what people (myself included) "say on a forum". I've done some 1099 in the past but injury was never a concern. Accidentally bumping into someone has no malicious intent. Purposefully shoving them on the other hand...
I'd be surprised if any of that would hold up.



Negligence doesn't require intent (well, at least in the way you're thinking about that term) or malice. It doesnt matter if you intend to cause injury, if your carelessness (breach of a legally enforceable duty) cause injury you're legally liable for damages.
"I shall not die of a cold. I shall die of having lived." Willa Cather

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