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April 2009    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 24, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Trip Leader’s Risk

from the April, 2009 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Dear Undercurrent,

Several years ago, I was in charge of a group of 16 divers on a three-day spearfishing trip to the oil rigs near the Louisiana coast. One of the divers was killed when he was run over by the boat. The captain was instructed not to sound the horn until the boat was safely tied up to the rig. He failed to do so on the last, fatal dive; rather, he sounded the horn before the craft was tied to the platform.

The lawyer hired on my behalf by my homeowner’s policy stated that if I had profited from the trip in any way (I paid the same share as everyone else), my policy would not have covered me. My insurance company paid $10,000 in settlement for my involvement in this terrible mishap.

Group or team leaders taking a free or discounted trip should check with their homeowner’s policy unless they have some other kind of liability coverage before making such an arrangement.

- - Terry Migaud, Metairie, LA

* * *

Dear Terry,

We’re sorry to learn of the loss of a fellow diver on your trip. I’ve written about insurance coverage for divers several times for Undercurrent, and the situation you describe is instructive as it does indeed raise some important issues. In today’s litigious society, if one has any formal involvement in a trip such as you did, expect to be included in a lawsuit if there is an accident.

Appropriate personal-liability coverage is critical whenever assuming a dive trip leadership position from which you profit financially. Of course, every such policy is different and case law differs from state to state. Also, depending on where the incident occurred, maritime law may apply rather than state law.

That said, routine homeowner’s (or condo owner’s or renter’s) insurance typically does not include liability coverage for de facto business or profit-making activities. Most policies of this type exclude death, bodily injury and property damage resulting from business operations of the insured. While the term “business” may or may not be more specifically defined in the policy, the term generally means a venture undertaken for profit.

This is why instructors and divemasters have separate, specialized insurance policies to cover business pursuits. Even if a divemaster or trip leader is not being paid cash, the exchange of services involved in being able to dive aboard a boat at reduced or no cost would normally be considered a form of payment and thus a business pursuit.

- - Doc Vikingo

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