scouts-l Mail Archive for June of 2000: Re: Insurance and Liability Experiences
MAJ) Mike Walton (settummanque, the blackeagle (blkeagle@USSCOUTS.ORG
Thu Jun 01 2000 - 20:55:58 CDT
Marc Godbout wrote and asked us all a SUPER question:
>One of these is, "Because you won't be covered by insurance". I've been
>doing the Cub Scout/Boy Scout/Venturing thing for about 14 years and have
>never once heard of anyone actually using the BSA insurance policy. Nobody
>in any unit I've been associated with has ever inquired about it, nor have I
>heard anyone from any other areas mention any experience in this area. And
>I've seen a fair share of injuries and driven several scouts to hospitals
>for things from stitches to broken bones. So how about it - Has anyone out
>there ever actually had personal experience processing BSA insurance claims?
Yes. *pointing to myself* In 1986, while serving as the Installation
Scouting Coordinator at Fort Gordon, Georgia. The situation was simple
enough: the post has a "Scouting Resource Center", one of those old World
War II barracks (it used to be a classroom building) on the southern end of
the post. Totally surrounded on three sides by grass. On one side was a
natural gas storage tank with the appropriate pipes leading to and from it.
On a Saturday, when nothing was going on, two boys (only one of them were
in Scouting) decided that it would be a "neat place to play". The Resource
Center was catacornered to the post's Youth Center. The boys were running,
and the non-Scout kid ran smack into the piping. He ended up with 23
stitches and an overnight's stay at the medical center on base.
The parents attempted to sue the local BSA Council (although the Council
had NO OWNERSHIP of the building or its contents), the post, the director
of the youth programs, and me (because as Director of the Resource Center
and as the post's Scouting Coordinator, my name was on the door in case of
emergencies....and therefore I became the "responsible party".
Because I had taken out a personal insurance policy to cover my Scouting
activities (through USAA, I recommend them highly...I'm only a VERY
satified customer!), I ended up paying nothing when the claim was settled.
They only received $22K from the local Council, which promptly asked the
post commander to tear down the building (which the post commander, a
strong supporter of Scouting ON the base but had very little pride in
Scouting OFF the base!) said "pound sand".
It was the start of a slide between me and that Council's Scout Executive,
because I refused to side with him on the matter even though I was a
District officer. Hey, my salary was being picked up by the US Military,
not by the BSA...*smiling*
The Staff Judge Advocate ruled that the parents could not sue the military
and that because the child was a military family member, that the cost of
the medical care and any followup would be paid by the miltary. (I still
don't understand how come the Council settled....)
So, yeah, I learned two things from that experience that I share with
Commissioners when I go to their Commissioners Colleges or other events,
and which I've shared here on Scouts-L since my first day:
First, follow the BSA's rules. If the BSA says "fill out the local tour
permit," despite what "Bubba" says ("Hey, don't sweat it....I've never
filled one out and everything was just fine..."), and despite what "Helena"
says ("I just fill it out when we get back and send it in....they won't
know the difference!"), that piece of paper is the first line of defense in
case of any civil or criminal action. Your Council's version of the Guide
to Safe Scouting is the second line. Your behavior as a Scouter is the
Second, if you can afford it, get personal liability insurance on yourself
if you perform a key role in a unit or within a local Council. The rates
are low enough, my understanding is that you can take it off your tax
return as part of your "non-profit work" expenses, and most of all, you
can relax when someone tells you angrily "I'll sue you!!" At that time, I
only had a $250,000.00 policy; I do recommend if you can afford it to get a
policy at least $1M.
(Yeah, its a lot of money....but considering that there are some whom will
tell their clients to ask for several million in the case of a death....)
And even though you were NOT PRESENT, the mere fact that you are the "guy
or gal in charge" can get you into hot water.
(oh, the third thing: make sure that whenever something like this happens,
you contact the Scout Executive or at least your District Executive/senior
professional manager as SOON AS POSSIBLE. Bad news gets worse the longer
>The second common pearl of wisdom is, "It's a sue-happy world out there, so
>you've got to cover your tail", or some such words. I've been sued, my
>parents have been sued, and my grandparents have been sued, but never in a
>Scouting context. Similar to the above insurance issue, I've never heard of
>anyone sued because due to a Scouting related incident.
There are many Scouters who do get sued, Marc. Many of them don't
"advertise" the fact because it sometimes carry with it a rather negative
connotation, like "you didn't do your job right...you let yourself get
sued". It is the other case....you did your job, but others want to come
after you because they assume you have "money."
>So how probable are these problems, really? Are we blowing all this out of
>proportion or am I and my local cohorts just the lucky ones? I know we've
>got to be prepared (where have I heard that before? :>) for any possible
>consequence, but my experience is telling me that we should make our
>decisions based on the chances of someone getting hurt and how badly, and
>lessen the worry factor based on if we're fully insured and who will sue us.
Again, also as I've wrote in the past (and as others have also added their
"agreed" to), I would NOT worry too much about being sued. If you get
trained, carry out the Scouting (or other youth) program according to its
national guidelines, local guidelines and local/state laws, and if you
truly have a personal concern for the youth entrusted to your care, you
will come out of any such "situation" on the positive, upward side.
You will become a "magnet" for anyone wanting to take things away from you
if you are carrying out something OTHER than a Scouting program, if you
fail to send in the proper forms and applications WELL IN ADVANCE of the
activity or event, and if you decide that "Hey! It's supposed to be about
fun...not about administration and paperwork..."
Hope this helps out, Marc!
(MAJ) Mike L. Walton (settummanque, the blackeagle)
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