Liability Insurance for Swimming Instructor

Whether you are supervising young children in their first formal coaching in the pool, or teen dreaming of becoming an Olympic medal star, or even older people who need to benefit from gentle exercise in the water, it is very important to keep in mind that there are all kinds of possible risks that you could be held legally responsible for.

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That’s why liability insurance for swimming instructors comes near the top of the list in every guide that sports associations and colleges publish.

insurance for swimming teachers

What does a swimming teacher do?

Although it sounds like a simple term, there is a very wide range of activity that is covered by the term “swimming teacher”.

That is why it has more recently been replaced by the term “aquatic instructor”, but in the article, we use both of the terms because they essentially are describing the same thing.

From early childhood lessons for safety, through active sporting competitions, and into therapeutic exercise for geriatrics, activity in water is an important part of modern life.

Aquatic instructors are helping people to become acclimated to water in safety, to exercise, to fulfill their sporting ambitions, and to continue to live and move healthily in their older years.

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For decades, Australia outranked the whole world in terms of the number of medals its individual swimmers and teams won at the Olympics and world swimming championships, relative to its small population.

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Clearly, this kind of success is built on the shoulders of outstanding teachers and instructors who are creating the fundamental talent for swimming that Aussie sportsmen and women have shown.

An excellent guide for swimming teachers is published by a national association for teaching of swimming and water safety.

Top of their list of benefits for licensed swimming instructions is automatic inclusion in a full insurance policy that gives them Public Liability, Property, and Professional Liability Insurance.

In the following sections, we will explain what each one of these insurance policies cover, and later on, how much insurance you should be looking for, and expect to pay.

As well, some thoughts about any special insurances you may need if there are particular aspects to your teaching operations.

What is public liability insurance for swimming instructors?

General liability insurance is the primary type of insurance for any person who runs the risk of being sued by a third party for injury, death, or property damages.

It covers you for financial losses caused to third parties by bodily injury or property damage, as well as any related medical or legal expenses, and some companies offer cover for ancillary covers such as slander and libel.

Accidents can occur at any time during conducting your swimming training activities.

There is a legal duty that you will conduct your instruction in a manner that doesn’t endanger people in the immediate pool area, as well as to protect the property itself against damages resulting from your actions.

Around the pool, and in the environment, there are many different sorts of risks that can lead to unfortunate accidents.

Whether you are teaching in a public pool, your own private swimming pool, or in the students’ own pool, the liability is the same and you can be held responsible for any injury to students, visitors, viewers, or anyone immediately in the vicinity or to damage in any way to any other area of the house, club or school, such as change rooms, access areas and so on.

A simple example we can cite involved a passer-by slipping on a soaked walkway, who pushed against a glass window to gain balance, smashing the window and cutting her arm badly enough to require transport by ambulance to hospital, transfusions, and surgery.

The end result was court cases for injury, hospital and medical bills, claims for pain and suffering, plus the bill to repair the window and frame.

Without any way to prove that he wasn’t responsible for the initial soaking of the walkway, a settlement of many hundreds of dollars was the only way to avoid adding thousands of dollars in legal fees to the whole incident.

So, if the person injured, or the owner of the building damaged, claims that you were at fault, they may sue you for cost of replacement or repair, for any medical expenses, and for other things like “pain and distress”.

Remember that people are becoming increasingly litigious and even the friendliest student’s parents can turn into a very angry opponent in court.

General liability insurance for swimming and aquatics instructors provides a high level of protections against any such legal outcome.

The policy takes over all aspects of the case, provides the necessary legal defence, and up to the limits you have selected, will cover 100% of the final judgement or settlement.

We talk more about the usual levels of insurance you should be thinking of a bit later in this article.

You can read more about general liability insurance in your state here.

Should I have excess liability insurance for my swimming instruction operations?

For most start-up and small businesses, the levels of normal general liability policies are sufficient. However, for swimming instructors who are teaching large groups simultaneously, it may be good to think about the possibility of an excess liability policy.

The risks that some extraordinary event could injure or even kill multiple students in a teaching class may be more realistic for your own operations – you alone can judge.

Something like having your classes in a glass-covered pool that gets hit by a major hailstorm, bringing the whole structure down onto the class, could end up as a claim for damages in the millions. 

To protect yourself from losing everything in expensive lawsuits, you can add excess liability to your insurance policy and get higher coverage.

You should talk to an experienced insurance agent, insurance broker, or company agent to make sure that you are really in need of this exceptional cover.

Do I need professional liability insurance as a swimming instructor?

Professional liability insurance, also known as Errors & Omissions, covers you from financial losses that are the result of allegations from customers of some malpractice, errors, and negligence in the conduct of your teaching.

Any allegations that your professional instruction failed to deliver results or that you were making errors or mistakes in your advice can result in you being sued for recovery of fees paid, damages, medical bills for treatment, therapies, loss of work, and many other possible claims.

Teaching swimming in the wrong form could result in chronic injuries.

Promising parents that their children will achieve high levels of outcomes could lead them to sue for a misleading statement.

Teaching in extreme conditions without regard to the physical state of the pupil could lead to breakdowns and potential hospitalization.

While you may have full confidence in your own abilities to teach properly and professionally, so that such events would never occur, you should think of the high level of risk you are accepting, and compare that to the relatively low cost of professional liability insurance.

If you want to sleep better at night, and work better with your students, you shouldn’t have in the back of your mind all the time that you could suddenly be faced with unforeseen outcomes and be liable for enormous money losses.

Does a swimming instructor need equipment insurance?

In general, this type of insurance is only necessary if you have invested substantial amounts of your own money in specialized equipment.

It is very expensive to replace it in case of any damage, loss, or theft.

Unless you can afford to immediately replace such expensive gear quickly out of your own pocket, you should have full-level equipment insurance so that you can immediately buy any equipment needed to keep the business running.

Does my aquatic instruction business need property insurance?

Commercial property insurance is needed if you own or rent some premises where you conduct business and have office equipment, computers, business records, etc, or store your work equipment and materials.

It provides insurance in cases of fire, explosion, burst pipes, floods, storms, theft, vandalism, etc. The main point is to protect all of your physical assets as much as possible. 

In particular, if you have your own pool at home where you conduct your lessons, then you need to carefully check your existing home-owners policies.

Most private homeowners insurance policies specifically exclude any kind of commercial activities, and you could be voiding your entire policy. In this case, the consequences of any accidental damage, fire, storm, earthquake, lightning, and all other risks will not be covered by your domestic insurance. 

Check with your insurance company, broker, or agent, or as an alternative just buy the required extra policy cover to be completely safe.

Personal accident and illness insurance

If you are dependent on the income you earn from your swimming instruction activities, you may want to protect yourself from accidents and illness.

Since swimming is a physical activity, accidents are possible at any time and you should take all necessary steps to be protected at all times.

Personal accident and illness insurance (PA) covers you from losing your income while ill or injured.

This coverage usually does not depend on the fact if your injury or illness was a direct result of your teaching.

What levels of insurance should a swimming teacher or aquatic coach take?

There are several different factors that should guide you in setting the required levels, and the figures we give here are just general guidelines taken from typical swimming instructors.

For general liability insurance, most instructors choose $1 million single incident cover, with a total of $2 million for the whole year.

See the next section for expected costs.

Excess liability cover may be necessary for instructors if you are working with very large groups of students.

In such a case, excess single incident cover of $10 million, which comes into effect after the first one million is paid by the main policy, is the usual option.

Professional liability / E&O covers usually taken are $25,000 for a single incident, with total claims of $50,000 for the whole year.

A claims deduction of $500 is usually required by the insurance company, so that they do not get an excessive amount of small “nuisance” claims. See the next section for expected costs.

Equipment insurance, and Commercial property insurance policies costs depend completely on the declared value of the policy, the level of claim deduction you are willing to accept, and your claims history.

What does swimming instructor liability insurance cost?

For general liability cover of $1 million, you should expect to pay around $15-$20  per month.

In a few states, some companies offer rates as low as $10 per month, so it’s worthwhile doing a thorough internet search. 

E&O insurance of $25,000 / $50,000 should cost around $10-$15 per month.

Some insurance companies offer policies that combine the two liability covers, plus commercial property insurance, for around $30 per month, but that depends on the value of the property and the insurance levels chosen.

How to select the right swimming teacher’s insurance policy?

There are few ways that you can get your insurance policy. Before making a purchase,  get a quote from a competent broker, agent, or company representative.

They will need to evaluate your property and equipment, to record all the risks and other factors. After that, they should direct you to the insurance company and you can then buy a policy.

A second and faster way is to check the offers online, compare the prices and make your purchase.

However, this also means that you need to search multiple times, for each of the different kinds of insurance that you may need, so make sure to follow the general outlines of the types of insurance above so that nothing important is missed.

Final Thoughts

Being a swimming teacher is a great way to stay fit and earn some good money at the same time, but it does involve some risk of injury to third parties, and property damage.

This is why it’s important to be protected.

Since you are working directly with people in the water, the injury that might occur can be serious or even life-threatening.

In order to avoid having to pay out of your own pocket in case of accidents, or settlements and judgments from lawsuits, the best is to have liability insurance coverage.

It also is a sign to your customers that you are a competent teacher who is conducting your teaching in a proper and professional way – just what they are looking for when entrusting their family members into your care.