Lifeguard Insurance – cost and types of policies
As business starts to accelerate with summer around the corner, it’s time to prepare your protection against accidents and mishaps by ensuring that you have proper Lifeguard Insurance guarding your own business interests.
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Lifeguards, swimming instructors and other such trained personnel working in, on and around water, are required to exercise a higher level of care than the average member of the public.
In any event where an emergency occurs, you are going to be held to exceptional standards for the proper, professional and safe execution of any actions.
All of this means that you need to have insurance in place before you don your lifeguard suit and climb up onto the lifeguard’s chair to start your session.
Required insurance for your lifeguard business
Every lifeguard business is different, so we can’t specify exactly what your own insurance needs in terms of levels of cover are.
We can list in the table below some average insurance requirements and costs for small businesses similar to yours.
Small Business General Liability Protection:
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|Insurance type||Basic level of cover||Expected range of annual premium|
|Errors & Omissions||$50,000 full year
$25,000 single claim with $1000 deductible
|$750 – $1200|
|General Liability||$2 million full year
$1 million for a single claim
|$450 – $700|
|Commercial auto insurance*||Based on replacement cost||$1500 – $2000|
|Commercial property insurance*||Based on value||$800 – $1200|
|Business Interruption||$10,000 with $500 deductible||$200 – $350|
|BOP insurance*||Based on value of property||$800 – $1200|
*These are totally dependent on the value of the assets being insured
Who needs to be insured?
All workers concerned with providing safety in the aquatic environment have a legal responsibility to provide all due assistance to anyone in distress.
There is no protection from “Good Samaritan” clauses, because you are a professional and are expected to be doing more than any passer-by or layman would have done.
Furthermore, your ‘duty of care extends not just to helping people in distress.
You are also responsible for maintaining an entirely safe environment in any area where you are working.
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Take, for example, a case where a swimming pool lifeguard didn’t ensure that the pool maintenance people had properly sealed the containers of pool chlorine.
Later a child came to inspect the cans and swallowed a handful of the highly toxic chemicals.
The expectation was that the guard would, and should, care for the safety of everyone in and around the pool, not only those in the water, and a case of negligence could be brought.
And there can be many other high-risk areas apart from people in the water.
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They can suddenly be in distress, require your lifeguard assistance.
Unfortunately, they may, themselves or their family, decide to sue you if the outcome of the incident led to distress, injury or even loss of life or limb.
Some general thoughts
If you are employed by a local government, state body, city or town council or Federal Park authority, then they are required to carry General liability insurance that covers you as their employee, even if it is part-time or casual work.
Therefore, you do not need your own General Liability insurance.
Suppose you are working as a lifeguard at private lessons in a backyard pool.
In that case, both General Liability and Errors & Omissions insurance is required.
If the employer is covered under their own homeowner insurance policy, you should get them to confirm this in writing, otherwise protect yourself before finding out that their cover didn’t include you when you are sued, by which time it’s too late.
If you are lifeguarding or teaching in your own backyard pool, you may be
covered under your existing homeowner’s insurance but make sure to confirm this with the insurance company in writing.
Before we detail each type of insurance, consider some of the other things you could be held responsible for, such as:
- Hot tubs, spas and saunas, which can be especially difficult because they are not always inside your immediate field of vision, and where calls for help may not reach you soon enough
- High diving boards are a special risk. You need to be extra vigilant not to allow inexperienced people upon the board. Be aware that having a sign at the bottom of the stairway warning of the need for care is not sufficient defense in any case where an accident does occur.
- Play areas, jumping castles and climbing walls are all places where accidents are likely to happen, and you may not be watching them sufficiently to defend yourself in court in case something does happen on your watch.
There are also some special provisions that you should be taking care of.
They depend on whether the domain you are working in is private or public.
In other words if you are employed as a private lifeguard by a person, club or company, or are a lifeguard in a public area like the city beach.
Errors and Omissions insurance
This is probably the essential coverage you should be getting.
Accidents happen even in the safest poolside environment.
Although you may say it was completely unpreventable, it won’t be easy to prove this is a court case.
Also, you need to be aware that there is no legal limit on the amount that a jury can award in a matter of accidental injury or death if you lose.
Such a case is different from a criminal charge of negligence, in which you are presumed to be innocent and the prosecution has to prove beyond doubt that you were guilty.
In a civil case for damages, juries can decide on probabilities.
They are also not limited in any way on how much money they can award.
Even a small accident can end up in court where the victim claims emotional distress, loss of income, hospital costs, and rehabilitation costs.
The result can be many thousands, or even tens of thousands, of dollars awarded against you.
As well, you have to pay for your own legal fees, which can be enormous.
You may even end up having to pay the claimant’s legal costs as well.
When you have the proper Errors & Omissions insurance, you are covered for liabilities arising from duties as a lifeguard and first aid provider.
Incidental expenses such as your legal defense, along with the final settlement and court awards are included.
Even if in the end the court finds that you were not liable, it may cost several thousand dollars that you have to cover out of your own pocket.
General Liability insurance
General Liability insurance covers you for accidents that happen to people who are not directly under your lifeguard supervision while you are on duty.
It is especially relevant when you use your private pool for lessons or recreation and act in an official capacity as the lifeguard.
In any case when a “third party”, which is any person who is inside the area under your control, suffers some form of accident or damage not directly relating to the swimming, then you are liable to be sued.
An example may be where you have let some swimmers take buckets of water out onto a tiled walkway, which then becomes soaked and slippery.
If some passer-by slips and breaks a limb, you can be sued and have to face the same problems as when you are being sued for E&O.
It’s not always possible to prove that you weren’t at fault, and the legal costs can be enormous, even if you win the case in the end.
There are a few other kinds of insurance that you may need to consider, depending on the specifics of your own type of lifeguard business:
Commercial auto insurance is necessary if you travel between workplaces, and especially if you transport pupils, fellow guards or anyone else associated with the actual business.
Your private car insurance may void your cover in such a case.
Commercial Property insurance is necessary if you own a private pool for business purposes, even if it’s part of your residence.
At the very least, you need to get any clauses prohibiting commercial operations from being conducted struck off or modified.
Business Interruption insurance may be a good option for you if you are a full-time lifeguard who depends on the business as your main source of income.
For reasons like prolonged storms, changes in the locality, and others, disruption to business may cut you off from the income for weeks or even months.
The insurance lets you continue to pay the business’s fixed costs and still enjoy a reasonable income.
If you need Commercial Property, General Liability and Business Interruption cover, then you can think about the option to combine them all under the single Business Owners Policy (BOP), which usually gives you cheaper premiums along with a better cover.
Is lifeguard insurance the same as lifeguard instructor insurance?
Lifeguard instructors have different duties from ordinary lifeguards.
Most often, lifeguard instruction takes place in some school or official body that will issue a diploma or certificate to prove the training.
So, if there is any need for insurance, it should be being met by the body running the instruction course, and the instructor (you) should already be covered.
If you are in any doubt, be sure to ask, and maybe get it in writing.