It’s been made clear across the country the liability waivers that members and students are required to sign for studios and  your martial arts school are really not holding up in court like we all think they should and hope they should. It’s just an unfortunate truth that in today’s society people can sue for anything and they can claim that the school was negligent which nullifies a waiver. You’d then have to prove that you were not negligent and that costs money, so it’s more important than ever to carry martial arts school insurance, and not rely on waivers.

In one scenario, if a family can convince an attorney to take the case, he will file the suit. Then you have to hire an attorney to defend that, which could cost you potentially hundreds of thousands just for the judge to say ‘Oh this is covered by the waiver, there’s no liability here.’ In the end is it really worth all that stress and all that money?

Nothing can stop someone from filing a lawsuit. Costs really start around twenty thousand dollars and go up from there and can be significantly higher, so it is very, very important to have your martial arts insurance.

Typically, there’s some kind of mediation or motion that essentially goes to the court and says the claims are invalid, and that it’s covered by the waiver. If you’re lucky, it will get thrown out and you will only be out five or ten grand, but in many cases, the judge is going to want to hear the entire case and that means you’ll be entering trials and pre-trails.

You’re also paying your attorney by the hour to take depositions and paying an independent investigator to take photographs, interview and even document that you did everything right. That’s why claims get expensive, because there’s so much more to it.

In the event of a child injury, it’s absolutely important you always show that you did everything you could to take care of that child and contact the parents accordingly if they weren’t there on site.  The next thing you do after that critical moment is to document everything that happened and that means your eye witnesses including the instructor, any other adult that was present, their eye witness account, and the names of the other children that were present. You would want to go ahead and pull up the liability waivers that the parents signed and have them at hand. If a piece of equipment wasn’t involved, or it didn’t involve a slip and fall on a mat, there might not be anything to take pictures of. Obviously, the child’s injuries will be photographed at the emergency room, so those eye witness accounts are going to be important. Make sure they know what they’re supposed to be doing every day when they’re in class. Those would be included with the copies of the waivers that the kid’s signed as you put together the information to pass along to the insurance claims adjustor who’s going to be assigned to the case. Much of the time claimants are looking for reimbursement of medical bills, unless there is some kind of more permanent damage, such as a permanent scare or disfigurement. That’s the kind of thing that can get an attorney involved and asking for more significant amounts of money and all of your documentation will come into play.

Believe it or not, martial artists and fitness devotees are the least likely to file a claim if they do bust up their ankle or blow out a shoulder when they’re in the studio. Because they do this every day, they understand that accidents happen and that they have some responsibility for their own actions. You don’t see claims from the folks that are there all the time that are into it. They will suck it up and take this on as their own responsibility.

Something to note is our society has become more litigious and people’s medical insurance is not “as good”. They have higher out-of-pocket maximums and higher deductibles. If they don’t have the money in the bank, they’ll come looking for it.

It’s no doubt deductibles are high and that health insurance really is becoming almost ‘catastrophic insurance’ because you have to pay so much just to the get to the point where it kicks in.

The cost of an MRI versus the cost of an X-Ray are thousands of dollars versus hundreds of dollars, so these are the reasons insurance rates have gone up and these are the reasons we are seeing more lawsuits filed. It is less affordable to pay for big injuries theirselves, so they come looking for you when they might not have in the past.

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John Graden
John Graden

John Graden is widely credited with leading the martial arts school business into the modern age. He is the founder of the first successful professional association and trade journal. MA Success editor John Corcoran first called him a “visionary” in 1995. Martial Arts World magazine dubbed him, The Teacher of Teachers. Mr. Graden’s leadership was recognized in many mainstream media outlets including a cover story on the Wall Street Journal, documentaries on A&E Network, and as a guest on the Dr. Oz Show and many others.