Martial Arts Insurance: What If It Really Is Your Fault?

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What If It Really Is Your Fault?

If you are responsible for an accident or injury, tell your martial arts insurance company so. Let them know that you really believe that you owe these people, and you would like them paid. This might affect your standing with your insurer, and would probably affect your rates anywhere else you went, but that’s what you pay martial arts insurance premiums to do. If a matter is small and easily within your budget, you might handle it on your own.

Sometimes we make mistakes, and those mistakes can lead to serious repercussions. At times, a matter might even be serious enough to warrant criminal charges. 

During a class, a fairly new student had serious problem with control. The instructor, in an effort to “Teach him a lesson,” unleashed full speed on the student. While none of the strikes were full power, even with protective gear the student was knocked back, hit his head, and had bruised ribs. 

The student took no legal action, but the assault was potentially criminal and could have resulted in civil liability as well. If the family had made a claim, the instructor would have been well-advised to offer to pay for medical expenses.

Read more: 3 Ways to Get Sued in Your Martial Arts Business

Sometimes someone else does something criminal, and their ability to do so was a result of our negligence. Consider the case of the young girl sexually molested by the son of the school owner. The son is guilty of a crime, but the school owner could also be found negligent for allowing his son access to the young girls and making a place available to him for such conduct.

There would be additional factors to consider, such as previous conduct, known tendencies, and the reasonableness of precautions available. Still, the family could sue. The school owner in that situation might want to work out some sort of settlement with the family to cover therapy for the girl or some other form of compensation. 

An attorney should help put together any settlement, since an improperly-worded offer may open the door to all sorts of problems in the future. In fact, a good-hearted, but improperly-done settlement offer could turn something that wasn’t going to be a serious case into a major event. 

A skilled attorney can avoid this situation, but make certain your attorney has some skill at diplomacy and negotiations, since many are overly combative and so focused on being a vigorous advocate for their client that they inadvertently pick fights and turn settlement discussions into Court battles. Some few do it on purpose to collect larger fees, but most simply haven’t got the skill to deal with matters with courtesy and respect for everyone involved. If your insurance company is handling the matter, finding a good attorney is their responsibility.

Your insurance should cover the settlement on the case. If you don’t have insurance, the fair settlement value of a serious matter might be more than you can afford. In that case, you may need to set up a payment plan. Called Structured Settlements, payment-plan settlements allow you to pay over time, and the total amount often does not change, since no interest is applied to the balance. There is also the possibility of obtaining an equity loan, selling a car and buying a less expensive model, or selling some personal property.

The lesson? Have martial arts insurance. Period.

Martial Arts Insurance: The Best Defense Is a Good Defense

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The Best Defense Is a Good Defense

The best defense is having a good defense ready. If an attorney has to contact you to find out what happened in an accident eight months ago, and you are vague because you can’t quite remember, that won’t help your case much. If the attorney asks who else saw it, and you don’t know, and if the attorney needs to know what was done at the scene, and you don’t recall, then your case will be very difficult to prove. 

The other side may have medical records, statements taken immediately following the accident, and pictures of the injury. You need to have your evidence as well. For most minor incidents — bumps and bruises — such detail will be unnecessary. When something serious happens, then you should put together a complete file on the incident. 

Consider yourself your own private investigator. Be careful to collect only “objective” facts, though. That means treating facts without distortion by personal feelings or prejudices. You don’t want to be accused of using your position as the instructor to badger your students into lying, embellishing or shading the facts.

Take note of what happened, who was around, what was done about it and by whom, and an account of the events and possible contributing causes. This will serve as a reminder to you, since memory can be inexact. It may be months before you have to give a “deposition” (testimony), and years may go by before a trial. If you rely on your ability to remember a two-year-old event, then you can expect to be expertly tripped up by a skilled attorney on cross examination.

If you have a good martial arts insurance policy, then your insurance company should take care of your legal defense. If you do not have martial arts school insurance, then you should already have an attorney in mind to work on any case you might have. It might be a student, or a parent of a student, who understands martial arts and has some experience litigating. 

Once you receive a lawsuit, your attorney typically has 30 days to file papers with the Court. If you spend 20 of those 30 days hunting for a decent attorney, then your attorney does not have adequate time to prepare your defense. 

At times, attorney’s have received case files the day before paperwork is due, and they have to rush on paperwork that can determine if you win or lose your case. Cases have practically been forced to settlement for more money than the case was worth, because the attorney wasn’t given the Summons and Complaint in time to prepare the necessary paperwork.

Martial Arts Insurance: Mitigating Damages

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Mitigating Damages

While you have to have martial arts insurance, your mission is to never have to use it. The word “mitigate” means “to make less harsh or hostile.” The principle of mitigating damages involves making sure that you take steps to reduce the level of harm. It is normally applied to “plaintiffs” (people who file the lawsuit). An injured student has a responsibility to try to limit the severity of his own harm. 

In a martial arts context, that means that he should stop training when injured. He should not purposely expose himself to greater risk of harm. He should not execute kicks full speed with a bad knee, and he should not throw and be thrown with a bad back. Instructors must make certain that their school policies allow and encourage injured students to mitigate their injury, or the instructor and school could be held liable for pushing an injured student and causing even more harm.

Also, instructors should be able to treat injuries. 

Four students were injured at a tournament, as frequently happens. Two were injured while breaking. They struck the bricks improperly. The other two were injured during sparring, one with a bloodied nose. Despite the presence of many instructors from a variety of schools, there did not seem to be any ready care available for the injured students. 

One of the instructors recommended that the competitor with the bloody nose lean his head back, which is exactly opposite from modern first-aid practices. It causes the blood to flow into the throat and can cause choking and illness (a person’s stomach tends to throw up his own blood). Fortunately for the competitors, one instructor was on the floor with CPR and First Aid certification and advanced martial arts healing techniques. She made herself available to treat the injuries of the competitors. 

Had there been no care available, or had the care been counterproductive (such as causing blood to drain into body cavities), then the injuries could have been much worse than they were.

There should be someone who can tend injuries available at all times. A First Aid kit should be handy. Red Cross certification in First Aid and CPR is recommended. 

One big caution about martial arts-type healing techniques: they had better work. If an esoteric technique is used and makes matters worse, then instructors and schools could get in even more trouble. In fact, the compounding of the injury due to amateur healing techniques may not be covered by your martial arts insurance policy.

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