What Insurance a Martial Arts School Needs and How Much Does It Cost

What Insurance a Martial Arts School Needs and How Much Does It Cost

See our comprehensive library of Martial Arts School Insurance Information and Interviews.

Interview Transcript

John Graden:  Today, we're talking martial arts insurance. I want you to imagine this.  Business is booming, the School's doing great, Classes are packed and in fact, you've got a Class going right now.  Then this little twelve year old girl, she's excited, she turns, she bolts off to go to the Water Fountain.  Just as she hits full stride, your sixteen or seventeen year old, hot-shot, Leadership Team Member's, demonstrating a full speed, full power, Spinning Hook Kick.  Just as she hits full speed - Bang! - right in the Face, full power, full velocity, she drops, everything changes in many lives, at that particular moment. That's a scary thought, that's exactly what happened to a prominent School in the North East of the United States, over ten years ago. I'm not going to name the Guy and the nice thing is, he is still in Business and doing well.  Why?  Because he was protected, he was prepared, he was - insured.  Could you have handled a situation like that?  What would you been able to do, what could you have done?  She required complete facial reconstruction and I don't know for sure, but I imagine in today's world, the Parents would continue the Law Suits, for some time, for Mental Anguish and all kinds of Actions in today's Legal Menu.  Here to help us wade through this mess of a situation is Jennifer Urmston, from Sports and Fitness Insurance and Jennifer's a Veteran of the Sports and Martial Arts Fitness and Insurance Arena. So, Jennifer, what is this Guy facing in this situation.

Jennifer Urmston:  Well, even in a best case scenario, anytime there's an injury on your Premises, whether it's minor or severe, the Owner of that facilitate is facing the Medical Payments, that are going to come about because of the direct injuries to the Party.  So, this little Girl, that was hit in the Face, is going to have significant amounts of Medical Bills, that are going to need to be paid, for Plastic Surgery, reconstruction, it sounds like.  On top of that, there could be a claim like you indicated. from the Family, for pain and suffering, or there could be a Law Suit filed, claiming that there wasn't proper supervision in the Classroom and they want some kind of punitive damages.  So, a significant claim to a Child, can easily result in a Law Suit, by the Family. There could be up to, one hundred thousand dollars of medical bills, for reconstructive work, numerous MRI's, in and out of the Hospital.  There could also be a Law Suit for, you know, half a million dollars, a million dollars, because it was a Child, that went through pain and suffering.

John Graden:  How often do you hear of stories, like this, or give us some instances of what are, the range of stories that you typically encounter and that you Guy's deal with?

Jennifer Urmston:  The two most common ones that I can tell you about, are what you're talking about - which is the inadvertent injury due to an exhibition of an actual Martial Arts move.  The second would be falling, in particular, falling backwards and what other items are in that space that, that the person could fall onto.  We've had numerous claims over the years, in Martial Arts facilities, where someone falls backwards and hits their head on some kind of metal object - be it furniture, a hook on the wall, equipment.  So being aware of the flooring in the area and how much space the participants have when they're sparring and when they're learning. Because trip and fall, is, it can be common and it can be dangerous, if the person hits their head on something hard.

John Graden:  You know, it's really interesting, that when I was a Student in the seventies, it was the blood and guts, era.  I really would line the Class up, a bunch of kids, and say - "Okay, my goal today is to make you all cry."  And I would get everyone of them, move on to cry.  I mean the Parents, rather than sue me, they would just get up and go for long walks, because they knew I was helping their Kids become stronger.  But in today's world, it's, it's really different and it’s interesting that you say, that falling is a major issue, because Martial Arts Schools, spend lots of time on falling, but it's not the controlled front roll, or break fall that we teach, it is the accidental slip and they hit their head on a Chair, and stuff of that nature.  So, that's certainly something to look for.  What about sparring?  A lot of School's are moving away from sparring.  I don't think, so much about liability as much as - I think Students are getting softer today - that's just my theory.  So, what about sparring, equipment, size - relative to I've got a large Guy against a small Guy - skill levels, things are that nature that would weigh in to a potential law-suit.

Jennifer Urmston:  Well you want to make sure that every facility, regardless of the age and size of your sparring partners, you want specific sparring rules, in writing, that the members are signing off on.   You want to make sure those sparring rules are adhered to, so that everyone knows the rules, before they start participating.  You want to designate what the safety equipment is that you're using, everyone signs off on what safety equipment is appropriate.  So, if the two parties, coming into this activity together, have both agreed to the rules and the use of appropriate equipment and the Owner or Instructor in the facility are making sure that everyone's participating and that it's not a hap-hazard application of the rules, then you have documentation.  If someone gets hurt, they knew what the rule's where, they knew what the safety equipment was, they knew there was some risk of injury and you're signing those waivers.  So, when we're underwriting, that's what we look for.

John Graden:  I'm thinking about instances, that would easily, arguably be, outside of that.  For instance, it's very common, even our Self Defence Classes, to do two on one sparring - where you're actually sparring two people, three people - for some times a test, we'll just throw four and five people at the Student.  Obviously, you can be sued for anything, but I'm thinking, I have been sued.  It's a nightmare.  It goes on forever, it's something you wake up with every morning and you go to bed with every night and every waking moment, lying in that Bed, that's what on your mind.  And it goes on, for years and years and years, as it slowly sucks the life out of your financial world.  So, I'm trying to help these Guys understand, that they may have a waiver, they may have safety gear, but there are some things in the peripheral of what we do, in sparring, in self-defence, that could be attacked, if someone's hurt.  So, let’s talk about something like, multiple sparring.  A requirement, hypothetically, for Green Belt is you have to spar, if you want to get your Blue Belt, your Brown Belt - definitely your Black Belt - you have to spar and to a degree, defeat, two, three, four or more opponents.  Would that be covered in most cases, just under the injury waiver for sparring?

Jennifer Urmston:  What you want, all of your participants, each person in that Group of four or however many people are out there on the mat together sparring.  You want them all to have signed a waiver, that they understand, that are involved in the activities that they are participating in - it could be one on three, it would be one on two, it could be one on four - and that they're aware of that and that they can ask for additional information if they need it and they need to sign that they're aware of it.  That is the best  [Inaudible between 00:07:27.24 and 00:07:28.21 – best guess - and thing you can ] do for yourself as the Instructor or for any of those participants to protect themselves, from any other participant, is that if everyone is an consenting Adult in those situations, as they've signed off on it, or if you have minors, that the minor and the Parents have signed off on it.  And I encourage, you know, in any of these riskier activities, to get both Parents signatures, instead of just one, whenever possible, that's the best thing that you can do to protect yourself, is education and getting signed releases.  So, you know, disclose as much as possible and get them to sign it.

John Graden:  In today's world, with splintered families, that gets all the more difficult, so it's really is something that requires focus.  What about the unseen, left hook, that many people get knocked out from, in the ring?  That's take that into the world of liability. What is a major surprise, that can really knock a School on it's rear?

Jennifer Urmston:  Well I think the biggest surprise is that we had a School just in the past eighteen months, is a Child getting in a Class that had a significant medical condition, had been released from the hospital, the Doctor had said -"This Child should be at home, at rest." and the Mother went ahead and brought the Child to the School for his lesson.  And the Child actually died on the Premises.  Of course, the Martial Arts Instructors, of course they felt horrible - they're hearts were broken - there was nothing they could have done.  They didn't know.  And again, these are reasons why it is so important to get the Parents to sign off on these waivers.  That the Parents are responsible for making sure the Children are in condition to come.  You could have had a Doctor's release at the beginning of your Class six months ago, and they had a concussion from playing Football at School, came to your lesson without telling you they had a concussion. But I would encourage your medical releases for Minor's who are participating.  You know, you're making sure you're getting a Parental Approval for participation, or at least that the Parent's acknowledge that this Child has approval for participation on all of those.

John Graden:  So, in a sense then, the waiver has to say something to the degree that - it's the Parents responsibility to bring any changes in the physical...

Jennifer Urmston:  Yes, I would say health or readiness.

John Graden:  Health or readiness.  Because in a scenario likes this, the Kid falls out of a Tree, hypothetically, goes to the Hospital, the Doc, says, you know, stay off your feet for six months and that the Parent maybe things that Martial Arts is the best thing possible for the Kid

Jennifer Urmston:  And brings him in

John Graden:  Yeah, that's just awful, okay.

Jennifer Urmston:  There's also a big, there's a lot of, there's a lot of cautionary activity going on right now around concussions.  That. you know, if your Child has a concussion from any activity, whether Sports related or not, please advise our Staff immediately.

John Graden:  Fantastic, alright, well Jennifer, please tell us about Sport's Fitness Insurance Corporation, and how our members can get in touch with you and find out more.

Jennifer Urmston:  Well Sports and Fitness Insurance Corporation is celebrating our 30th year, serving the Sports and Fitness Industry, we've been working with Martial Arts Studios for almost all of those thirty years.  We are dedicated to Sports and Fitness. We are dedicated to helping you, run a more efficient Business and staying in Business, fighting claims for you, so that you're out there, helping people and helping Kids, all be better and stronger Citizens.  So please reach out to Sports and Fitness Insurance, we're www.sportsfitnesss.com the direct line for my Office is - 8882768392 and Anthony Hicks, works with me as our Underwriter.  My name jenniferurmston@sportsfitness.com you are welcome to reach out to me directly with any questions, at any time, we're a resource for you as a partner with MATA.

John Graden:  Fantastic.  And of course, there's always the banner on the homepage of martialartsteachers.com.  Jennifer, thank you so much, we'll do some follow up conversations and we sure appreciate your time today, thank you.

Jennifer Urmston:  Thank you.

MATA and SFIC Team Up to Provide Answers About Martial Arts School Insurance

MATA and SFIC Team Up to Provide Answers About Martial Arts School Insurance

See our comprehensive library of Martial Arts School Insurance Information and Interviews.

Martial arts school insurance is something that school owners know they need, but are not sure how much or what type of insurance they need.

A new strategic partnership between the Sports and Fitness Insurance Company (SFIC) and the Martial Arts Teachers’ Association seeks to educate and prepare school owners and instructors for the potential liabilities they face while teaching self-defense and martial arts.

John Graden is the founder of MATA and the author of many books on how to run a martial arts school. Graden says, “It’s ironic that we teach that learning self-defense is like taking a personal insurance policy out on yourself. With the help of SFIC, now we can help our instructors truly protect themselves on a business level.”

Among the many topics related to insurance MATA and SFIC will post include: 

1. How much does martial arts insurance cost?

2. What does martial arts insurance cover?

3. Do I need martial arts insurance for my special events?

4. What insurance do i need to teach martial arts?

5. Do I need insurance for guest instructors?

6. How far back does my insurance cover me?

7. What are some little known martial arts lawsuit liabilities?

National Accounts Manager for SFIC, Jennifer Urmston Lowe, is the point person for this union. Lowe has been with SFIC as a licensed insurance agent, insuring health clubs and fitness studios since 1998. According to Lowe, “Lately we’ve seen a boom in the martial arts community. There seems to be a new school on every corner of towns across the country. With such a surge in popularity, instructors and owners not only need to know how to teach defense, they need to make sure they have one. We’re looking forward to working with John Graden and helping his organization get the information they need to make smart choices to reduce liability.”

For thirty years, SFIC has worked with both large and small health clubs and fitness studios, martial arts and dance schools and yoga and Pilates studios. They also insure individual fitness professionals, both personal trainer and group exercise instructors. SFIC is the Managing General Agent for Liberty Mutual Insurance for the fitness industry and are licensed in all 50 states. They write General Liability, Professional Liability, Umbrella, Commercial Property and Workers Compensation insurance, along with Surety Bonds.

SFIC is also a founding partner of the Association of Fitness Studios (AFS) and dedicated to helping small business owners in the fitness industry succeed.

MATA has members in five continents and covering nearly every style and system of the martial arts.

This partnership will kick-off with a series of online webinars in 2015 with the inaugural topic of “Decoding the Insurance Mystery” and will continue with other relevant and informative topics for martial arts owners and instructors throughout the year.

How to Choose a Martial Arts Insurance Company

See our comprehensive library of Martial Arts School Insurance Information and Interviews.

When shopping for martial arts insurance, ask the following questions:

  • What is the annual premium?  If you teach part time, find out if there are part time premium rates.
  • If you own a martial arts studio, does the policy cover the entire studio or just you as a martial arts teacher?
  • Does the policy cover martial arts teachers-in-training such as Leadership Team members?
  • Does the policy cover your employees?
  • Does the policy cover independent contractors working at your martial arts studio?
  • What is the maximum amount of coverage per claim?
  • What is aggregate annual claim coverage?
  • Are you, as a martial arts teacher, covered outside the country where you teach?  This could be relevant if you teach seminars or at a conference, etc.
  • Is there a maximum number of students per class that you can teach?  If so, how many and can you get additional coverage (if you class size exceeds the stipulated number of students)
  • Does the martial arts insurance policy cover your style of martial arts?  What if you host an event at your studio where other types of martial arts are practiced?  Be very specific about this inquiry.  Sometimes, aerial, tricking, and acrobatic martial arts styles are excluded.  The point is to ensure all your services and classes are covered.
  • Is the use of martial arts equipment covered?
  • Specifically, does the martial arts insurance policy cover:
    • Professional liability?
    • Advertising liability (libel, slander, copyright infringement, etc.)?
    • Personal injury liability?
    • Product liability?
    • Premises liability?
    • Property damage?
    • Sexual harassment / abuse / assault (if covered, usually coverage amounts are lower).
  • What is the deductible amount, if any?
  • Does the martial arts insurance policy include payment for legal fees if a lawsuit ensues?
  • How soon must you report a claim?  Know the answer because some insurance policies may breach you and therefore not cover you if you delay too long in reporting a claim.  Typically you must report as soon as you suspect there may be a claim.
  • Are there any notable exclusions?  Read the exclusions section of the policy carefully.

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What Every Owner Must Know About Insurance for Martial Arts Schools

See our comprehensive library of Martial Arts School Insurance Information and Interviews.

By Jennifer Urmston Lowe, National Account Manager, Sports & Fitness Insurance

It seems we're always seeing news headlines of child molestations, guest instructor negligence, and even murder in the martial arts. Though each incident carries potentially millions of dollars in liability, in many cases, the owner was not present when the incident happened yet he or she could lose everything personally and professionally without solid insurance coverage.

What Kind of Martial Arts School Insurance Coverage Do I Need?

What kind of insurance you'll need will depend on what you do. If you have a children's based school with little no contact, you requirements would significantly different than an MMA school with a cage and lots of sparring.

A good place to start is understanding the different claims you can be liable for. The first distinction is whether the claim is personal or property related.  It is critical that Martial Arts School owners protect themselves with appropriate and sufficient insurance.

Liability Claims

Liability claims can come from injuries to students or sexual assault and abuse claims made by minors and adult students alike.

Property Claims

Property claims can come from fire or lightning or a car driving through the glass front of a martial arts school. All of these claims and more can lead to lawsuits or repair bills that can destroy a business. 

General Liability Insurance (Must Have!)

All Martial Arts Schools should carry General Liability insurance that includes Professional Liability coverage to protect themselves from claims including lawsuits.

Premises Liability Claims range from simple slip and fall injuries to minor or more severe injuries. All martial arts schools have premises exposures related to students and guests coming into their owned or leased space. This includes walking through the parking lot, over the sidewalk, across the threshold, into the dojo, as well as, participation in classes, belt testing, and competitions.

Professional Liability Coverage protects the owners and employees of the martial arts school from claims related to the instruction that they do or do not provide to their students or guests.

Products And Completed Operations coverage protects the school from claims related to items that they sell.

Personal and Advertising Injury coverage protects the school from claims related to use of trademarked or personal information or photos in verbal, print or electronic media.

Sexual Abuse and Molestation coverage protects a martial school from losses related to physical and verbal acts of abuse and can be claimed by minors and adults alike.

Hired and NonOwned Auto coverage provides coverage for the school when an employee uses a personal or hired vehicle in the course of the school’s operation.

Standard Liability Insurance Limits 

Standard liability limits for martial arts schools in today’s world are one of the following: $1,000,000 per occurrence (single claim) and either $2,000,000 or $3,000,000 annual aggregate (total of all claims in a given year) or $2,000,000 per occurrence and $4,000,000 aggregate. Higher limits are available through purchasing an Umbrella or Excess Liability policy.

When a school leases their space, the landlord typically requires a certain liability limit per occurrence that the tenant must meet or negotiate. The lease generally determined the liability limit of coverage selected. The individual assets of the martial school and owner(s) should also be considered when selecting sufficient liability limits.

Martial Arts Schools Need Property Insurance

Nearly all martial arts schools have some equipment and other contents that need to be insured under a Commercial Property insurance policy.

When you are renting, any tenant’s improvements such as HVAC, mirrors, glass and sign coverage are typically insured by the tenant and should be included in the school’s Commercial Property policy’s limits as well.

Coverage for Loss of Income, also called Business Income replaces lost income when a school suffers a covered property loss and has to be fully or partially closed during the period of restoration.

It is common practice for a leased school to purchase three to four months of business income coverage.

Workers Compensation Insurance 

Any martial arts school with regularly employed full-time or part-time staff will also be required to carry Worker’s Compensation Insurance in most states. Annual payroll is used to calculate Workers Comp premiums.

A business can be fined by the State for not carrying mandatory workers compensation insurance. Worker’s compensation pays medical bills and lost work time for employees and contractors injured on the job and is important protection for all martial arts schools with staff other than the owner(s). Owners and officers are not required to pay workers comp premiums on their own payroll in most states.

Individual Martial Arts and Self Defense Instructors

Martial Arts and Self Defense Instructors teaching seminars and classes can purchase individual Professional Liability policies that cover them if they work as independent contractors in other people’s schools or facilities.

Individual Instructors should request the same liability limits as the facility where they are working.

A Martial Arts school should require all of their independent contractors to show proof of this coverage before allowing the contractor to work inside their facility.

Direct employees are covered under the facility’s General Liability policy for their professional liability exposure but independent contractors are usually not covered.

What To Do Right Now

Review your insurance exposures and coverage each year and never let the school’s insurance lapse. It is also very important to work with an insurance provider who has an understanding of martial arts, as well as, the specific operation and needs of a school.

Sports and Fitness Insurance Corporation is the Official Insurance Provider for the Martial Arts Teachers’ Association.

SportsFitness.com or 888-844-0536

How a Guest Instructor Can Destroy Your School

See our comprehensive library of Martial Arts School Insurance Information and Interviews.

Have you ever hosted a seminar with someone who was not your employee? Have you ever had another group such as a church, yoga, or tai chi program offer to pay you to use your school during off-hours?

I certainly have. You are about to learn that what you don’t know may cost you everything. Listen to this stark interview with Jennifer Urmston of Sports and Fitness Insurance (SFIC) as she describes a recent incident at a school that nearly cost a student his life and could cost the owner everything and it all could have been avoided with one simple question.