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. 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.