Dive Professionals Be Aware [Beware!] Part II
So, you’ve been served with a Wrongful Death Lawsuit, what do you do now?
[I’m not offering ANY legal advice here, I’m just continuing on with my story and personal experience]
Of course the first call you make is to your certification agency, who route you to their legal department, and since they were also named in the suit, you’re all on the same legal team for this case. They notify the insurance company, who investigate the incident to determine if you’re covered by your insurance policy. To your relief they have determined you are covered, so they hire a law firm to defend the case.
You try and remember if there were any issues with ‘Joe Diver’ while he was in training, but your recollection of him was that of a natural diver, someone who seemed very comfortable in the water, a strong swimmer, learned dive skills quickly and used them effortlessly and effectively. You’re an instructor who does everything ‘by the book’, everything done per standards, your ‘duty of care’ for your students is your top priority! So, in your mind you’re convinced they’ll see their mistake in naming you to this suit, and they’ll have no choice but to dismiss you from it, right?
Okay, it‘s time for a reality check here. Are you under the belief / illusion /delusion that if you follow all the standards, nothing can go wrong? That accidents only happen to those who violate standards, right? Well, I’m pretty sure nobody here is that naive. But instead you might be under the belief / illusion / delusion that if you follow all the standards, even if something does go wrong, you can’t be sued! …Right? Well, of course that’s wrong! And what about those liability release forms, if they’re signed, I’m covered, right? Unfortunately, the answer to that is MAYBE. Reality sucks sometimes!
Let’s talk about the facts of this incident, or should we say, face the facts! There are two reasons why you’re being sued, and in reality, these are the same two reasons ALL dive professional are sued. Reason One: A diver you’ve trained has been either seriously injured or has died. [Sad to say, reason one is just a means to an end, and Reason Two is that end]. Reason Two: You have a one million dollar liability insurance policy.
Do yourself a favor here if you’re a dive professional, or someday want to be one, open the internet search engineer of your choice and type in these four words: SCUBA DIVING ACCIDENT ATTORNEY. What you’ll see is page after page of lawyers and law firms that do nothing but dive accident litigation.
So when I wrote earlier that there was a reason why no actual facts are listed in the complaint, it’s because they actually don’t have any yet. They’ll have years [how many years depend on the particular state’s tort laws] to come up with some, but for the time being they have all the facts they need: an injured diver, and a group of dive professionals with million dollar insurance policies. The more professionals they can pull into the suit, the more potential they have to generate income from those insurance policies through settlements and judgments. The details of any negligent actions and who’s responsible for them will be decided later, possibly YEARS later. Those decisions will not be made by lawyers, certification agencies or insurance companies; they will be made by a judge, jury, or combination of both.
The most ironic part of all this is that the lawyers aren’t the ones convincing the victim’s families to file suit, it’s the dive community that fuels that pursuit!
[To be continued in part III]