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Instructor Liability Insurance
Kemperite - 6/10/2008 1:18 PM
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So for most Instructors out there it’s time to renew your Diving Instructor Professional Liability Insurance policy (unless you are through Willis and paying your premiums for 12 months from time of initiation). Before you just go and pay the same company you have been paying because someone said they were the easiest one to go through why don’t you check around. I mean come on - most of you shop your auto insurance. Who hasn’t gone to or were x minutes could save you hundreds of dollars?

Here are a few things you need to ask. Don’t settle for "I think" or "probably" answers. Ask a direct question and request a direct answer. It’s your money and in the end it’s your backside. Even if you do nothing wrong as an Instructor there is still a possibility that some money-grubbing, it’s always somebody else’s fault cry baby of a former student will sue your bottom into a poorer place than you are today.

First issue - are you certified to teach with more than one agency? Think hard before you answer this question. Are you a DAN Instructor? That’s an independent agency. Are you an SSI Instructor who teaches your first aid/CPR course through MEDIC First Aid? That’s an independent agency.

Does your insurance agency really cover you if you are teaching a class through a particular agency? I don’t want lip service. I’m asking you if you have read the fine print. Three years ago the fine print revealed something entirely different than what was being said by one insurance company.

Let’s cover some fine print so that you have food for thought:
  • Are you a PADI Instructor who is also a DAN Instructor certified to teach Advanced Oxygen? Standard flow chart answer says YES. OK, does your V&B policy cover you? Standard flow chart answer says NO! You say, no way dude - my policy says it covers all agencies. No sir, it says that it covers any agency you teach for provided you teach all courses using PADI standards. PADI does not sanction Advanced Oxygen and therefore your V&B policy does not cover Advanced Oxygen.
  • Are you a PADI Instructor who teaches IANTD or TDI Technical courses rather or in addition to teaching the DSAT Technical courses? Let’s say YES again. Does your V&B policy cover you if you have an accident while teaching a technical class? The answer here is MAYBE. The question that will be asked is, "Did you conduct all components of this dive in accordance with PADI/DSAT Standards for that dive? If you can honestly say YES then you are covered. If the answer is NO, I followed the standards for that dive as established by the other agency (as your answer SHOULD BE) then you are NOT COVERED.
  • Do you have V&B Insurance and teach actual Trimix classes to certify your students to 330 FSW? Please don’t answer this question with a YES. V&B stops coverage for all training at 265 FSW.

This is not a rail on PADI or V&B day. This is to open your eyes and make you act like a Reasonably Prudent Scuba Instructor should. Make sure your assets are covered and by all means get what you think you are paying for. If you teach for both PADI and SSI and you have V&B Insurance you need to ensure that you follow PADI Standards for the Open Water Course. I had a friend who had a student who made a rapid ascent on dive 2 from 50 FSW. Totally allowable with the SSI class he was teaching to take his OW dive two student to 50 FSW. PADI says 40 FSW is your maximum depth for dive 2. Had that student have had an injury and a lawsuit ensued then V&B would have declined coverage because he was not within PADI Standards on that dive even though he was teaching an SSI class! Don’t get caught holding the bag. V&B says that classes you teach for other agencies are covered and that you don’t even have to list your other agencies with them. They claim that this is because: "the certifying agency has its own policy to provide coverage for its activities-setting the standards, developing education materials, etc..." Wait a minute Jethro - if the other agency has a policy then doesn’t PADI also have a policy? And if that were true, wouldn’t that mean that I wouldn’t need a policy of my own since PADI has a policy? Am I missing something here? Oh, by the way, I can speak with personal knowledge that IANTD does not have a policy of its own to cover the Instructor’s actions. That’s why they require you to have your own insurance. Yeah, think about it kids.

Are your additional insured listings up to date? Essentially, most places you conduct training will want to be listed as an additional insured. If you use your father-in-law’s pool next door then your father-in-law needs to be listed on your policy as an additional insured. It would look like: John Shotgun, Pool Owner. This means that if you have an accident in his pool that your policy will cover the incident even if the lawyer of said student decides to sue anyone who was in proximity. Don’t let your father-in-law be left holding the bag because you forgot to list him as an additional insured on your policy. I teach for a number of agencies - one of which is IANTD. Tom and Patty Mount are on my list of additional insured entities because I have team taught some classes with Tom. This means that there were students in Tom’s pool at his house in Miami and I was assisting Tom with a class. Since I was acting like an actual Instructor with skills in Tom’s pool I had to list Tom and Patti Mount - Pool Owners even though they own the agency I was teaching under at the time. If you teach classes at your home make sure your spouse is listed as an additional insured just to be safe. Attorneys are squirrelly like that. If you are crazy enough to teach a class at your home do a double check with your home owner’s insurance company. Most will not allow you to teach a class at your home using your personal swimming pool. If you do and they don’t know about it they will reclass your property as a business and deny your claim for coverage in most cases. Again, keep your pants firmly around your waist and remain covered.

How much are you paying for Professional Liability Insurance? You’ve read this far? OK, I’ll tell you who I use. Witherspoon is the only company I have found who will cover any course I teach with one caveat. I must teach whatever class I am teaching within the standards of the agency for which I am offering a certification in. So if I teach a TDI class then I must teach the class within TDI Standards. Hey, wow, that makes sense or something. Because if I go to court the first question that will come up is did I use and follow the course standards. Yes, sir, I taught an SDI Solo Diver Specialty Course and I followed all applicable SDI course standards during the conduct of this class. Case closed - let’s move to your next non-issue councilor. I also have a 24 hour emergency hotline that connects right to some of the most vicious Scuba Attorneys in the United States. First call is 911 and second call is my scuba attorney hotline. I’m in the distinct position of only having had on