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Personal liability insurance

Discussion in 'Scuba Related Court Cases' started by vjongene, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. vjongene

    vjongene Barracuda

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Willemstad, Curaçao
    I am a divemaster working occasionally (1-2 days a week) for a local dive shop in the Caribbean. I am an active PADI Pro member. I do primarily guided dives, and occasionally assist on DSDs. I am not a shop employee, and do not receive compensation other than tips and free air fills. About half of the customers I take on dives are from the US.

    My wife and I are retired, and have fairly substantial retirement savings, mostly invested in the US. We are becoming concerned that if things go pear shaped during one of the dives I guide, I could be sued by a disgruntled diver and risk losing most or all of our savings. While I am not a US resident, and the shop is not located in the US, I am concerned about reach-through legislation and the fact that our investments are located in the US. Local courts are unlikely to award substantial damages even in cases of clear liability, and unsympathetic to claims of emotional distress and the like. The shop has solid liability insurance, but I don't know if they would cover personal liability for their instructors and DMs.

    I am thinking of getting personal liability insurance such as proposed by Vicencia & Buckley for PADI professionals. I would appreciate any thoughts on whether this is a worthwhile investment, given the cost (about $380 annually) and the objective risk of being sued.

    Thanks already!
  2. Wookie

    Wookie Orange Man Bad Staff Member ScubaBoard Business Sponsor

    Your risk of being sued is small but real. If your personal assets are not protected by a trust or some other protection scheme, they are at risk exactly as you say. However, you can't lead dives or be in active status in the USA/Caribbean as a PADI pro at any level without liability insurance. So you are hanging out anyway if you are leading dives. If you are counting on someone else's insurance to protect you, we'll, you're also counting on someone else to act in your best interest, maybe not in their best interest. That would be the dive shop.

    Personally, if your assets are substantial enough, I would consider putting them in trust for a number of reasons, as long as you plan to keep your wife. That will protect your assets (you won't have any) and there are a number of tax and healthcare reasons.

    CGOUGHN Angel Fish

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Germany
    When I was in the Caribbean, I was covered by my shop but also kept DAN World for Professionals as something on the side in case the shop decided to drop me. It's far less expensive than V&B, but, every time I've needed DAN, they've been there to take care of me. I'm currently in Europe and still use DAN Europe for my Professional Liability Insurance.
  4. ScubaToneDog

    ScubaToneDog Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Cleveland Ohio
    Better to have it and not need it, than to not have it and need it.
    George Monnat Jr likes this.
  5. John Bantin

    John Bantin Dive Shop

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: London
  6. EvaFin

    EvaFin Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: London
    You could put your savings in your wife's name and protect it through limited liability (or at least you can in the UK). But make sure not to get divorced.
  7. Wookie

    Wookie Orange Man Bad Staff Member ScubaBoard Business Sponsor

    That doesn't work in the US, but you can put it in a trust and make your wife the trustee. But as you say, don't piss her off....
    EvaFin likes this.
  8. George Monnat Jr

    George Monnat Jr Divemaster (DM) ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Austin, TX
    I'm in a similar situation where I do classes some weekends and only get tips and free refills (and a shop discount on some gear purchases). I cannot help with classes unless both of these boxes are green check marks on PADI Pro:


    I'm positive that having liability insurance on file with PADI is part of the "Authorized to Teach" box, because my shop insurance has been slow to get into PADI's system several times. When that happens, there's a big red X in that box.

    The bad thing about my insurance is it's shop insurance (and shop insists on that), so I can't do any official DMing outside of the shop. The mention of DAN insurance is a good one.

    [Side story: My pro number was lower and 1 before my wife's, but PADI lost my application (was DMC almost a year) and refused to let me have my original number so wife's is a lot lower - she's happy about it.]
  9. tursiops

    tursiops Marine Scientist and Master Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: U.S. East Coast
    I believe you can have the V&B insurance for yourself even though the shop insures you for things you do with them. Then you can DM independently as well. The downside is it is difficult to do enough paid DMing to pay for the V&B insurance.
    Hoyden and George Monnat Jr like this.
  10. George Monnat Jr

    George Monnat Jr Divemaster (DM) ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Austin, TX
    I could, but then I'd be paying more than twice as much in insurance each year, I'd be violating shop rules. They're very protective of their business, which is very cut throat here in Central Texas (we've gone from 14 to 3 shops in the last 10 or so years). I agree that I wouldn't be able to come even close to paying it off with tips (especially if the shop passes me over for the other DMs).

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