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Paul Smith
May 18th, 2009, 04:44 PM
I started thinkng about this after swimming this morning at ASU and once again seeing that the 3 guards on duty were not in any of the chairs but instead were in the office texting and playing on duty.

So what happens if God forbid a swimmer is injured or dies in workout (I guess even if the guard is on duty)...can they sue the coach?

I know USMS has an insurance program for clubs and being to lazy wonder is anyone knows if it covers this?

I also wonder how many paidand/or volunteer coaches have any type of contract for this sort of thing?

Rykno
May 18th, 2009, 04:53 PM
I'm unoffically our coach, and the only thing that bothers me is that our lap pool is closed, but since there is a swim school in the other multi purpose pool several parents and even kids always try to sneak in. the guards aren't on duty until we are done, so who should kick these people out, me or the facilty staff (nonguards)?

chaos
May 18th, 2009, 04:55 PM
this is america. anyone can be sued.

check out the insurance policy sometime. one of my favorite items states that masters swimmers are covered if they are swimming with a usas certified coach, but the inverse is not true. also, usms coverage only extends to club workouts where everyone is a usms member in good standing and a certified coach is on deck. there is an allowance for swimmers trying out.... i suppose that is the grey area (the place where lawyers lurk).

Dennis Tesch
May 18th, 2009, 04:55 PM
It is a very good question Paul. I wonder this myself many times when I'm swimming and coaching. I guess what needs to proved during a suit is if the coach was negligent in anyway in their duties coaching the athlete. Did the coach fail to provide a safe environment? Is it the coaches duty to watch the pool and save the athlete? Are the guards responsible for this? There are so many things a lawyer would look into to find out how and the drowning/accident happened. I would say in your situation with the guards texting and not watching the pool, they would be found negligent in their duties. I would think if the coach was acting with in his/her score of duties and made a fair attempt to rescue said victim they would be help harmless.

I would love to hear more people chime in on this...

jpheather
May 18th, 2009, 05:04 PM
this is america. anyone can be sued.

check out the insurance policy sometime. one of my favorite items states that masters swimmers are covered if they are swimming with a usas certified coach, but the inverse is not true. also, usms coverage only extends to club workouts where everyone is a usms member in good standing and a certified coach is on deck. there is an allowance for swimmers trying out.... i suppose that is the grey area (the place where lawyers lurk).

For accurate information on the USMS insurance coverage see:
http://www.usms.org/admin/lmschb/lmsc_hb_ins.pdf

There is an FAQ starting on page 10.

tdrop
May 18th, 2009, 05:05 PM
I'm in law school with just enough knowledge to be dangerous. I do not believe that a coach could be held liable unless some affirmative action on the part of the coach created an increased risk of drowning.

The lifeguards could be held liable if they're behavior on the job was found to have contributed to the swimmer's drowning by not being there to save them.

The only way I can think of that a coach could be held liable is if they put the swimmer in a dangerous position such as: underwater swims, diving in shallow water, etc.

This is not real legal advice. I only have one semester of law school and barely know what I'm talking about.

Caveat Emptor

aquageek
May 18th, 2009, 05:16 PM
OK, so Barra is right, being sued is the American way and you can be sued for anything. I think the most likely scenario is that a number of parties will be sued. The likely targets are the ones with the deep pockets (i.e - the facility, the employer of the guards, etc). A coach could certainly be sued, along with the club, and, heck, USMS. Gradually it would get whittled down.

The coach may or may not be covered by the pool's policy or the USMS policy. That would be worth looking into. If the coach is concerned he/she should approach the pool management and see about getting added (or seeing if he/she is already covered). Alternatively, the coach could explore buying a personal liability policy for the work as the coach, assuming such a thing exists, which I assume it does, no idea the cost.

The most likely scenario is the pool is on the hook for their failure in having guards present and actually working and that is who will most likely end up being pursued (and also because they have a big liability limit). But, being along for the ride is no fun either, and could be very expensive. Either way, the coach should be raising some hell and sending some letters, or, CYA, in other words.

My input is on the insurance side of things, not the law side of things. Seth and Fort can speak to that. These types of liability claims were always interesting to handle, and expensive to defend!

aquageek
May 18th, 2009, 06:01 PM
For accurate information on the USMS insurance coverage see:
http://www.usms.org/admin/lmschb/lmsc_hb_ins.pdf

There is an FAQ starting on page 10.

Great link, interesting policy, nice limits.

orca1946
May 18th, 2009, 06:15 PM
Our team swims at a park district pool, sometimes the guards do not watch for a while. The team is in the water when others are in the wadeing pool, so I assume the guards are the responsible ones?

Paul Smith
May 18th, 2009, 06:26 PM
Great link, interesting policy, nice limits.

I'm guessing 90% of the masters coaches out there are unaware of the coverage limitations with regard to drop-in swimmers/visitors...from both USMS & USA.

The Fortress
May 18th, 2009, 07:43 PM
OK, so Barra is right, being sued is the American way and you can be sued for anything. I think the most likely scenario is that a number of parties will be sued. The likely targets are the ones with the deep pockets (i.e - the facility, the employer of the guards, etc). A coach could certainly be sued, along with the club, and, heck, USMS. Gradually it would get whittled down.

The coach may or may not be covered by the pool's policy or the USMS policy. That would be worth looking into. If the coach is concerned he/she should approach the pool management and see about getting added (or seeing if he/she is already covered). Alternatively, the coach could explore buying a personal liability policy for the work as the coach, assuming such a thing exists, which I assume it does, no idea the cost.

The most likely scenario is the pool is on the hook for their failure in having guards present and actually working and that is who will most likely end up being pursued (and also because they have a big liability limit). But, being along for the ride is no fun either, and could be very expensive. Either way, the coach should be raising some hell and sending some letters, or, CYA, in other words.

My input is on the insurance side of things, not the law side of things. Seth and Fort can speak to that. These types of liability claims were always interesting to handle, and expensive to defend!

That sums it up pretty well. I wouldn't want to be a plaintiff's lawyer on that one though. I'm sure there must be some waivers around, Geek. ;) Plus, absent some outrageous conduct, I don't see a negligence claim against the coach flying.

bud
May 18th, 2009, 09:21 PM
... Is it the coaches duty to watch the pool and save the athlete? Are the guards responsible for this?....

No. Yes.


... sometimes the guards do not watch for a while. The team is in the water when others are in the wadeing pool, so I assume the guards are the responsible ones?

If lifeguards are assigned to a pool facility, they are responsible for the safety of all persons at the facility, especially the swimmers. Some states require lifeguards be present at commercial facilities, but there are loopholes for lifeguard coverage. The loopholes typically only apply to adults, and you no doubt sign a waiver to this effect when you join a facility/club.

If you take an ARC WSI (http://www.google.com/#hl=en&q=arc+wsi) course you will find out that swim instructors are not responsible for preventing drownings... a certified lifeguard needs to be present for the class, and it cannot also be the instructor. There could be only one guard to cover all the swimmers in a pool, I believe it is up to the facility to determine coverage, but any facility director is going to want to protect themselves and provide enough guards for conditions expected. Typically, the rule is one guard per 25 swimmers in the water. YMMV.

At most facilities I'm familiar with, if guards were at the facility and not watching the water while people were swimming, heads would roll.

If you take an ARC Lifeguard class you will find out that while a guard is on duty ("on the stand"), they are allowed to do nothing but watch the water. (No talking to passers by, picking leaves out of the gutter, cell phones, i-pods, etc.)

It seems a shame that folks, especially qualified and well-meaning ones, who want to help with something like swim coaching are afraid to do so for reasons of liability.

tjrpatt
May 18th, 2009, 10:11 PM
Only if the swim coach's last name is Rockefeller or Forbes or Hilton or Onaisis. Most swim coaches aren't bringing home the Brinks Truck unless the coach's name is Bob "Money Machine" Bowman.

hofffam
May 19th, 2009, 10:53 AM
Unless the swim coach is the pool or facility manager he/she should not be responsible for the performance of the lifeguards.

I doubt Eddie Reese has any role in making sure the lifeguards at UT are sitting in their chairs watching swimmers. That is the responsbility of the swim center management. Wouldn't a pool run by ASU have similar operations?

Maybe at other pools the coach bears responsibility for pool operations but that seems unlikely to me.

ourswimmer
May 19th, 2009, 11:06 AM
Only if the swim coach's last name is Rockefeller or Forbes or Hilton or Onaisis. Most swim coaches aren't bringing home the Brinks Truck unless the coach's name is Bob "Money Machine" Bowman.

Most swim coaches are not loaded a la Forbes, but most do have assets that they should want to protect (savings, house, some other business, etc.) as well as other people who depend on them every day for their earnings. So a coach should certainly pay attention not only to reducing, rather than increasing, the risk of harm to his or her swimmers, but also to doing whatever is necessary to be sure that insurance covers the coach's activities in the case of a horrible event.

Kurt Dickson
May 20th, 2009, 01:42 PM
As I can attest, law suits are painful because they are a nuisance. Coverage for swimming, practicing medicine, driving down the road, etc. is often adequate. It should not make you feel better that you are "covered" as that fact does not preclude anybody from filing a suit. The fact that you may be right and you have insurance to cover any incident is irrelevant. It's the 2-6 years of emotional hell and the bucks that go to lawyers that really sucks. Sleep tight.:bed:

elise526
May 20th, 2009, 01:55 PM
As I can attest, law suits are painful because they are a nuisance. Coverage for swimming, practicing medicine, driving down the road, etc. is often adequate. It should not make you feel better that you are "covered" as that fact does not preclude anybody from filing a suit. The fact that you may be right and you have insurance to cover any incident is irrelevant. It's the 2-6 years of emotional hell and the bucks that go to lawyers that really sucks. Sleep tight.:bed:

Well said.

BillS
May 20th, 2009, 02:10 PM
Yeah, any parent who had a kid drown because the coach sent the 15 year old lifeguard out to his car to retrieve his cell phone, saying "I've got the pool covered," really ought to just suck it up and say "That's life." Hate to inconvenience anyone with a pesky lawsuit over something as insignificant as the loss of a child.

gobears
May 20th, 2009, 02:20 PM
This thread gives me the willies. I'm currently assisting with our summer league team. There are NO lifeguards on deck during our practices with sometimes up to 85 kids in the pool at one time. AND some of the younger ones start off barely knowing how to swim. The strange thing is that our summer league governing body (whose leadership thinks it rules the swimming universe) doesn't require lifeguards or ANY certifications for its coaches. I think I will be investigating both my coverage and the implementation of certified lifeguards on the deck during practices.

aquageek
May 20th, 2009, 02:51 PM
gobears - that is a frightening scenario. I'm surprised your HOA (if it's a neighborhood pool) or the pool ownership allows a team to practice without any sort of guard, not to mention the whole insurance debacle this would cause.

Kurt Dickson
May 20th, 2009, 03:48 PM
This thread gives me the willies. I'm currently assisting with our summer league team. There are NO lifeguards on deck during our practices with sometimes up to 85 kids in the pool at one time. AND some of the younger ones start off barely knowing how to swim. The strange thing is that our summer league governing body (whose leadership thinks it rules the swimming universe) doesn't require lifeguards or ANY certifications for its coaches. I think I will be investigating both my coverage and the implementation of certified lifeguards on the deck during practices.

You definitely may have a safety issue. You only need to worry about a suit if you or the governing body is worth a boat-load of money or if you are insured with a high dollar amount, as a lawyer's feigned altruism can only go so far to paying the billS:D.

hofffam
May 20th, 2009, 03:49 PM
This thread gives me the willies. I'm currently assisting with our summer league team. There are NO lifeguards on deck during our practices with sometimes up to 85 kids in the pool at one time. AND some of the younger ones start off barely knowing how to swim. The strange thing is that our summer league governing body (whose leadership thinks it rules the swimming universe) doesn't require lifeguards or ANY certifications for its coaches. I think I will be investigating both my coverage and the implementation of certified lifeguards on the deck during practices.

This surprises me. Even if the league doesn't require any certifications I'm surprised the pool owners don't require the coaches to at least have a valid lifesaving certification. The swimming activity is occuring on their facilities and I can't believe their insurance coverage allows this to continue.

Many years ago I was a summer league coach and I was required to have a lifesaving certification. Some pools even required the WSI certification. But it was the pool, not the league, that required certifications.

BillS
May 20th, 2009, 06:25 PM
You definitely may have a safety issue. You only need to worry about a suit if you or the governing body is worth a boat-load of money or if you are insured with a high dollar amount, as a lawyer's feigned altruism can only go so far to paying the billS:D.

I'm busy researching whether it is slanderous to use "altruism" in the same sentence as "lawyer", even if it is qualified with "feigned."

Good stuff, Kurt. :D

elise526
May 21st, 2009, 12:34 AM
Yeah, any parent who had a kid drown because the coach sent the 15 year old lifeguard out to his car to retrieve his cell phone, saying "I've got the pool covered," really ought to just suck it up and say "That's life." Hate to inconvenience anyone with a pesky lawsuit over something as insignificant as the loss of a child.

Indeed, this would be a tragedy. I think the issue, however, is how concerned should any coach be about getting sued.

For outright negligence, a coach needs to be the one to suck it up. The problem is that even if the coach has done absolutely nothing wrong, he can still get sued and it can take getting far into the lawsuit (summary judgment stage or even well into the trial) before the coach is out of the case. In the meantime, the poor coach has had to go through a lengthy deposition, lost time from work to be prepared for depositions and trial, has lost sleep, and is filled with anxiety.

Makes people like myself who just want to help out my kid's summer swim team a little reluctant, no matter how well I might be insured. So, each time I want to help out in something and am fully insured, is it fair that I should just be prepared to be sued at any moment? Instead of this being the "cost of doing business" situation, is this not a cost of being a volunteer situation?

Is it o.k. that the cost of being a volunteer is that I risk getting sued? I don't think so. It is, however, a reality. I guess I'm willing to take the risk instead of living my life in fear. Coaching kids is very rewarding to me and I suppose worth the slight risk that I might have to be a party to a lawsuit.

gobears
May 21st, 2009, 08:05 AM
Indeed, this would be a tragedy. I think the issue, however, is how concerned should any coach be about getting sued.

For outright negligence, a coach needs to be the one to suck it up. The problem is that even if the coach has done absolutely nothing wrong, he can still get sued and it can take getting far into the lawsuit (summary judgment stage or even well into the trial) before the coach is out of the case. In the meantime, the poor coach has had to go through a lengthy deposition, lost time from work to be prepared for depositions and trial, has lost sleep, and is filled with anxiety.

Makes people like myself who just want to help out my kid's summer swim team a little reluctant, no matter how well I might be insured. So, each time I want to help out in something and am fully insured, is it fair that I should just be prepared to be sued at any moment? Instead of this being the "cost of doing business" situation, is this not a cost of being a volunteer situation?

Is it o.k. that the cost of being a volunteer is that I risk getting sued? I don't think so. It is, however, a reality. I guess I'm willing to take the risk instead of living my life in fear. Coaching kids is very rewarding to me and I suppose worth the slight risk that I might have to be a party to a lawsuit.

That's kind of how I'm looking at it. However, I did mention this thread to the head coach and we discussed lifeguards for next year. Think our team pres. should have no problem with that. Bill S--I don't think any of us are trying to avoid legal action if we are negligent. I work very hard to prevent problems before they happen at our facility. However, the way my situation has been set up is dangerous. And I'm concerned that I could be sued even when I'm doing all I can to keep the swimmers safe.

The Head Coach is currently lifeguard certified because she coached for a USAS team for a little while. I am current in First Aid and CPR. I have previously been lifeguard certified but courses are TOO FREAKING LONG and expensive for me to want to re-certify when it's not required. Even if we had three lifeguard certified coaches on deck the sheer numbers of kids both in the pool and on the deck (not to mention the lower level ability levels of some of the swimmers at the beginning of the season) makes having at least one (probably more) dedicated lifeguard a great idea.

BillS
May 21st, 2009, 11:59 AM
Elise, Amy, thanks for the responses. I am glad you are thinking the situation through, and deciding that the rewards of coaching far outweigh the very slight risk of being sued.

One way to look at your responses, and particularly Amy's comment about talking to the head coach about the situation at her pool, is that the mere idea of a lawsuit has people discussing and taking steps to improve a potentially dangerous situation. The result is that kids -- mine, yours, and everyone's -- will be a little safer. I'm OK with that result. And to that extent, have not lawyers and the legal system helped to effect a positive social change?

I'll leave this here now for the next guy: :soapbox:

pwolf66
May 21st, 2009, 12:14 PM
This thread gives me the willies. I'm currently assisting with our summer league team. There are NO lifeguards on deck during our practices with sometimes up to 85 kids in the pool at one time. AND some of the younger ones start off barely knowing how to swim. The strange thing is that our summer league governing body (whose leadership thinks it rules the swimming universe) doesn't require lifeguards or ANY certifications for its coaches. I think I will be investigating both my coverage and the implementation of certified lifeguards on the deck during practices.

Yes, that is a cause for some concern. I would hope that there are at least 4 coaches on the deck with that many swimmers and that the younger, less experienced swimmers are in shallow lanes and/or in the shallow wading area of the pool.

And I can understand the position as our local management folks just hit our summer team with the requirement to have a dedicated (i.e. 3 coaches with WSI, LG and pool operator certs aren't sufficient) lifeguard on duty during any practice that occurs when the pool is normally not staffed. This has added an additional $225/week ($15/hr for 15 hours) to our team's costs for an 10 week season.

But this summer we have to eat that cost as we were not given enough heads up time to be able to raise the fees to cover it. Unfortunately, this new requirement will necessitate an increase of $15 per child (and that wasn't the only thing that they hit us with, we're looking at an overall increase from $80 per child to $125 per child for SUMMER league :bitching: ).

While I can understand that you can't put a price on safety, you also have to be realistic about cost versus risk. In 45 years of operating this team without dedicated lifeguards on duty during practices, there have been zero serious injuries and zero deaths. So we are not being forced to mitigate a risk of loss of life,we are being forced to mitigate a perceived risk of being sued. And that FEAR of being sued is driving some very expensive changes that may or may not kill the team.

aquageek
May 21st, 2009, 12:24 PM
Sweet - this will mark the annual beginning of "Toss 'Em All" Wolf versus "Kind and Gentle" Geek for Summer League officiating. I bet Wolf already has a few 5-6 year old shrimps crying themselves to sleep after a DQ.

thewookiee
May 21st, 2009, 12:40 PM
"Kind and Gentle" Geek .

The only time people consider you "kind and gentle" is when you are leaving.

pwolf66
May 21st, 2009, 02:13 PM
Sweet - this will mark the annual beginning of "Toss 'Em All" Wolf versus "Kind and Gentle" Geek for Summer League officiating. I bet Wolf already has a few 5-6 year old shrimps crying themselves to sleep after a DQ.

Nope, not this year. :blah: :blah:

I'm the referee for all our meets. :angel: So it's all up to those evil S&Ts to make the call.

I leave it to you to encourage swimmers to think they're swimming butterfly correctly with a flutter kick. :applaud:

aquageek
May 21st, 2009, 02:23 PM
In honor of your ascencion on the Summer League corporate ladder, I will DQ one 4 year old this Summer for a violation, my gift to you, Paul.

pwolf66
May 21st, 2009, 02:25 PM
In honor of your ascencion on the Summer League corporate ladder, I will DQ one 4 year old this Summer for a violation, my gift to you, Paul.


Puh-leeze. Make it a 9yo Butterflier and your sacrifice will be well received.

thewookiee
May 21st, 2009, 02:34 PM
I leave it to you to encourage swimmers to think they're swimming butterfly correctly with a flutter kick. :applaud:

Geek encourages them to swim butterfly this way because that's the only way he is able to swim fly.

aquageek
May 21st, 2009, 02:45 PM
Geek encourages them to swim butterfly this way because that's the only way he is able to swim fly.

That's pretty funny, although not as funny as a grown man swimming the 200 breast, but funny nonetheless! Now, go shave your ears.

thewookiee
May 21st, 2009, 03:06 PM
That's pretty funny, although not as funny as a grown man swimming the 200 breast, but funny nonetheless! Now, go shave your ears.

Your just prissy because both wolf and i can beat you so badly in this event, that your own teammates wouldn't even claim you as one of their own.