Not sure if this the right forum but here goes. If I organise a walk and post it on a facebook group for walkers, am I liable if anything goes wrong? Eg getting lost/benighted/slips and trips etc?
I’m not a qualified outdoor leader or instructor, nor do I claim to be. No money is involved. All people involved are adults. I do know about and have BMC insurance but that’s not the question. I’d like to know whether just by organising a friendly group walk, any liability is created.
If possible, a link to relevant legislation or case law would be really helpful.
Thanks in advance!
Where are you ? In France it seems the most experienced is considered responsible in case of any accidents but I'm not sure if English or Scots law take the same approach.
If in your advert you state you aren't qualified and are merely putting a group of like minded folk together, you accept no payment, then you aren't liable. Everyone is there of their volition, there isn't any written or unwritten agreement, there is no implication you are responsible for them.
> Where are you ?
Sorry, should have said, in England although potentially Scotland in case laws are different.
> If in your advert you state you aren't qualified and are merely putting a group of like minded folk together, you accept no payment, then you aren't liable. Everyone is there of their volition, there isn't any written or unwritten agreement, there is no implication you are responsible for them.
That is my instinctive understanding but others in the group are insisting that’s not the case. Do you have a link to anything that can back up what you and I believe you be the case?
PS, the group is clearly defined as being just like-minded people meeting outdoors. There’s a clear understanding that walks/hikes are not instructed or led other than in the sense of the organiser knowing the route and interesting sights or tea stops etc.
> but others in the group are insisting that’s not the case.
I'd use that as a filtering mechanism for jobs worths.
If others in your group are claiming that you are in some way liable and it's a voluntary informal no fee activity then i would suggest that you make a break from them and ensure that only those who will not hold you liable are welcome on the outing. If necessary, print off a signable chit to this effect.
Or they could join a club, they'd love to have active members on-board who are willing to commit time to organising activities.
Thank you for taking the time to give your opinions, I appreciate it. Whilst I agree that this is a good way of filtering certain people out, they’ve put the fear of being sued into peoples’ minds which has led to fewer walks being organised.
I’m looking for a definitive answer - legislation or case law that can shut that one person up. Ironically he’s one of the more prolific organisers but has started insisting on doing recces and writing risk assessments (I know, I know). He seems open to being corrected but I need a canonical source to do so 🥴🥴
You could say that you are going for a solo walk starting from point A at X o'clock and that under no circumstances will you be wanting anybody else to come with you.
In English law you'd be on a sticky wicket if you held yourself out as very experienced and others, as a consequence, placed their safety in your hands and suffered harm as a result of you not living up to that experience or professed ability (eg poor decision making/risk assessment/dangerous technique). I don't believe there is any such risk if there is no such representation of ability made provided that the activity isn't inherently risky, eg a walk.
Of course that does not mean someone might be in breach of a professional code if the stars line up in a certain way
perhaps if it is emphasised that no one is "in charge" except as the "clerk" in charge of giving notice of activities to the group and that it is a group of "equals" in responsibility it would be clear that no one has any grounds for suing someone short of some misbehaviour.
> Ironically he’s one of the more prolific organisers but has started insisting on doing recces and writing risk assessments (I know, I know).
Doing that would imply to others he is accepting responsibility, which could in theory make him liable.
Both links to bmc documents on liability.
One problem may be that, depending on the way it is presented, if the walk is seen to be organised as part of, and open specifically to members of a Facebook group it could be seen to be an organised "club activity" rather than an informal meeting between friends/equals.
Both you (the walk organiser) and the forum owner/moderator (nearest thing to a club official) could be argued to have responsibilities.
> Both you (the walk organiser) and the forum owner/moderator (nearest thing to a club official) could be argued to have responsibilities.
Not if you openly state that hill walking, mountaineering, is a dangerous activity and that a person's attendance is a sign that they've accepted responsibility for their own actions. It's the principle that mountaineering clubs operate under, or even some ski clubs that have free in resort guides to show fellow members around the slopes.
There is no definitive answer in law, not least because we all owe a “duty of care” to each other. But you can take some steps to mitigate the risks of legal action;
1 Be clear that you are simply co-ordinating a peer-led trip.
2 Emphasise that you are not the leader, and have no leadership qualifications or experience.
3 State that anyone not comfortable with 1&2 should not attend.
Or, much simpler, join a club which will have Insurance and organise trips through them.
> perhaps if it is emphasised that no one is "in charge" except as the "clerk" in charge of giving notice of activities to the group and that it is a group of "equals" in responsibility it would be clear that no one has any grounds for suing someone short of some misbehaviour.
There is no clerk or secretary. People just post in the group if they want company on a walk.
> Doing that would imply to others he is accepting responsibility, which could in theory make him liable.
> Both links to bmc documents on liability.
Thank you! ☺️
> There is no definitive answer in law, not least because we all owe a “duty of care” to each other. But you can take some steps to mitigate the risks of legal action;
> Or, much simpler, join a club which will have Insurance and organise trips through them.
(Sorry for paraphrasing your reply) but even when organising in a club situation your BMC insurance does not idemnify you. You need to take account of skills and experience and select an appropriate activity and/or route for the participants. Failure to do and you risk being negligent in your duty of care.
It's a minefield! Go walking and climbing with your mates instead 😉
> I’m looking for a definitive answer - legislation or case law that can shut that one person up.
Is this any help?
Tell them to get stuffed. Say if they dont like it they can walk elsewhere. I have walked in groups but no way am I leading.
> Is this any help?https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volenti_non_fit_injuria
Not sure the principle of volenti applies here as the act comprising the “assault” would be unintended. Mens rea and all that..
I'd be tempted to ask myself a very simple question - namely "do I need this shit"? Either get somebody else to volunteer, or tell the group that because of any possible comeback, it's not worth the hassle. I'd also be naming names, i.e. "as (insert name here) has raised possible legal ramifications...
> Doing that would imply to others he is accepting responsibility, which could in theory make him liable.
If you start telling people you've done risk assessments you are setting yourself up for liability.
Far better to state explicitly that you have no special qualifications or experience, this is not an organised walk, all you are doing is arranging a time and place for experienced walkers to meet.
I posted something very similar a while ago over similar concerns about a 4 day bike ride I'm 'organising'.
It's a semi regular thing between a couple of mates but this year there will be ten of us, two of whom are friends of friends. I got to thinking about responsibility / liability and discussed it with everyone via the whatsapp group we have. Everyone was fine about it but just to seal it I sent a clear email to everyone stating that:
This is just an informal ride between mates. I'm in no way a professional cyclist and take no responsibility for anyone's safety, other than obviously that we ALL look out for everyone else's safety and well being whilst out there on the roads. Acknowledge that there are inherent dangers in cycling. Your own level of fitness / ability / bikes roadworthiness / kit is your own responsibility. Obey the rules of the road and of common sense in all circumstances. Leave nothing but tyre tracks, take nothing but memories. I'm acting as a central point to book the accomodation and collect the money but I'm making no profit from it at all and all receipts are available for anyone to see. Personal insurance is recommended for injury / damage etc
Everyone understood my concerns and was happy to respond to the email and say "yup, fully understand"
just in case you were getting smug about all the likes for your teetotal post, someone has decided to dislike this perfectly innocuous comment.
Maybe it was the "yup"
With the caveat that I am not a lawyer but have studied a bit of law, this is my understanding of it.
Liability for these matters comes under the law of tort, which is common law rather than statute-based. Every case depends on its own facts, so while earlier cases can establish principles each situtation will have to be considered on its own circumstances. However the basic principles against which these would be judged are well-established.
A leader is not automatically liable for anything that goes wrong. However we all owe a duty of care to anyone who could reasonably be expected to be affected by our actions. As the organiser you will owe a duty of care to the others for the matters you take responsibility for, but it also seems very likely that everyone on the walk will owe a duty of care to everyone else for their own actions.
Secondly, you would have to be negligent. This means that you have done something, or failed to do something, which falls below the standard expected of a reasonably competent person. The standard expected would be that of an averagely competent hillwalker, rather than a professional and qualified guide.
Then they would have to show that your negligence had caused them harm, and that harm was reasonably foreseeble. But even if something goes wrong then unless it results in actual physical injury is it likely to result in a claim? A benightment might be uncomfortable, but has anyone actually suffered a loss worth claiming for?
The law recognises that accidents happen and the cause is not necessarily negligence.
It appears to me that as the organiser of a walk you are probably responsible for choosing a route and would take the lead role in navigation. If you were negligent in carrying these out then you might be liable. However in a group of experienced walkers it seems unlikely that you would normally be responsible for trips and falls, unless for example you had negligently led them onto dangerous ground beyond their capabilities. However if another member of the party had negligently caused another to trip and injure themselves then they could be held liable - it wouldn't fall on you as the organiser unless your own negligence had contributed. The concept of 'volenti non fit injuria' means that people accept some of the risk which goes with undertaking dangerous activities.
To sum up, the answer is yes and no. You are not automatically liable simply as the organiser. You could be held liable for your own negligence, and as organiser your duty of care is possibly a bit wider than that of the others, but it shouldn't make you responsible for everything which goes wrong. However that is what BMC liability insurance is for. I don't agree with Max Factor who said your BMC insurance does not idemnify you, this is exactly what it is for. Check with the BMC if you need reassurance.
We are all potentially liable for any of our actions anywhere. If you want to avoid all liability then never go out and never do anything. Or try to exercise reasonable skill and judgement, and carry insurance in case you get it wrong. One of the benefits of being in a club is that not only are you insured for your own liability but you know that your companions are also insured in case their negligence causes you to be injured.
This does not constitute legal advice and no liability is accepted
I used to lead walks for a walking holiday company and this was always a much-discussed topic. Although the situation for an official leader is obviously different from "walking with equals", Howard J's summary is exactly how I understand the law, such as it is. While leading for the company I had more responsibility and was expected to apply a higher level of skill and experience than the clients. However, it wasn't uncommon for a leader to say to the guests at the start of a walk that although the leader had responsibilities towards all the guests, they each had a responsibility to lookout for each other. I would sometimes give the example of a loose bootlace - if, as a guest, you see someone's bootlace is loose and they are at risk from a trip, tell them, not me!
The company's line with leaders was (and I paraphrase) "If you get a problem, use your knowledge and skill to sort it out and as long as you don't do anything stupid, you're covered". I think the same applies here - make it clear you're the facilitator not the leader, emphasise that everyone needs to look out for each other, and everyone does the best, most sensible thing if anything goes wrong.
> You are not automatically liable simply as the organiser. You could be held liable for your own negligence, and as organiser your duty of care is possibly a bit wider than that of the others, but it shouldn't make you responsible for everything which goes wrong.
I think this is the crux of it. It doesn't matter what you say, it matters what you do. If you lead and people follow then you are a leader. If you lead them into danger then you are potentially negligent. If you say "everybody meet at this car park" and then walk at the back of the group and don't give any directions then it would be hard to argue that you are responsible for the group walking off a cliff.
In addition to BMC membership I believe Ramblers membership also conveys third party liability insurance, as do some home insurance policies.
in that case there is no organiser! I can't see any problem unless someone says "let's go caving, I know what I'm doing and I'm an expert with the gear ...."
> just in case you were getting smug about all the likes for your teetotal post, someone has decided to dislike this perfectly innocuous comment.
> Maybe it was the "yup"
Meh. I'll put it down to a finger slip. 🖕😁
If there is an accident all sorts of insurance companies will crawl out of the woodwork looking for someone to blame.
Just make sure your house insurance covers you for legal matters and make sure you take reasonable precautions. Depending on the group I would at least post a suggestion of ‘minimum kit’ and then let them ignore you or follow your advice as they see fit.
If there is a serious accident and it goes to court they’ll be asking everyone in the party what their experience was and try and work out if anyone is to blame and what anyone could have done to avoid the problem.
You’re not obliged to do written risk assessments unless you’re a company with more than 5 employees.
A group of mates walking is all well and good until someone is crippled and tries to claim off their own insurance. It won’t be individuals looking to sue you or deciding whether or not to.
> Depending on the group I would at least post a suggestion of ‘minimum kit’ and then let them ignore you or follow your advice as they see
Personally I wouldn't, because that implies you know what you are doing, you are offering guidance etc.. better to keep it as a meeting of like minded individuals who have to take responsibility for their owns actions. I would state this on the forum/ Web page etc. in very plain terms, if folk are in any doubt about their ability then this group isn't for them.
If you know what you’re doing then it’s not a problem as it’ll emerge later and you’ll be asked if you knew what kit the group had between them. That’s a minimum requirement that I ask all my groups before we leave. What’s everyone got with them?
Last thing I want is trying to carry a bunch of hypothermic people off the hill because they took responsibility for their own actions and didn’t bother with food or waterproofs. That’s happened to me twice. The second time when someone lied to me about carrying hat and gloves and waterproofs.
As Howard J above says.
Having read this thread I think I'll just stay solo, much less stressful.
> A group of mates walking is all well and good until someone is crippled and tries to claim off their own insurance. It won’t be individuals looking to sue you or deciding whether or not to.
That's a point which isn't well understood. People often seem to think that if you have an accident that's just a risk of climbing and yhou shouldn't sue your companion. However if someone is left with life-changing injuries or are killed they or their next of kin may have no choice, if someone else is to blame. If they claim on their own insurance, that company may then look around to try to recover its losses from whoever was responsible.
However this comes back to the crucial point that someone has to have been negligent. Accidents happen, and it's not always someone's fault.
Also bear in mind that amongst a group of mates the negligent person may not be the organiser. Everyone should consider having insurance, either through the BMC or through their house insurance.
Have there been any, or many cases, where two non paying, non professionals, participating willingly in their free time, have attempted to blame the other in any outdoor activity for an accident? And it's reached a court of law, or coroner's verdict?
if the activity is walking and people are sensible and no one has made any pretence of special expertise how would there be negligence under normal circumstances. Teenagers or drunken adults perhaps but people going for a walk should have insurance?
bloody hell, walking for the affluent only, keep youngsters indoors till they can buy insurance
I don't know. I think even cases involving professionals are quite rare. However most claims are settled out of court. And the point is that it may not be the injured person making a claim, but their life or accident assurance company.
We are potentially liable for our actions in everything we do, and although accidents are fairly rare and negligence rarer still there is always the possibility that something could go wrong and it could be your fault. That possibility increases where you participate in potentially dangerous activities where your actions could have serious consequnces for others. In the case of death or life-changing injuries the damages could be very high, so it's worth considering insurance. If you have household insurance you may have this already, if not it can be obtained very cheaply through the BMC. I pay £26 a year to be a member of my climbing club, most of which goes to the BMC. For 50p a week I get the full benefits of BMC membership and liability cover. In a normal year I expect to get back most of the cost through gear discounts and travel insurance.
Not climbing, but a few years ago I tripped and knocked over a friend's saxaphone. It was worth more than £2000 and couldn't be repaired. Fortunately his own insurance company paid out, and for that sum they didn't bother to claim against me. Had they done so, or if he had not been insured, I would have had to pay, however my household liability insurance would have covered it. That was a small claim but for personal accident claims running into 6 figures you could expect that the insurance company would then try to recover the cost from the person to blame for the accident.
> I don't know. I think even cases involving professionals are quite rare. However most claims are settled out of court. And the point is that it may not be the injured person making a claim, but their life or accident assurance company.
I've been around a bit, 30 plus years in the hills and other outdoor sports, professionally and voluntarily. The only cases I've heard involved working professionals, paid by the client. I've never heard of any case reaching any kind of settlement that didn’t involved paid workers being directly employed, not once, ever. I can only hope it never goes that route either.
Maybe somebody knows of a case?
Normally no, the cause of the accident would have to be something, or failure to do something, which falls below the standard expected of a reasonably competent person, in this case an averagely competent hillwalker. Bur are you saying that could never happen?
Children can in theory be held liable but this would usually be to a much lower standard and they probably wouldn't have any assets to be worth suing.
It depends what you mean by "affluent". I have liability cover as an additional benefit to something I would be buying anyway (my household insurance policy, and also through my membership of a BMC-affiliated club). The BMC cover costs me less than 50p a week and comes with many other benefits as well. I think most climbers and walkers could afford that.
Only the truly affluent can afford to take even the remote risk of a six-figure claim against them without having insurance.
No. You only need insurance if you are affluent. I think an insurance company is unlikely to pursue you for £100k if you don’t have £100k. And if you don’t earn much then the government will pay for your lawyer anyway. Most people will already be covered.
You’d have to be found negligent but it’s defending the negligence case that would rack up the big numbers.
There was a recent high profile case where a cyclist ran over a pedestrian.
Compare that to someone jostling in the queue to summit Snowdon.
> And if you don’t earn much then the government will pay for your lawyer anyway. Most people will already be covered.
I'd think long and hard before including 'access to legal aid' in any risk mitigation strategy! It's hardly a flawless system.
Just clearly state that the activities are fraught with extreme danger, serious injury or death are almost guaranteed and that you will be deliberately trying to maim or injure your companions. No one should attend, as if they fail to heed this clear warning they will be extremely lucky to escape unhurt.
Meet 10am Saturday in the Red Lion carpark, bring cake. 😁
> Meet 10am Saturday in the Red Lion carpark, bring cake.
...with nuts, obviously...
> Have there been any, or many cases, where two non paying, non professionals, participating willingly in their free time, have attempted to blame the other in any outdoor activity for an accident? And it's reached a court of law, or coroner's verdict?
I recall a case some years ago of a couple of cyclists for whom this became a real issue. For reasons I don't recall, one of the cyclists had an accident which resulted in life-changing injuries, and the only way he could receive any financial support was by suing his companion, whose actions had contributed to the accident. The result was a 6-figure settlement.
I suspect it happens everyday with passengers in cars suing drivers.
> I recall a case some years ago of a couple of cyclists for whom this became a real issue. For reasons I don't recall, one of the cyclists had an accident which resulted in life-changing injuries, and the only way he could receive any financial support was by suing his companion, whose actions had contributed to the accident. The result was a 6-figure settlement.
It wasn't this one in Scotland? He lost.
> It wasn't this one in Scotland? He lost.
No, somewhere down south
> No, somewhere down south
I think in some instances group cycling is different, if you're at the front you are leading, you are assuming some responsibility for hazards, warnings, speed, road position, other traffic etc... that's a little unique compared to hill walking.
Edit. I don't group ride much, because too many folk are just $hit at cycling close, don't share the lead, the speed dies on hills because they aren't fit and are kidding themselves by staying towards the back.
> I think in some instances group cycling is different, if you're at the front you are leading, you are assuming some responsibility for hazards, warnings, speed, road position, other traffic etc... that's a little unique compared to hill walking.
Clearly cycling dynamics are different, but the point remains that the legal action was brought because of the life-changing injuries suffered by one participant, with the only course of action for financial support being the legal action. It's not hard to imagine a situation in a walking group - one person slips on uneven terrain, knocks another walker off their feet who then falls and suffers life-changing injuries. A slip on Collie's Ledge, Curved Ridge or the Aonach Eagach could easily lead to severe consequences.
I think if you do sport of any type you need to have adequate personal accident or critical injury insurance. Granted I know folk will say the insurance company will try to blame others rather than pay put.
If you've moved onto terrain where a trip, becomes life threatening, then I'd suggest it's not the place for groups of unknown ability and person who was hurt, shouldn't have been so close to the other walker on collies ledge, so it's still their fault.
Why do you think you would hear about such cases? It's usually in no-ones interest to publicise it and insured settlements are often out of court. Even where cases were publicised by witnesses (a few indoor climbing accidents come to mind) they soon go quiet.
Some people think of walks as totally benign and that is foolish. All it takes is an unpredicted thunderstorm to make someone with unsuitable clothing hypothermic. All it takes is a rabbit hole to break a leg. A solid stile might be about to meet the metaphorical camel's straw. The pleasant meadow of yesterday might have some newly situated feisty cattle today.
Frankly people with assets who lead groups (of any size, from just one other person), in any capacity, are nuts if they don't have insurance for third party liability. You don't need to have done anything wrong to build large legal expenses if someone in a group decides to sue. I'd trust The Ramblers insurance, I use the BMC insurance, but I'd be very careful with house insurers given the eye watering sums that can be involved and my experience with loss adjusters.
> Frankly people with assets who lead groups
if I suggest everyone on this thread meets at the plantation tomorrow and go for a walk, am I a leader in a legal sense?
I've accepted no payment, I only suggested, attendance is not mandatory, I never said I will lead, guide, coordinate, instruct etc...
Every time you go out in your car you run the risk that you might seriously injure or kill another person. For most of us this never happens, but there are still around 25000 people a year killed or seriously injured in road accidents. In some cases these will be somebody else's fault. Because many of the consequences may fall on the state, there is a public interest in making it mandatory for all drivers to have third party liability cover.
Climbing and hill-walking are potentially hazardous activities. Every time you go out in the hills you run the risk that you might seriously injure or kill another person. Again, for most of us this never happens, However if you were to be responsible for a serious accident you could face a claim of 6 or 7 figures for damages.
This comes up quite often in the rock climbing forum. There seems to be a belief that because we accept that this is a risky activity we should then accept the consequences of any accident, even where this is someone else's fault, and that to make a claim goes against the spirit of the sport. Crippled for life? Just suck it up, it's the luck of the game.
This is wishful thinking. Climbing, hillwalking and mountaineering don't exist outside the laws which govern the rest of life. Someone facing a life with loss of earnings and having to make many adaptations for disability (which may include paying for professional care) may have little choice. The claim may be made by the victim's dependents or by insurance companies who care nothing for the spirit of the hills or the brotherhood of the rope.
When we are out with others someone to make decisions, whether or not there is a formal leader. These may be about navigation, or avalanche conditions, or whether to rope up on a scramble. Even where these are shared decisions that does not entirely remove your own responsibility. Mistakes are not necessarily negligent in the legal sense, but where they are you should expect to be held liable for the consequences.
The numbers are far less than from road accidents, if only because far fewer people participate, so there is no public interest in making insurance compulsory. Nevertheless it is sensible to have it, and the cost can be trivial especially when it is wrapped up as part of a wider product such as household insurance or membership of the BMC or a similar organisation.
QQ ... any possibility that there is alterative motive?
Is there any possibility that in setting up and running a walk ... you're taking "potential" business away from someone who's trying to charge for the same service ... and he/she is trying to undermine?
For reference ... crack on. If I was correct above .. its a sad sad world we live in where people have to pay other people to take them on a walk.
Honestly, what do you get out personally of this nonsense? Go for a walk with people you know/like. Life is way too short for this kind of bullshit (tell the relevant people so as well).
It doesn't matter when all it takes is a rare accident with serious consequences for you to be sued for a 6 figure sum (some cases I know are 7 figure). You don't even need to be a leader, just an equal partner, if someone can claim something you did partly led to their accident or worsened the consequences of it. With no win no fee lawyers around more cases of life changing accidents than ever will lead to claims. Those most at risk are in riskier sports: I'd lay strong odds that most ordinary climbers I see taking a novice climber on a popular lower grade multi-pitch with below par supervision never thought of the consequences of being massively under-insured for third party liability; they just want to share the joy of climbing. I know from talking to many such people most are not BMC (or equivalent) members.
Playing ostrich and avoiding people who ask such questions doesn't make the problem go away. Those sued outside formally guided events are normally just friends. If you have assets the solution is to make sure you are third party insured, follow good practice and so don't need to worry
Can you cite a case where 6 or 7 figures have been paid out by an individual?
As has been said many times. It’s going to cost you just to defend a claim of £5k for lost earnings...
Everyone likes to exaggerate on forums. It’s the Internet. Full of drama. But I suspect everyone has been involved in some kind of insurance claim at some point usually just involving property damage or loss.
The thread was started asking if a risk assessment was really necessary and is there an assumed leader.
I think that’s been pretty well answered, no there’s no requirement for a risk assessment and everyone is responsible for the safety of the whole party at all times. You just have to be in a position to prove you weren’t negligent, to be able to afford your defence, and any payout if, worst case scenario, you lose the case.
> Just clearly state that the activities are fraught with extreme danger, serious injury or death are almost guaranteed and that you will be deliberately trying to maim or injure your companions.
It can't be negligence if you did it deliberately! Checkmate lawyers
it's time to end the legal stranglehold the ambulance chasers have put on society if there is a real risk (personally, in normal circumstances, when doing something not intrinsically dangerous in the company of sensible people I believe this to be not even worth considering as a risk, though I'm usually the first to point out an unnecessarily serious risk I perceive someone to be taking "out there") of being sued just because someone has to find someone to blame.
It was widely said that allowing solicitors to advertise was going to cause a lot of damage and it looks as if it has horribly come true. But I'm not going to live my life in fear of it. Perhaps I'll be choosy about the mental attitude of people I go out with, which I think has always been the case anyway.
You shouldn't be anywhere by choice where any of the following are true:
- the wrong place,
-the wrong time/circumstances
-in the wrong company
that was drummed into me and others by a very well known RAF MRT personality back in the 80s.
Except you simply can't avoid significant objective risk in some climbing games (winter alpine, big wall and greater ranges). The only solution to wrong place, wrong time is to avoid those games.
I have mixed feelings about the insurance and claims culture. Ambulance chasers are easy targets of criticism because of unethical behaviour but at the other end of the scale would you really want people with life changing injury or loss of a family member to not get fair support if they were a victim of some negligent behaviour?
Specialist 3rd party insurance is still pretty cheap as part of membership in organisations like the BMC.
You know there's a reason most insurance schemes thrown in personal liability for X million for no real apparent extra cost. Uts because if you are going about whatever it is with honourable intentions and something goes wrong, then folk aren't liable.
I think folk should have decent accident and travel insurance to protect themselves when doing outdoor activities.
>Uts because if you are going about whatever it is with honourable intentions and something goes wrong, then folk aren't liable.
It’s because most people look out for each other and serious accidents (outside of motor vehicles) are rare. And so they’re happy to take the risk.
Scenario 1: you're climbing and take a fall. Your second belays you effectively, but the gear pulls out and you hit the deck. You land badly and are left quadraplegic. You can't work again, your house will need alterations and you'll need 24 hour care. Nobody is to blame (except perhaps yourself if you had failed to place the gear properly), no compensation. You end up on benefits and with adequate but fairly basic support from the NHS, but that's a risk you take. Take out personal accident insurance if that worries you, although that can be expensive when you participate in risky activities.
Scenario 2: Same situation, except this time the gear holds. However your belayer was on his phone at the time and failed to hold you. If he had been doing his job properly you'd have been unhurt, instead you deck with the same outcome as Scenario 1. Shouldn't your belayer take some responsiblity for putting you in that situation? The difference is getting compensation for loss of earnings, being able to afford a higher level of care and to afford the accessories you might need to make the difference between getting by and a reasonable quality of life.
I've used a climbing example, but there are risks from hillwalking as well, especially when scrambling or in winter conditions. We accept the risks from our activities in the expectation that our companions will play their part to keep us safe.
Just because you don't hear about these situations doesn't mean they don't happen. Most claims are settled out of court and don't get publicised.
There is also the factor of contributory negligence.
Plenty of examples where one person has made it a lot worse because they weren’t being careful.
Here’s a good one that must have cost someone thousands in legal fees. While not being a leader/group issue, it’s an example of someone getting injured and looking for compensation.
Contributory negligence may be a mitigating factor, as may 'volenti non fit injuria' (ie the person consented to the risks). However unless you know your belayer is a novice you don't consent to them dropping you, you expect them to exercise appropriate skill. As I said in my first post, every case turns on its own circumstances.
The Irish case was about occupier's liability, which is a statutory duty and based on different duties of care, in particular it doesn't depend on negligence but whether the landowner took appropriate steps to mitigate or warn people of any hazards.
> Here’s a good one that must have cost someone thousands in legal fees. While not being a leader/group issue, it’s an example of someone getting injured > damages-award-to-hillwalker-who-tripped-on-wicklow-way-is-overturned-1.2979242?mode=amp
The legal costs were on the claimants side though. They didn't have to sue, they could have just accepted they were clumsy. Or claimed from their own accident insurance.
So no one has yet to cite a link to a case where people who have gone out voluntarily walking and ended up taking the other to court.
Are all legal costs always borne by the claimant? I thought that you paid costs if you lost? I may be wrong.
Yes. But it’s just an example in the same way your dropped climber is an example.
If the Belayer dropped you and you weren’t wearing a helmet and bashed your head as well as breaking your leg then there could be a conflict. The head injury could be worsened by the lack of helmet or even have been completely avoided by wearing a helmet and the payout for the head injury not made but an award given for the broken leg.
> Are all legal costs always borne by the claimant? I thought that you paid costs if you lost? I may be wrong.
Yes. That woman who didn't pay attention and tripped, it cost her to try and claim. It cost the other nothing to defend as they won.
All this talk of climbing.... the op was simply coordinating a meet up point for a bunch of walkers! If folk are meeting up to climb I'd hope they are a little more judgemental about who they partner up with. Always makes me cringe when you hear folk on here hoping to just partner up in the alps with someone they meet there.
Best make sure you hire the best lawyers and hope you don’t lose then.
This will be why a lot of cases will be settled out of court.
> Best make sure you hire the best lawyers and hope you don’t lose then.
I have accident and critical illness insurance.
> This will be why a lot of cases will be settled out of court.
If folk who were out as friends, acquaintances, etc.. were settling out of court because one got hurt and alleged the other was leader, many folk here would have heard and know such people.
It seems the answer to your original question is "no"...
> Why are you bothering with insurance then?
Because I'm self employed; I ski, downhill / enduro race, climb, normal mtb and road bike, paddle, work in the forest etc... if I have an accident of my own doing I need to offset loss of income, pay bills etc...
I consider myself to be competent but $hit happens; a rock or lump of ice could hit me, misjudge a wet tree root etc..
> Are you saying you don't have third party cover?
I'm guessing it's part of the package. Not looked. I was more interested in the small print to make sure what some insurers might class as high risk sports were covered. Not interested in some bun fight with insurers, or taking friends to court, I'll make sure I'm more than adequately covered. It's the same with medical cover, repatriation etc.. on travel insurance.
> 'volenti non fit injuria' (ie the person consented to the risks).
I don’t think you’ve understood “volenti” correctly.
It means that you cannot consent to injury. Even if you say “come on, hit me”, the person striking you is still guilty of assault. Nothing to do with accepting risk.
> I don’t think you’ve understood “volenti” correctly.
> It means that you cannot consent to injury.
Neither have you apparently - whether you can consent to injury or not, you can certainly consent to the risk of injury.
> Even if you say “come on, hit me”, the person striking you is still guilty of assault. Nothing to do with accepting risk.
Wholly to do with accepting risk, according to this, and literally the example given here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volenti_non_fit_injuria
Volenti applies only to the risk which a reasonable person would consider them as having assumed by their actions; thus a boxer consents to being hit, and to the injuries that might be expected from being hit, but does not consent to (for example) his opponent striking him with an iron bar, or punching him outside the usual terms of boxing. Volenti is also known as a "voluntary assumption of risk".
If you willingly participate in a boxing match the person striking you, in the way a reasonable person might expect their opponent in a boxing match to do, is not guilty of assault.
More to the point, this being to do with civil not criminal law, your opponent is not liable for anything that arises out of the risks endemic to boxing. You have no grounds to sue them for compensation if they land an unlucky punch that results in a life-changing brain injury, because you voluntarily accepted that risk when you stepped into the ring.
Sorry not read all the thread hope I am not repeating to much.
You are asking for proof that you cant be held responsible which isn't really there as you could be. Its tricky and I really don't want to put you off doing it. but its good to think about these things
Say there was an accident and some one tries to claim you are responsible, you cant stop some one trying to sue you. They have to prove why you were responsible, and you will have to prove why you aren't.
here is a good a very good post from the BMC
I think if you want support or something in writing for your club then I would try contacting the BMC and see if that can advise
It won’t be your choice. If someone smashes into you on skis and puts you in a coma, other people will be doing the chasing. Your insurance will cover the initial costs but they’ll be looking to recover those costs.
The reason these things are settled ‘out of court’ is the insurance companies discuss who is to blame and decide amongst themselves. They don’t want to engage expensive lawyers anymore than anyone else does. And they offer you a settlement.
Maybe people who accept an insurance payment don’t see that as settling a claim, but that’s what they’re doing.
If there’s a criminal case to answer then that would be entirely different.
Still a million miles away from a group of like minded friends arranging online to go for a walk. If somebody skied into another, it's likely somebody made a mistake etc..
Accidents happen when hill-walking too, and there is scope for making mistakes. This is from the BMC link which ecrinscollective posted
The Hill walker
Another case has some similarities. A few years ago a party of 8 hill walkers climbed up into Parsley Fern gully at the back of Cwm Glas in winter conditions. They had little winter equipment between them and 2 of the women in the party fell, one of whom, aged 28 was killed. The nominal leader of the party was a male student. The level of responsibility and duty of care was investigated and there was no prosecution. A verdict of accidental death was given because the leader of the group was acting reasonably in accordance with his level of experience and the rest of the group made their own judgement to follow the nominal leader. If the leader had been qualified or more experienced and the group were all clearly novices, a different outcome may have been reached.
There are two important things to take from this: first, that the leader wasn't automatically held to be responsible, which was the OP's original concern. Second, that while on the facts of this case it was decided there was no liability, under different circumstances the outcome might have been different. (Also, the article is talking about criminal prosecution rather than civil liability - the burden of proof is far higher than for civil claims, and there have been cases of successful civil actions where a criminal case had been unsuccesful)
It is very unlikely that a walk with friends will result in a serious accident, and even then you could only be held liable if it were your fault and you had failed to exercise appropriate skill and judgement. However if that should happen, then if it resulted in serious injury or death you could be faced with a massive claim. Could you afford it? Apart from the effect on your own finances, think of the difference the money would make to the person whose life you have ruined through your own negligence. That's why insurance matters - you may already have it through another policy, or it can be had very cheaply through membership of the BMC.
It's not something to get paranoid about, any more than we normally think about our liability for any of our other actions. However the risks of something going badly wrong in the hills are possibly higher than with many of our other activities, with the possible exception of driving. So always exercise appropriate skill and judgement, and carry insurance.
Going up a grade 1 gully in winter isn't the same as coordinating a like minded time to meet up for a summer walk.
We aren't talking about skill or judgement, it's the implied leadership of a person who is merely the online coordinator of the meet up.
Could I afford it, yes, but then I have proper insurance, as a qualified instructor I have no reason why I wouldn't be held liable for my own negligence towards others.
We are talking about non professional, no payment, willingly going for a walk together.
This whole topic was bounced around the bazaars 20 years ago, when the usa litigation culture became more prevalent in the uk. There was talk that instructors and guides would only be able to climb with each, as to climb with anyone else they'd always be held accountable etc.. legal folk considered it and I'm pretty sure the company(via ami) that provides cover to instructors were involved. The verdict seemed to be that it's no where near as bad as yourself and others are making out.
No one is making out any particular level of risk other than you, just that it is there. It's a choice to be insured third party. A wise one in my view given small costs that come for free in good organisations representing the activities we partake in. If risks were high premiums wouldn't be so cheap.
That Snowdon death in a student club was decades ago. It was part of the training I received as a club official. The chances of civil action have increased these days. The indoor accident in another student club a couple of years back (dropped by belayer) is looking like a 7 figure insurance settlement (medical student...lifetime loss of earnings etc).
No one is making anything out to be bad. Just pointing out that things can go wrong and no one is automatically blamed.
And that should make all members of any group going out into the hills wary, not just someone worried about being held accountable and being sued as the leader.
Its only if you are a qualified leader you’re held to higher standards, it doesn’t mean everyone else isn’t accountable for their actions.
But, the examples cited are examples of led group activities, many organised by those with more experience for novices, in various types of clubs. There is clearly an implied level of leadership or responsibility.
The op is talking about a meet up, say a ukc meet up, there's no leader, no funds, no implied responsibility, just somebody deciding or coordinating the time. I'm not saying folk shouldn't have insurance, as i have said I have my own already, but that in the ops example they aren't in my opinion responsible for them.
> We are talking about non professional, no payment, willingly going for a walk together.
Non-professionals are still liable if they are negligent, but they are held to a much lower standard than professionals.
> The verdict seemed to be that it's no where near as bad as yourself and others are making out.
I'm not trying to make out that it's "bad". What I am trying to get across is that the notion that walkers and climbers are somehow immune from the consequences of their actions is wishful thinking. It is no different from your liability in any other aspect of life - if you behave negligently and that has adverse consequences for someone else they could have a claim for damages against you. That shouldn't stop you doing things, or no one would ever leave their house.
The chances of a claim are very small, not least because most people exercise appropriate skill and judgement without thinking about it, so even a mistake is not necessarily negligent in the legal sense. Often when things go wrong it's no one's fault, but occasionally it is. It's like a reverse lottery - your chances of winning the jackpot are tiny but if it happens the payout could be huge, except it will be you who has to make it. It's because claims are so rare compared with the volume of activities that third party liability can offered so cheaply (obviously the risks for profesionals are higher so they pay more). Many people will have it without even realising, as it comes with most household insurance policies.
To sum up:
I pay £26 a year to belong to my climbing club. That allows me to participate in the club's activities. More than £20 of that goes to the BMC, and as well as benefiting from their work on access and other matters I also benefit more directly from access to other clubs' huts, gear discounts and the other trappings of BMC membership. Bloody good value for 50p a week. So far as I am concerned, I am getting the liability cover which also comes with it for free.
> in the ops example they aren't in my opinion responsible for them.
I don't think anyone has disagreed with that. The leader/organiser shouldn't be automatically held responsible for everything that happens during the activity, especially with a group of similarly experienced people. They could only be held responsible for anything arising directly from their own actions, and then only if they were negligent in the legal sense. However the same applies to everyone participating in the activity.
It might be different if they were leading a group of novices and had therefore assumed a greater level of responsibility. However if they were a member of the BMC they would be covered for this.
The indoor accident was two students in a club, peers, not a group led activity.
Your opinion on who's responsible simply isn't relevent to how some people and their lawyers and the insurance companies function.
> Neither have you apparently - whether you can consent to injury or not, you can certainly consent to the risk of injury.
> Wholly to do with accepting risk, according to this, and literally the example given here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volenti_non_fit_injuria
> Volenti applies only to the risk which a reasonable person would consider them as having assumed by their actions; thus a boxer consents to being hit, and to the injuries that might be expected from being hit, but does not consent to (for example) his opponent striking him with an iron bar, or punching him outside the usual terms of boxing. Volenti is also known as a "voluntary assumption of risk".
> If you willingly participate in a boxing match the person striking you, in the way a reasonable person might expect their opponent in a boxing match to do, is not guilty of assault.
> More to the point, this being to do with civil not criminal law, your opponent is not liable for anything that arises out of the risks endemic to boxing. You have no grounds to sue them for compensation if they land an unlucky punch that results in a life-changing brain injury, because you voluntarily accepted that risk when you stepped into the ring.
Well I stand corrected. I was taught many decades ago that “volenti non fit injuria” meant “one cannot consent to injury”.
Although your example of a boxer is a rather different case than that of ordinary people so I’m not sure whether that’s an exception or a rule.
Where’s the mysterious one when we need him??
Actually, having read that article I think it’s far more nuanced than either you or I have stated.
The participants must know the risk and expressly agree to it. Can that be said of every participant in a casual walking group? What if all participants are equally inexperienced? Can they be deemed to have both knowledge and consent?
In that context, I’m beginning to think an argument could be made for the leader having liability.
> In that context, I’m beginning to think an argument could be made for the leader having liability.
Where an experienced person is leading a group of novices, then potentially yes. But if someone is simply making the arrangements for a bunch of reasobably experienced friends and is not taking responsibility for 'leading' them, then almost certainly not.
I say "almost" because every case will turn on its own circumstances and it's impossible to foresee every possible permutation of events which might end up in a claim. It's never cut and dried. But for a non-professional to be held liable they would have had to make a very serious error, going beyond a simple mistake, because they would only be held to the standard of an ordinary hillwalker, and would not be expected to exercise the skill and judgement required from a professional instructor or guide.
Rather than fret about trying to avoid any liability, just take ordinary care in how you plan and carry out the event. Backing it up with insurance will protect you if something should go wrong.
>Actually, having read that article I think it’s far more nuanced than either you or I have stated.
There is a limit to what you can consent to when being injured my someone. And that limit must be expected.
If I’m going for a walk with some friends I am not consenting to one of them pushing me off a cliff.
> The claim may be made by the victim's dependents or by insurance companies who care nothing for the spirit of the hills or the brotherhood of the rope.
^^This. I bet there's loads of climbers whose wives/husbands don't like the climber's climbing partner, and should something happen to the climber which ruins the wife's life they'll have no hesitation in taking the climbing partner for everything they've got.
There's also loads of families who will have to claim on insurance to survive the loss of income from the breadwinner, and that insurance company will take the climbing partner for everything they've got in order to reclaim their losses - they are mandated to do so by company law where it's financially worthwhile. It's not just the insurance company either, their re-insurers will do so as well.
If you want an idea of potential damages, google 'Manny Helmot' - he was a cyclist who was hit by a car at the age of 28 and put in a wheelchair for life requiring 24 hour care. He was awarded £14million damages. The driver's insurers went to court to have the damages reduced and failed. The court cases was against his family, not his insurance company.
> The participants must know the risk and expressly agree to it. Can that be said of every participant in a casual walking group? What if all participants are equally inexperienced? Can they be deemed to have both knowledge and consent?
This is in my opinion at least where volenti gets complicated; what is the test for someone's ability to perceive and therefore accept risks associated with an activity?
I work in H&S and spent some time recently looking at what our staff thought was dangerous and what actually caused accidents and there was very little overlap between the two datasets. This is based on highly educated people who have received fairly intensive training on the materials and processes they work with, so a lay person is probably not going to be in a good place!
>I work in H&S and spent some time recently looking at what our staff thought was dangerous and what actually caused accidents and there was very little overlap between the two datasets. This is based on highly educated people who have received fairly intensive training on the materials and processes they work with, so a lay person is probably not going to be in a good place!
How much of that is due to people recognising dangerous situations and avoiding them, hence something that’s obviously dangerous doesn’t cause accidents?
It’s latent hard to spot problems that cause the accidents.
Whenever I’ve been in H&S courses the candidates dream up all sorts of weird and wonderful scenarios and outcomes.
We do it on this forum all the time.
> How much of that is due to people recognising dangerous situations and avoiding them, hence something that’s obviously dangerous doesn’t cause accidents?
There is an element of that but I think one of the big issues is complacency; "I am an intelligent person doing complex stuff and won't be outwitted by a mere sharp edge or ambushed by a brick wall". I frequently encounter people who are smart enough to put stuff into orbit, but I wouldn't trust them not to check if the flames coming out of the back of the rocket were hot with their hand.
> It’s latent hard to spot problems that cause the accidents.
> If others in your group are claiming that you are in some way liable and it's a voluntary informal no fee activity then i would suggest that you make a break from them and ensure that only those who will not hold you liable are welcome on the outing. If necessary, print off a signable chit to this effect.
Unfortunately that is totally incorrect - You cannot absolve yourself of legal responsibility by getting someone to sign a disclaimer. You cannot absolve whatever responsibility you have in law by getting someone to waive that right.
Howard J's replies are spot on.
I only add a little to it other than to say a similar post came up several years ago and I asked for any incidents/accidents involving groups or individuals in groups. I saved most of the links and I may well post them if i have time. It won't take long - the collective hive of UKC only supplied me with around 5 or 6 examples of such incidents.
The degree of care expected will vary from minimal if you are organising a casual outing amongst friends, or colleagues such as you initially posted. But exactly the same outing led by a someone with a UIAA guide's carnet working from a reputable outdoor centre would be totally different and the level of care expected would be much higher.
With only a few such cases on record I wouldn't worry too much.
Horse flies are only permitted by law to suck blood out of horses, so if they attack you, you are well within your rights to take them to court for liability under duty of care and improper parasitic behaviour. Horse flies are sometimes known as Cleggs, and have very close links to facebook. Studies have revealed that Cleggs have an illiberal and undemocratic behavioural penchant for preying on young cash-strapped students.
Similarly, Scottish Highland midges are only allowed to cause misery in the Scottish Highlands, but frequently disregard the strict legislation related to geographic location and the potential boundary issues thereof. The genetic variant cullicoides impunctatus 'indyref' is thought to possess a better regard for such boundaries.
The species homo obsessus ab leges (also a parasite but with near-human characteristics), will at the drop of a woolly hat, undergo exhaustive legislative procedures with the sole purpose of bleeding you dry, should they injure themselves. They are known to possess very unconventional ideas about self-responsibility and who (or what) the perpetrators of such injury actually are.
My advice based on these studies is to walk solo, resist dressing up as a horse and go walking outside the Scottish Highlands. You might even be quids in.