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Old 07-13-09, 08:16 PM   #1
gattm99
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Stupid Liability Question

A few guys started a bike club in town about a year ago. They did it formally, drafted a constitution, were incorporated, joined LAB. Things were going well at first and there were a few rides this Spring, but now pretty much all activity has stopped. The club board didnít want to purchase liability insurance as it would eat up all of the club funds. Club rides pretty much stopped as people became afraid to host rides due to liability issues. Some members of the club continued to ride with other members but kept it all on the down low. Basically now the club is pretty much defunct as no one posts on the forum, there is no weekly or any rides for that matter. Iím a member of this club and am sad to see this happen.

I donít really understand the law, but it seems to me that any club that does virtually anything would want insurance.

But since its looking like this club is dead I was wondering about something that was totally informal. No club, no board, no membership, nothing written down on paper. Basically a website with a forum where people can post that they are taking a ride somewhere, make sure the posts are not written as invitations just a statement of fact. Something like, ďIíll be riding 40 miles Saturday leaving from the school parking lot at 7AM.Ē

Would the person who made that post be taking any kind of liability if someone got hurt while they just happened to be riding their bikes on the same stretch of road? They werenít invited; they just happened to be sharing the same stretch of public ground as a few other riders.

If this sounds stupid to you then good, because it sounds completely ignorant to me. But this is what our legal system as brought me down too.
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Old 07-13-09, 08:39 PM   #2
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I'm not a lawyer, but I wonder if having all club members sign a waiver would work...

Otherwise, your idea sounds good. Stick to it and good luck!
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Old 07-14-09, 12:16 AM   #3
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Liability from what? You're riding on roads. Things happen, hopefully fun things. The last time I rode with a group, where I had to sign something, I decided never to ride with them again. The waiver I signed, at the end of it, basically stated to follow traffic laws. Simple. I already do. They didn't. To me, it rather defeated the point of it. Do you have to have a waiver if a group of friends goes for a ride?
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Old 07-14-09, 01:58 AM   #4
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I don’t really understand the law, but it seems to me that any club that does virtually anything would want insurance.
Yes. I believe all clubs in Canada are like this. You've got to sign up and become a member before you and your bicycle can do anything remotely like riding with the particular club.



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But since its looking like this club is dead I was wondering about something that was totally informal. No club, no board, no membership, nothing written down on paper. Basically a website with a forum where people can post that they are taking a ride somewhere, make sure the posts are not written as invitations just a statement of fact. Something like, “I’ll be riding 40 miles Saturday leaving from the school parking lot at 7AM.”
In Edmonton there are a number of formal clubs, each requiring insurance. But there's also a ListServe called FireWheels in Edmonton. The ListServe is for any cyclists in the city and surrounding area to post/email rides they are planning to do. Most post/email about rides which the clubs are putting on, but occasionally you'll get an informal post/email saying, "I'm planning a ride from Rocky Mountain House to Nordegg and back on Saturday, if you're interested in joining me, be there at ....., or contact me at ......"

Those kind of posts have no affiliation with a club, and I don't believe they would have any liability issues ... no more than if I said to Rowan, "Are you interested in riding up to Lake Eildon on Saturday?" It would be up to Rowan to decide if that's something he wanted to do ... and we could discuss it ... and we could change our minds prior to the ride, or even during the ride, and go somewhere else, or call it a day. (Whereas club rides often have set times and routes) And because I'm not a club, I'm his wife, I wouldn't have any legal responsibility for him.

Unless, of course, I knew the ride up to Lake Eildon was particularly dangerous for some reason, and I was deliberately putting him into a dangerous situation.

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Old 07-14-09, 02:28 AM   #5
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I'm not a lawyer, but I wonder if having all club members sign a waiver would work...

Otherwise, your idea sounds good. Stick to it and good luck!
I think the club would still be stuck with some liability.

It's like an auto dealer who sells you a car. They are always held to a higher standard than an individual who sells you a car. If the car had a safety problem, and you crashed, the law (or the jury) is more likely to find that the dealer "should have known", and disclosed or fixxed the problem.

The same kind of standard would likely hold against the club, vs. a few friends getting together to ride. I agree with you, that a grown person should be able to sign away this liability. But, I wouldn't want to be caught running a club without good insurance.

I can't see much liability from posting "Anyone want to go for a ride?", unless there is some illegal aspect, or bad intent. I would take the chance, although I suppose you still could be sued in some circumstances, under some tortured "should have known" logic.
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Old 07-14-09, 02:35 AM   #6
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I'm no lawyer either, but perhaps it'd be a good idea for your club to hire or enlist one.

From my own involvement with amateur and volunteer clubs, the consensus is indeed that insurance costs will kill the club, and if a claim is ever made, you can be sure the lawyers for the insurer will do their damnedest to avoid paying out.

The alleged way around this is something you have in place already: Incorporation. The theory is that if you have a solid legal structure, someone suing can only gain the assets of the corp. Keep it small and the group can fold it...then just start another corporation.
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Old 07-14-09, 08:03 AM   #7
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Liability waivers aren't worth the paper they're written on. Sure, you can stop the person that signed it from suing you (maybe) , but you can't get them to waive any claims from their associated parties... Basically if I sign a waiver and get killed riding in your group there's nothing stopping my wife and kids from suing your group since I can't sign away their right to do so.

Sounds to me like you have too many nervous nellies overthinking the issue though. No one's making them ride, and you're riding on a public street. Common sense should apply. Unless you're forcing them as part of the ride to do something blatently unsafe your liability is minimal.
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Old 07-14-09, 09:26 AM   #8
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From the research I've done waviers are not totally worthless. If someone signed one and then sues it may help the court case. My problem with waviers is that I'm morally objeced to it. I can't imagine a situation where I'd invite some people to a ride and then pull out my waviers and demand everyone to sign. Some of the research I've done reccomends that a wavier be signed before every single ride, while others say one a year is enough.

Despite the fact the club is incorporated the president still didn't want to take the risk of a law suit. I don't blame him really, seems like the town is law suit happy.

Common sense does not apply in these situations. I think a decent lawyer could probably prove that by taking someone on a group ride we were
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forcing them as part of the ride to do something blatently unsafe
To me it's kind of a catch 22, the club needs to hold scheduled regular rides to attract members, to hold these rides it really needs insurance, to afford the insurance it needs members.

If the club folds I think I would be safe just inviting people to ride via a website. I hope.
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Old 07-14-09, 11:02 AM   #9
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From the research I've done waviers are not totally worthless. If someone signed one and then sues it may help the court case. .
Correct... if the person that sues you is the person that signed the waiver. But if they die/are incapacitated/etc and someone... we'll use their wife as an example... sues you that waiver might as well never exist. Any 1st year lawyer will tell you you can't waiver someone elses rights away.
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Old 07-14-09, 11:32 AM   #10
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Simple solution: Ask them to sign a waiver, and have everyone they know or are related to, or might become related to, to sign it also.

Something else that comes up is Deep Pocket Syndrome. If you're an average person, a lawyer won't be too interested in suing you because you haven't got enough money to make it worthwhile. if you're well-heeled or have a bunch of insurance, that's different. So there might be a lot of cases where buddies out riding together might be legally liable, but no one cares because they're also broke.
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Old 07-14-09, 11:55 AM   #11
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My club has a ridiculous page-long waiver that must be initialed for every ride or we don't get 'credit' for the ride. Of course, non-members don't have to sign because they don't care about getting their mileage logged with the club. The one good thing I've seen come out of it was in one case, someone was riding on a club ride but hadn't signed. He fell and got hurt, then tried to sue. Club record-keeper looked at the ride sheet, said, "nope, you weren't on the ride." End of story. Ironically, the fall happened in the rain on a steel bridge. The map said, DANGER STEEL BRIDGE. WALK IF WET.

I tend to agree with StephenH; if the club is incorporated and has no assets to go after, then there's not much to gain from suing it. Further, if the club papers state that ride leaders act as agents for the club and only provide 'suggested' routes, and that individuals are responsible for their own safety, it seems like that would limit everyone's liability.
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Old 07-14-09, 01:36 PM   #12
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...the fall happened in the rain on a steel bridge. The map said, DANGER STEEL BRIDGE. WALK IF WET...
That's no joke. I almost lost it in the rain on a drawbridge a couple weeks ago--learned my lesson cheap.
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Old 07-14-09, 07:56 PM   #13
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A couple of years ago, I went to another state for a 2 day bike ride and the hosting club made us sign a waiver and watch a bicycle safety video.
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Old 07-14-09, 08:34 PM   #14
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If the club folds I think I would be safe just inviting people to ride via a website. I hope.
If I were the OP, and I wanted to ride with some of the club members, I'd just set up an email exchange or listserve that is completely and utterly unrelated to the club ... call it something completely different ... and then pass the info about that listserve (or whatever) around to certain club members and/or other cyclists.

There are lots of cycling-related listserves out there and cyclists use them to set up rides with each other, or to inform each other of upcoming organized events.

Just because you post something on a listserve that says you're thinking of doing a ride here or there on a particular date doesn't mean you'll actually go through with it (something could come up), or that anyone will actually express interest in the ride. You could easily end up doing a solo ride ... or maybe if one other person shows you might discuss route options and decide on a different route together. No different from getting together and riding with any cycling friend.

Now, if I posted something about a ride I was thinking of doing, and if it was out into the middle of nowhere (as a lot of my rides tend to be), I might mention things like: I'm planning to ride 100 km. There is one stop for food or water along the way, so I'll be bringing some extra snacks for myself. The road is in the mountains, and the weather in mountains is not predictable so I'm planning to bring clothing for a variety of conditions. And if, after all that, a cyclist showed up completely unprepared, I might suggest that the cyclist rethink the ride or something. I wouldn't feel right heading off on a long ride with someone who doesn't look like they can handle it.
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Old 07-15-09, 12:13 PM   #15
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I was talking to a friend who helped organize a bike ride. There was a guy who did the ride. His computer pickup was too far from the magnetic thing. Instead of stopping, he monkied with it whilst riding. He managed to sever a finger in the process. His finger got reattached and it was successful. But he sued the organizing body. They had insurance (this was a pay for the ride and has SAG stops, maps, arrows on the road, etc. etc). The insurance company settled because it was cheaper than fighting. But in their place, I would have been tempted to fight. I mean, you could go into court and ask the plaintiff just what they thought how the organizers could prevent him from sticking his finger into his spokes?

Now, I don't know if he would have sued had there been no insurance.
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Old 07-15-09, 09:29 PM   #16
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There was a guy who did the ride. His computer pickup was too far from the magnetic thing. Instead of stopping, he monkied with it whilst riding. He managed to sever a finger in the process.


He should've severed another body part instead. Then he wouldda made a good Darwin Award candidate.

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Old 07-15-09, 10:00 PM   #17
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A corporation with no assets or insurance doesn't protect the club members. The courts will look through the corporation to the individual members assets. bk
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Old 07-15-09, 10:39 PM   #18
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A few guys started a bike club in town about a year ago. They did it formally, drafted a constitution, were incorporated, joined LAB. Things were going well at first and there were a few rides this Spring, but now pretty much all activity has stopped. The club board didnít want to purchase liability insurance as it would eat up all of the club funds. Club rides pretty much stopped as people became afraid to host rides due to liability issues. Some members of the club continued to ride with other members but kept it all on the down low. Basically now the club is pretty much defunct as no one posts on the forum, there is no weekly or any rides for that matter. Iím a member of this club and am sad to see this happen.
AIRC, the liability insurance offered through LAB is a little under $2/member/year with a minimum annual cost of around $80. Doesn't seem like an outrageous amount, so I'm surprised that a club which had gone through some significant effort to get organized wouldn't be able to cover this through their membership dues. Were there only a handful of members, therefore making the cost/member especially high?
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Old 07-16-09, 01:26 AM   #19
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Liability forms are worthless; getting sued costs more than you even want to think about. Either get insurance or don't worry about it.

This is one of those deals where you want to consult a lawyer; the law is generally written to handle enormously different organizations and will not make sense from any given org's perspective.
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