It’s the policy we all get as a benefit of our membership. But what exactly is BSAC’s Liability insurance, what does it cover and why is it important? SCUBA magazine editor Simon Rogerson gets to grips with the detail.

We are living in an increasingly litigious culture, and any sport with elements of risk or dependency is vulnerable to legal action. BSAC’s ethos of real world training and mutual dependency could leave members open to a variety of aggressive legal actions. But by having a robust insurance against such claims, our members can continue to operate within the bounds of their qualifications, in the knowledge that liability suits are covered for up to £10 million for any single claim.


Insurance Q&As

Read the most frequently asked questions to learn more about BSAC Liability insurance cover.

What is a Liability policy? 

In this context, it provides cover to any third party, which means any individual who is not a BSAC member, for any injury/death or damage to property caused by a BSAC member or branch. To qualify for the cover, the injury or damage must have been caused while the member/branch is engaged in a BSAC related activity, scuba diving or snorkelling, within their training limits.

It’s worth making clear that while the club’s liability cover applies anywhere in the world, it is completely different to what is commonly referred to as ‘travel insurance’. If you wish to insure yourself for medical treatment, theft and disruption while travelling beyond the UK (or your home nation), then you must personally take out a specific policy that caters to your needs. Almost all dive centres and liveaboards will insist on proof that you have this form of cover before they’ll even let you in the water... because an uninsured diver is a problem.

They won’t insist on third party liability insurance though, because unlike managing a diver suffering from DCI, it’s not their problem. If their guests decide to sue each other, the host operation will happily take a backward seat and hope none of the flak hits them. Unless of course they decide to sue you as well. 

Civil or criminal?

Back to Third Party Liability. What can you be charged with that could command a significant pay-out? In a word, ‘negligence’. Establishing fault in the event of a diving incident is a complex (and costly) process. The most likely scenario would be that a civil claim would be made against you  for negligence. However, criminal charges could be brought against you if there is evidence of an unlawful, intentional act, which may not be covered by the policy. 

What’s the difference between civil claims and criminal actions? 

A civil claim is where a third party brings a claim against you for injury, death or damage to property. In the event of a civil claim, your BSAC  insurance will cover any claims for damages and the legal costs of your defence, these legal costs can run in to the £1,000’s. The level of cover included in the BSAC policy for legal defence costs is unlimited and will far exceed any home insurance legal costs you may already have. It will also cover costs for any damages awarded by a court if you are found to be negligent, or any amount agreed by insurers in an out-of-court settlement. 

By contrast, criminal charges are brought by the police or law enforcement body of a country. They differ in that there must be ‘an intent’ to harm or cause the death of a third party. This is where it gets technical. You can still claim on the BSAC policy for defending some criminal charges, but the cover only extends to certain categories. They are: manslaughter or corporate manslaughter; culpable homicide and abuse, or equivalent charges. As with all the activities covered, it must be in relation to a BSAC diving or snorkelling related incident. 

Some members are more open to lawsuits than others, so it will be of comfort to volunteers at every level that they are covered by BSAC’s . For example, Diving Officers have a level of responsibility that surpasses that of most individuals in a club, but they are still covered for any BSAC diving or snorkel related activity. Again, exceptions lie in intentional criminal acts, the exact nature of which is detailed in the policy.

What are you covered for?

Valid coverage is always subject to diving within the bounds of your BSAC qualification, and that the event in question was a BSAC-related activity. Members are covered for the following:

  • If someone brings a civil claim for compensation against you for causing an injury/death/damage to property.
  • Legal defence costs if you face a criminal charge or civil claim for manslaughter, corporate manslaughter, culpable homicide or abuse.
  • Damage to the property of a member of the public, or a premises owner.

You are also covered for diving abroad on holiday, but again, be aware this is not travel insurance. Providing you are BSAC diving or snorkelling within your qualification limits, you are covered for Third Party Liability. However, there is a list of countries the cover does not extend to, including UK Sanctioned Countries, Iran, Syria, Crimea, Ukraine and Russia. North America (USA) and Canada are also excluded. 

The liability coverage is extremely comprehensive in what it includes. For instance, clubs & members are covered for try dive nights, and you are covered for fundraising events as well. 

Disclaimer and further reading

This article is intended purely as an introduction to BSAC’s Liability insurance, but it is not a comprehensive guide to the cover, nor does it constitute a legal document in itself. Rather, we hope that we have dispelled a few myths about the insurance, its purpose and application. For a further exploration of the policy, BSAC members can email Wendy Meadows. Learn more about member insurance

Article by Simon Rogerson for SCUBA magazine, Issue 131 December 2023.

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