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Risky Activities

Real Talk Podcast Episode: Risky Activities

Position Paper

We are seeing an increase in the number of riskier and more robust activities being proposed as chapter events and activities, such as the following:

Ropes courses                                                         Hay rides  
Mud/color/zombie runs                                          Rock climbing/Climbing walls
Skeet shooting                                                        Paintball
Trampoline events                                                   Slip-and-Slides
Haunted attractions                                                Mazes
Bounce Houses and Dunk Tanks                             Events over 500 people
Hamster balls                                                          Mechanical bulls
Eating activities/contests
Any type of inflatables

On their own, these activities are concerning because of the greater potential for injury due to the more physical and/or dangerous nature of these activities. With good risk management, some of the potential risks associated with these types of events can be mitigated; however, some of these events are inherently dangerous. If we continue to see more claims in these areas, the insurance company may be forced to take action by eliminating some of the coverage that our clients now enjoy. We would prefer that good risk management eliminate action from the insurance company.

In addition to the more physical nature of these activities from a risk management standpoint, we are seeing the contracts in these types of scenarios increasingly contain verbiage that is unfavorable for our clients. Examples of this are where the service/venue includes the requirement that the fraternity/sorority add the venue/service provider onto their policies as an additional insured, contractual verbiage that releases the venue from any and all liability, and the requirement that all chapter members and/or participants sign waivers or releases to eliminate the service/venue from liability. This trend toward more aggressive contractual language with these types of events is concerning for our clients primarily due to the fact that they have little or no control over the equipment and the facility that is being used by its members and to then release the service provider/venue from responsibility is not good business practice.

Thus as we see it you have an increase in the more risky activities, where the service provider/venue is completely ‚Äúreleased‚ÄĚ from any and all liability and we have the additional trends below to exacerbate the matter:

  • Liability incidents are up 15 percent
  • Member injuries are up 68 percent
  • Economic pressures and uncertainty with health care has impacted both the number and the severity of liability claims

Please refer to your own organization’s policies regarding approved events.

Not all risky events are created equal; please refer to the table below for some specific examples:

Type of risky eventRed FlagBetter option, yet still risky
Ropes coursesHomemade ropes courses on the chapter propertyEngaging with an established company or organization that utilizes trained individuals to facilitate ropes course
Bounce housesA bounce house setup on chapter property open to the publicGoing to a well-managed facility that has various amusement activities available
Slip-and-slideSet up on chapter propertyGoing to a well-managed water park
Organized runs/walksMud/Zombie runs with obstaclesA more traditional 5K on paved surfaces, with appropriate city permits, permissions, etc.

As you can see from the examples above, there are ways to make seemingly risky activities more advantageous, primarily by holding the event:

  • At a licensed establishment that carries adequate insurance limits and practices good risk management in their operations
  • At a well-managed facility (as opposed to at the chapter house or somewhere on campus)

If the event is held at another business, they will be primarily responsible for the liability to your members and their business insurance policy will be responding to any claims.

Refer to your inter/national Headquarters for your organization’s policies regarding approved events. Ultimately, it is up to the discretion of each inter/national Headquarters to determine whether or not to allow a specific type of event.

We recommend, when possible, that chapters find alternatives to the types of risky events listed and/or unfavorable contractual risk transfer.

If it is not feasible for you to find an alternate (and insured) venue for the event or to change the event altogether, we recommend that you utilize the services of MJ Insurance Sorority Department by contacting Ruth Akers, Senior Account Manager.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact Ruth Akers at ruth.akers@mjsorority.com.