Staying CurrentPosted: February 10, 2008
Legal Reasons Why You Should be at your Industry Conference
You also do not want to miss out on all the fun!
People attend conferences for numerous reasons. To see old friends, meet new friends or to save money. The money you can save by buying equipment at a conference will usually pay for the trip. However, many people miss a very and important reason for attending their industry conference. Attending could keep you from being sued. This is a hidden, but very important benefit of attending a conference that most people do not appreciate until they are sitting on the witness stand in a courtroom.
There are several defenses you can use in running your outdoor recreation business. Releases and Assumption of the Risk are the two biggest and the ones most frequently use. Both to some extent revolve around the question whether you met the “reasonable standard for the industry.” Reasonable is defined as what a reasonable person would do in the same situation. Standard is the level of safety or knowledge and practice of safety required Industry is the paddling business industry. The definition combines to create a safety requirement that is the absolute minimum that a reasonable person running an outdoor recreation business would do. Standards are not goals; however, falling below the standard will almost always guaranty a losing lawsuit or at least increasing the cost of winning one.
Standards are floating. It is not always the same for a state, region or the nation. The standard will also change based on the water level, the type of river you are on, the equipment you are using and in several cases the types of guests to whom you are marketing. A recreation business in a rural area with a slow mellow stream that market’s to local people may have a different standard then when on a stream with small rapids near a large city and marketing to the masses. As such, you need to meet other people who are applying the same standard in the industry that you are using. You may also need to converse with people who are applying higher standards. History shows that companies move up to meet the standards for better operations or operations with higher standards.
Standards are not made, written down or created in courtrooms. They are constantly changing and they can only be found in the eyes and actions of everyone else in the industry. In trials, expert witnesses are brought in to tell the jury what the standard of care in a particular situation should have been. These expert opinions are based on the knowledge of the accident and a broad knowledge of the industry. You need to maintain your knowledge level of the industry at the same level as the experts. You are required to know the standard of the industry and your standards when running any business.
“Why does attending a conference change the way I do business?” Because the only way you can find out about a change in the standards is by meeting and greeting other people in the industry. If you have not attended a conference in several years, you may not know that the majority of states now require Personal Flotation Devices‘ for children. Even though your state may not require them, the standard has changed. You may not be required by law to provide a PFD, however, the standard is that one will be required and as such you have dropped below what the reasonable person would do in your situation.
Without attending a conference and seeing what everyone else is doing, you will not stay current in the industry. As such, you are wearing a target on your back that says sue me. Only personal injury attorneys can see that target. But see it they will when someone is hurt at your business.
There are other reasons for attending the conference. Unless you have hired an attorney to stay current on the issues or a lobbyist, you may have missed a change in the law. Many laws are passed each year that do not make the news. Old laws may also change. A great example of that is how courts have interpreted laws in West Virginia and Colorado recently. Unless you attend a conference, you may not know how new or interpreted laws have changed over the past year. What was a defense to the horseback riding industry in Colorado is now a welcome mat for lawsuits.
New ways to promote safety show up at conferences. New ideas that one business develops in their program can be a great way to keep your guests safe. New equipment is debuted, with the plusses and minuses at conferences.
New ideas also change the legal environment. A new product by a manufacture showing at the Conference can quickly change the standard for an industry. A new design of boat, Personal Flotation Device or trailer may suddenly make your system a risky liability issue.
These changes will not only affect whether a guest can sue you for injuries but also whether your own employees can sue you. Lifting canoes to the top level of a trailer may cause worker’s compensation injuries. A new design that promotes employee health and welfare could save thousands in worker’s compensation benefits.
The final legal reason for attending a conference is the overall education you receive. Judges and juries look at witnesses and examine their credibility. People who are honest are the witnesses’ juries believe. Honesty is not just how you are on the stand when you are testifying, but how you ran your business. An honest and upstanding member of the business community is going to continually want to improve his business. Being a member of your professional organization and attending the yearly conferences shows a jury that you care enough about your business and your clients to spend the extra time and money to run your business the best way possible. If you are willing to show an interest in your clients by receiving the most up to date education, you must not be as bad as you are being portrayed by the opposing attorney.
Some insurance companies give discounts on premium for attending a conference. They know that the company that attends a conference is concerned about staying current with the industry and keeping their operation as top notch as possible. Companies that attend conferences and get the most possible from a conference are less likely to have accidents that cost insurance company’s money.