Please note the following information is NOT legal advice and is here to give you a very basic understanding of the issue of Public Liability Insurance as it relates to Red Hatting. If you have any questions about insurance or insurance products please see a professional (Lawyer, financial adviser, insurance agent etc.)
What is Public Liability Insurance?
While we don’t like to think about it, accidents can happen and if there has been a significant personal injury that results in a claim for compensation, you may need to have insurance cover for “Public Liability”.
Public Liability Insurance (PLI) usually covers things such as injury/harm to your chapter members while on an outing (eg falling over and hurting themselves) as well as damage/harm your chapter members may do to another person or property while at an outing (eg bumping into a table and breaking a priceless vase on it). PLI comes into play if something happens that requires a financial settlement, where your insurer will pay it, rather than it coming from you.
While your members may feel they are friendly enough not to want to sue anyone, their insurance company may be the one trying to sue – so simply being friends may not be enough to cover you. However it is worth noting that just because an accident happens it doesn’t necessarily mean you could be liable – You need to have been negligent in some form to have contributed to the incident – and you may already have PLI coverage depending on where you hold your outing/event and what insurance already applies to that location. So you may not need to take out additional coverage.
So the question isn’t really a case of “is PLI insurance necessary?“… because ultimately the answer is yes. It’s more “what coverage will I already have, and do I need to take out my own PLI coverage“. Which depends entirely on your chapter’s outings.
Depending on the situation and your location, the person involved/injured in the incident may be liable to pay damages/medical bills if they were at fault. However if it can be proven that the incident was as a result of a negligent act by you as the host (or the member whose home you are at), then you or the homeowner may be required to pay the financial costs. This is were the public liability insurance comes in – If your chapter is covered by PLI, then your insurance policy may pay instead of you.
Am I already covered by insurance?
Quite possibly any Hatting events you host may already have PLI coverage depending on the venue you host them at. So if you don’t want to obtain your own PLI, then make sure any location you host events at will cover you in case of incidents. You may decide to take out your own PLI coverage to further protect you, just in case.
Public Venues – If you have your outings in a place such as a restaurant/cafe/cinema, and the incident happens inside that venue – then their PLI should cover it, as you were paying customers of that establishment and they will have insurance to cover their customers. Especially if the incident involved their property (eg slippery steps).
Parks – While individuals getting injured in public parks would be covered by the Government, event gatherings in public parks (so any pre-arranged meetup of people) generally does require you to have your own public liability insurance, and some parks also require a permit to gather a group of people there for events – so check the council requirements for any park you wish to use.
Personal Homes – If the incident happens while you are meeting up at another members home, then it depends on what coverage (if any) their homeowner’s insurance policy covers. Most (if not all) home and contents insurance policies have coverage for non-family members who are visiting your home. If doing home-based gatherings it is best to check the insurance coverage of the property so you know if you are covered or not, and if it’s high enough to cover any cases where multiple people might be injured (eg a balcony collapse)
Carpooling – While convenient, carpooling can cause additional problems with regard to liability if there was a car accident. Generally it seems that additional carpooling passengers are covered by the vehicle’s insurance policy so long as the passengers are not paying for the ride (so “chipping in for petrol money” could be considered paying a fare). Those offering to drive other members should be fully insured and check their insurance policy covers carpooling. Some insurers (eg NRMA) seem to view “petrol money” as ok as it’s not generating a profit (you’re reimbursing costs rather than paying a fare to travel), but others (eg APIA) may consider any payment to invalidate their policy. So it is important to check what coverage the insurer offers and any exclusions.
It is common for Hatting events or chapter membership agreements to include indemnity waivers, in the belief that doing so will mean the event host or Queen will then not be liable for any injury/damage that happens at an outing/event. But this is not necessarily the case. They can however be useful to help reduce the risk of liability in some cases, as generally it must be shown that the host was negligent in some way that caused or contributed to the incident, and waivers can be used to clarify any potential dangers that show that the host has made participants aware of the risks.
If the waiver specifically mentions the participant agrees to waive liability in case of negligence of the host (using the term “negligence”), then this could be a legally binding waiver, however if the court declares the waiver to be unclear or too vague then any waiver can be deemed unenforceable.
If you wish to draft an indemnity waiver, it is best to seek proper legal advice on the correct wording to use for your event.
To assist you in preventing potential incidents, you should make sure that any environment you hold events in are as safe as possible, with any potential hazards clearly explained/marked/removed. Especially when holding events in private homes. Remembering also that while we mostly think of injuries to people (eg someone falling over and hurting themselves), hosts can also be liable to damage to a guest’s property (eg their dog chews the guests handbag), and what damage a guest does to someone elses property (eg someone trips over a rug and spills red wine on someone’s white silk dress).
- Any potential tripping hazards should be removed/taped down (power cords, edges of rugs etc.). Gathering spaces should be clear of obstacles that could be a hazard. Be aware of how any extra decorations could potentially cause hazards (eg don’t hang streamers at neck level)
- Proper food handling procedures, and care taken with cross-contamination, food spoilage and refrigeration. While having home-based events with people “bringing a plate” is a cheap and easy way to host, it does bring with it extra risks with food handling/storage.
- First aid and emergency contact information readily accessible in case it is needed. (One good idea is to have all members write their emergency contact information on the back of their name-badges)
- If you have pets who may become aggressive when stressed, lock them away from guests.
- As a Queen make sure any decisions you make regarding hosts/venues/activities are done keeping safety in mind and minimising potential risks (eg if a member’s home is known to have rickety stairs, perhaps don’t hold gatherings there)
- When carpooling select drivers who have full insurance coverage on their vehicles, whose vehicles are in safe condition and who are known to be careful drivers.
Public Liability Insurance through ARHGA Inc.
Red Hatter groups around Australia are offered a PLI policy through becoming a member of “ARHGA Inc.” (Association Red Hatted Groups Australia), with a pricing of around $85 per year (Rates may change each year). Which is likely to be far cheaper than you are able to get yourself. If you do need to make a claim, ARHGA also say they will pay the excess – so you should not be out of pocket at all.
To obtain insurance through them you will need to become a member of their Association and fill out their PLI application form. This must be done/renewed before the 1st of June each year. If you miss the deadline you must wait until next year.
Information can be found here: https://red-hatters-wa.net/insurance-pli
As with any insurance policy it is not as simple as just signing a form and handing over the money – you need to make sure that you know what you are covered for and what exclusions (if any) there are, have given them the correct information for your coverage and that you comply with any requirements they have. Otherwise you may find out that your insurance policy is invalid and you may not be covered if something happens and you need it. We all know how insurance companies like to find ways to limit what they pay out.
While obtaining insurance through ARHGA could be a very good idea, there are some points to consider:
- Obtaining your policy through ARHGA means you/your chapter will become a member of ARHGA and are getting coverage due to being part of their association – you aren’t buying your insurance from ARHGA, you’re obtaining it by being covered by their PLI insurance. This means that as an ARHGA member, you agree to abide by any rules and requirements of their organisation – if any.
- As with insurance obtained from any company, You should read the Product Disclosure Statement for the insurer to make sure you know exactly what coverage you have and all the terms and conditions. As there is no Product Disclosure Statement provided on the ARHGA website, you may need to contact ARHGA directly to ask for this information. In particular you should find out:
- What amount you are insured for in total and per incident
- What exactly you are covered for
- Is it written in any contract you have with ARHGA that they will pay the excess
- What exclusions there are for your cover (eg any activities not covered)
- On your initial application to ARHGA, you need to fill out a form that states how many members your chapter has, how many outings per year you do and other such information. It is unclear whether changes to this information (eg chapter numbers increasing) would affect any insurance coverage you have, as it does not appear that yearly renewal calls for updates to this information. As all chapters pay the same fee regardless of the number of events or members, this information is likely just for ARHGA records and not directly connected to your insurance coverage.
- If you have your own PLI and an accident occurs at a venue that has its own PLI – there could end up being a battle between the 2 insurance companies over whose will pay out, as each side may refuse to pay out.
— Note, some of these issues have been conveyed to ARHGA representatives, so these issues may be or may have already been addressed.