Club insurance versus ACA insurance

Our club incorporated several years ago as a not for profit corporation making less than $7500 a year (I think than is the amount?). Making less than that allows us to not have to file a tax return.

We have priced and found the following policies.


There are two policies involved.

Liability, underwritten by Auto Owners Insurance Co.

$1,000,000 per occurrence with a two million aggregate, $50,000 for rented premises damaged, $5000 medical. This policy protects the members, club and officers from liability. It is for our kayak club and they know we are kayakers. This policy is $146 a year and payment is due when we make application.

Death and dismemberment, underwritten by AIG.

They gave us four options. I will discuss one option that gives the most bang for the buck. There are three others if you are interested. Accidental death and dismemberment is $25,000. Medical is $50,000. There is a $100 deductible. Maximum period is fifty two days. There is also a dental that offers $250 per tooth. This insurance will not subordinate to the health insurance policy you might have and will pay your medical deductible less the $100 policy deductible. There is a sliding scale for age. It will pay 65% of the above for ages 70-74 and 45% for 76-79. I don’t think we have any members who are older than that age. There is an additional reduction for an older age. The price for this policy is $1,419 and is due at application.

This will be OUR club’s own policies. The total cost of both is $1,565.

That’s a brief run down in a nut shell. If we choose to do this and we eliminate our ACA membership, each member will save about fifteen dollars a year. Our dues will go up fifteen dollars and there will be no dues for ACA for the above reason. We will no longer need sign up sheets, we will not have to email anything to the ACA or collect and send “guest” money to the ACA, which we do now. We will have a duplication of payment this year as many of us have already paid the ACA. Our club will be $1,565 poorer as we did not make an allowance for this change for the current year, though new members will benefit. We will not truly financially benefit until next year. Lastly, unlike the ACA policy, we propose this insurance policy because it will benefit us, the members. These proposed policies are more than just a liability policy.

There are negatives which were discussed at our last meeting. We will no longer need and/or therefore be part of the ACA as a club. Several members were not in favor of that for several reasons. The ACA promotes many national preservation projects and the sport (ACA needs our money ) and lack of ACA memberships may mean that paddlers joining other paddling events or clubs may have to pay a higher amount of money to participate or may be forced to join the ACA anyway but at a potentially higher rate.

This is new ground for us. The club has been around for over fifteen years as is, less incorporation.

Any feed back, plus or minus, would be greatly appreciated.


Since you asked
I work in insurance, and I’m a former club officer, so I have some perspective on the issue as a whole.

Firstly, I’d go with just the liability insurance myself. Save the club the 1,400 for bringing in guests and having events. The liability insurance will cover the club for anything they are deemed legally obligated to pay to any third party from dollar one, including medical expenses (On a no-fault basis) up to $5K.

The med pay section of the policy would make the far more expensive health insurance pretty much redundant.

Also, I’m willing to bet that if you read the fine print in the health policy, you’ll find that it’s excess of all other collectible insurance before it pays — meaning that if you have your own health insurance, it won’t pay a dime until yours (Or whoever’s) is exhausted. If most of your members have good health insurance already, you’ve spent club funds on a worthless piece of paper. Definitely have your agent explain how it works in detail before you decide.

Another thing I’d mention is that you really want to keep the fact that you have insurance quiet if you do buy it — nothing attracts ambulance chasers faster than a fat liability policy. Tell your members for ethical reasons (It’s their money you’re spending), but keep it at that. Nobody else needs to know.

Whatever you decide, have fun paddling!


This is interesting. Please keep us up on how well it works out.

We had the same discussion

– Last Updated: Feb-10-07 9:09 PM EST –

last year and decided to sever from the ACA. Aside from insurance, we saw no real value from them and the insurance could be had elsewhere at a better rate.
Please do not confuse the sport of paddling needing money with the ACA needing money. They are in fact a business who's product is meeting with dissatisfaction around the country. Other groups around the country are doing plenty to preserve the sport on a fraction of the budget that the ACA has. If you want to afilliate with a national or regional group, there are plenty around that could use the help and could make more efficient use of the money.
I agree though, I would not publicize the fact that you are carrying insurance.
Although many claim that they are not worth the paper they are written on, we do still use a waiver, that explains the inherently dangerous nature of paddlesport, advises of the physical requirements involved and recommends professional instruction. We require all new members to read understand and sign this one.
We also have one that specifially states that a person has been duly warned that either the leader of a particular paddle event does not have enough knowledge of a paddler's abiltites or does know the abilities of the paddler and recommends that they not participate. We are starting to use this one, for people who we discourage from coming on a paddle that will present more of a challenge than they are prepared to handle, bur insist on coming anyway. This is to address something that I saw first in the Triathlon world, but has started showing up at some of our events - People who show up totally unprepared for the class river we plan on paddling, either with insufficient gear (no cold weather paddling gear, no change of clothing, NO SPRAY SKIRT) or they just picked their kayak up from Academy the day before and think they can handle a class II run. Sadly for every 2 paddlers who get interested and take it seriously there seems to be 10 who take it totally for granted until they spend the day swimming (or worse). We have been advised that this satisfies the requirement of demonstrating reasonable care and consideration for what its worth.
I would read the fine print in any insurance agreement and pay for a lawyer to look it over to make sure that your club knows exactly what its responsibilities are before someone does get hurt and build a process to be sure that those requirements are met or the Insurance Company may leave you holding the bag.

Final Score…
Lawyers & Insurance Companies 1, Paddlers 0.

An insurance debate divided the paddling club I used to belong to into factions. Club meetings deteriorated from discussing the year’s paddling schedule to arguing about how much to have members pay for insurance and what kind of insurance to carry. Who needs it? Not me. I now paddle with my friends in informal groups. Heck of a lot more fun that way. The club still exists, but is a mere shadow of its former self. As is typical in our society, personal accountability is becoming a thing of the past. Now if some fool decides that he or she is entitled to financial compensation to make up for his or her incompetence, it’s no problem to find a lawyer to take the case regardless of how frivolous it is. Ultimately, we all suffer for it.

Seems to me there was trouble w/ ACA
insurance a while back. Something about dropping the insurance for everyone, and not telling anyone. Is my memory correct here? If so, I do not think I would trust them to cover my liabilities! What is to stop them from doing it again?



Fly under the radar
It’s your best defense in a lot of cases. If nobody knows who you are, where you are, or what you’re doing, they can’t kill your good times.

It used to be called privacy. And it was one of the major reasons I got into paddling, hiking, etc so many years ago — you got away from all the sleaze for a little while, and could just be yourself.



– Last Updated: Feb-11-07 1:33 PM EST –

I was the most outspoken menber against ACA affiliation in the canoe club incanoe mentions above. I was castigated and some board members actually called me a cheapskate in open general meeting. (Dues was going to double.) I quit the club as did a hundred or so others when they got their membership notices.

That next year I heard thru the grapevine the ACA dropped coverage for its affiliates without notifying them and for more than 6 months NO ONE had liability insurance!

After two years of beating adead horse and steady declining membership the club recently dropped ACA affiliation and went back to the old dues structure and private insurance. I have been approached by the current president as well as some of the members to join again but after the way some of the leadership talked to and about me I feel like the Dixie Chicks, "I'm not ready to make nice".

The club was divided?

I don’t remember it like that. I was the only dog scratching against ACA affiliation in those meetings.

There were 3 votes cast against affiliation at the last general meeting. Mine, Worths and a proxy vote that was mailed to me (which the board members tried their best to disallow). The only reason they let it go was it was a “moot point”.

Their minds were made up on affiliation with ACA. Now that it’s 3-4 years later and they have finally seen what they got was empty promises they dropped out of ACA and went back to private insurance.

med insurance

– Last Updated: Feb-12-07 5:11 PM EST –

"you'll find that it's excess of all other collectible insurance before it pays"

I think the following from the original post indicates that the med insurance doesn't work that way.

"This insurance will not subordinate to the health insurance policy you might have"

Thank you
I believe we as a club will cancel our membership with the ACA. We will pursue the liability insurance and pass on the death and dismemberment policy. We will not have to raise our dues and club members who wish to continue as members of the ACA will be less impacted by our club’s actions.

Thank you for all of your feedback. I copied it and forwarded it to key members of our club. Your thoughts were very helpful.

Franklin Dickinson

Florida Sea Kayaking Association, Inc.

As a grizzled old paddler andan attorney
I get asked this question a lot.

IMHO, and not establishing any attorney-client relationship, and given the factual stupidity of anyone depending on advice from a Internet discussion group …

I think insurance for non-profit outdoor clubs is stupid. Use the money for protection of our natural resources.

Can anyone name me a case where an outdoor club has been successfully sued?

I could only imagine a strange fiction where negligence on the part of a club could even be remotely be identified as causation of an accident.

Get a good waiver, have people sign it. Keep safety a center talking point, as you should, and have fun.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I hear all the voices from the wilderness clamoring for my head. So be it. Such voices come from ignorance not from experience.

BTW, if you’re particularly worried about liability, a hint: NEVER take any minor, that is not your child, on any trip. Parents do not have legal authority to divest a child of their rights. So, a waiver signed by the parent is worthless and a waiver signed by a child is also worthless. Some commercial operators are having parents sign indemnification agreements, but enforcement and or collection on those is very problematic.

So, bash away.


Yes, but
I agree that folks ought to be looking at real world exposure instead of worrying about the what ifs of remote possibility. However, I suspect the real concern is not a suit against the club, but of the officers and members individually. After all, there is no purpose in obtaining a judgement unless you can collect.

I too rather suspect one would be hard pressed to find a suit brought and won or even settled for more than trivial/nuisance value when there were only adults involved.

Same advice we got
from an attorney when I was president of ConnYak.

And it’s good advice, IMO. Even if it is on the internet :wink:

I heard that the Appalachian Mountain Club got sued once in small claims for cancelling a hike. The woman who supposedly sued claimed gasoline cost and the cost of her time, because she showed up and didn’t know it was cancelled. Not sure if it was true or not. Probably a backwoods legend.

Paddle Club Insurance
The insurance saga of the 300 member Hoosier Canoe Club would take at least a case of beer to get through. At one time ACA insurance was viable but their bait and switch a year later caused us to look elsewhere.

The HCC is currently insured through McKay Insurance Agency, Inc. This is the same company that insures the 3000+ member Central Indiana Bicycling Association.

Scott Ziller is the agent I worked with.

Contact information:


Hehehehehe hey Reggie
No names were mentioned, but since you did. I really felt like a trout swimming upstream, with everyone taking pot shots at me, during that fiasco.

I have found recently
that most states have laws in place that do not allow anyone to sign away their rights away on a waiver, regardless of age. Thats one of the reasons we changed out waivers to provide mostly warnings.

That’s news to me.
Admittedly, this is not my primary professional interest, but me and a couple of my climbing/paddling/lawyer buddies try to keep our collective ears to the ground for similar issues.

In my opinion, such statues would be a restriction of the right to contract. I can’t imagine that a statute creating an unenforceable per se rule would stand scrutiny. (And such would certainly be contrary to the heretofore majority political view of property rights and right to contract.)

I’d be interested in cites for those statutes. They are not in my current liability defense file. The only case I know on point is the Colorado case from a few years ago. It discusses the legality of a waiver executed on behalf of a minor.

In addition, there have been quite a few statutes passed in the opposite direction. Specifically, civil immunity for land holders with property containing natural resources that have recreational attraction.

Check the Access Fund’s web page for other tangential issues.


At that price, dump the ACA
As others have said, the ACA offer essentially zero value other than insurance which is way too expensive. The resultant cost of club dues, among other things, has really hurt membership. Our club has been struggling with this issue for years and I’m glad to see that you found good alternatives. I’ll pass the word along to the power that be in the club.

AFAIK, the ACA is a bush-league organization that treats its affiliated clubs like “cash cows”. Perhaps if they lose all their clubs and the revenue from them they’ll wake up, but I’m not holding my breath.

Deterrent to joining club
Don’t know if I’m unique, but, I decided against joining FSKA - due to the requirement of being an ACA member. Not the money, just the idea of having to join an organization I have no interest in.

I’m new to the area (less than a year). I paddle every day in a local creek, weekends on the coast. I mostly paddle alone - but would have enjoyed the knowledge base as well as joining on some outings with a club.