Insurance and qualifications

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sean107
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Insurance and qualifications

Post by sean107 » Thu Aug 16, 2018 8:20 pm

Why do clubs need to worry about insurance ?

As far as I can see it seems to cover only cases of negligence which might result in someone getting sued.

It's not like insurance covers injury caused by accident or freak event (right?).

So insurance doesn't actually offer much to people being led/coached - unless they are being led by someone who is negligent.

Yet insurance so often comes up as a reason not to do stuff.

Am I missing something?

Qualifications I see as a useful way for the inexperienced to judge the experienced.

But if the lack of them prevents people with some experience helping others that seems counter productive.

Especially when on the sea I see so many ready to take risks on paddleboards, inflatabke kayaks, sit ons l, and other craft - often with no safety kit or awareness of risks.

So whats to prevent soneone like me with a couple of years of paddling experience from taking club members out for a gentle paddle on the sea in fair weather - before I get a sea kayak leader award (which will take me a while) ?

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by pathbrae » Thu Aug 16, 2018 11:04 pm

I think the difference between "taking club members out..." and "going out for a paddle with some club members" might become relevant in the event that there was an incident.

If a club operates on the basis that it will provide peer paddling trips then, as far as I can see, there's no problem. As soon as a club gets involved with BCU / SCA etc. then they are obliged to operate under the guidelines provided as part of their affiliation as a term of their liability insurance cover - or to make it clear that a trip is a peer paddler trip.

Given your points above (and I completely agree with them) I'm surprised you are bothering to go down the leader award path. I don't think that qualifications are necessarily a useful indication of competence. In my own experience - there are a huge number of paddlers with whom I am completely happy to paddle, who don't have a single qualification amongst them, and over the years I have come across several certificate waving "experts" who have been a complete liability to themselves and to everyone else around them.

Training (or coaching) and going through star tests / leader assessments etc. can be a very useful way to gauge your own development but, in the commercial sector in particular, it can also be a shortcut to becoming an "expert" A little bit of knowledge is necessary, a lot of experience is almost always required but it's the "(un)common sense" thing which keeps paddlers on the right side of the safe / reckless line - and that's not something which can be taught or assessed in any iteration of the award scheme I've ever come across.

As for the insurance question - how many successful claims have there ever been against BCU / SCA insurance (I only know of one very minor claim ever being made and it was settled, but I suspect more as an "isn't our insurance great" advert than as a real test of the system)
So much sea - so little time to see it.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by sean107 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:36 am

pathbrae wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 11:04 pm
I think the difference between "taking club members out..." and "going out for a paddle with some club members" might become relevant in the event that there was an incident.
But what is the difference?

Lets say on a club session a few suitably experienced paddlers go out on the sea and on returning somone gets injured in the surf.

As far as I understand it BCU wont help the injured paddler no matter the qualification.

It might help the leader defend if they got sued.

is there any more than that?

I think the answer is doing more peer paddling - I'm just curious what liabilty I have if I make it happen.

Doing the training seems like something I'd learn from - so why not do it - it's just a weekend - the full award is bit more onerous given how infrequently I can get out for a 4 hour paddle though.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Allan Olesen » Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:39 am

I think there is a leap in logic in the questions asked.

You start out with "Why should I worry about my club's insurance. The insurance protects the club, not me."

You then continue to "Why is my club limiting my activities in the club, stating insurance as a reason?"

So you are jumping between looking at it from your perspective and the club's perspective, and of course it doesn't add up when you do that.

If you instead look at both questions from the club's perspective:
The club has an insurance agreement. As long as they act responsibly, this insurance will cover them against claims from members. So the club has to show that it is acting responsibly, and they do that by limiting member activities which could be (perceived as) dangerous.

Makes full sense to me.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Allan Olesen » Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:48 am

Regarding peer paddles:

As I understand the rules in UK (I am from Denmark, so I have no first hand experience with those rules), if an accident happens during a peer paddle, the group member with the highest formal qualifications will take all the heat from the authorities, no matter if he actually did have a leadership role in that group.

That could be a good reason for keeping your formal qualifications at a low level (to avoid taking the heat) and keeping your real qualifications at a high level (to avoid the accident from happening).

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Chris Bolton » Fri Aug 17, 2018 9:05 am

I'm not a lawyer and this is just my understanding, but I think there's a difference between being negligent and making a mistake. We can all make mistakes, but to be negligent involves a lack of care. The leader of a club trip has a higher duty of care to the people on the trip than the member of a peer group, and a commercial instructor has a higher duty still. Duty of care is influenced by the expectation that other people have, and in particular that adults can be expected to look after themselves better than children can.

Say you're leading a club trip, and a paddler takes their helmet off briefly (say, to get rid of an insect), puts it back on but doesn't do it up properly, and you don't notice. That person then capsizes and suffers a head injury. A clever lawyer convinces the court that they are due £1milion in damages, and you're 50% liable, as trip leader, because you didn't spot it. Owing £500k is going to ruin your life, but if you've complied with the insurance policy, they pay. If you didn't have valid insurance, who would volunteer to run trips and take that risk? And if a club can't get volunteers to run trips, there are no trips then no club.

So what do you have to do, in a club context, to keep the insurance valid? You need to show you have adequate competence and experience, and in an affiliated club, having the relevant BC qualification is one way to that. The BC insurance wording isn't exactly clear (see here) but I take it to mean that appropriate experience is adequate for volunteers but commercial coaches need the qualification. It's a complex area, and in some circumstances the club could be liable if they allow an inexperienced person to lead a trip - and if that was negligent, they might not be covered by insurance. So a club that has a list of leaders they judge competent is on better ground than one where anyone who wants to can run a trip. A club that doesn't feel they have enough experienced members to judge competence may choose to rely on qualifications alone.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Robert Craig » Fri Aug 17, 2018 10:16 am

Chris Bolton wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 9:05 am

... So what do you have to do, in a club context, to keep the insurance valid? You need to show you have adequate competence and experience, and in an affiliated club, having the relevant BC qualification is one way to that. ...
My understanding is that the BCU insurance is in place whether or not anyone has competence or experience. It covers all negligence.

I think there are two separate issues:
1) Does anyone get sued (and here anyone might be a Club committee or someone on the trip)? This depends on whether they were negligent. The more qualifications they have, they more likely they are to be considered negligent, sadly. Though hopefully, the less likely they are to have an accident.

2) If anyone is sued for damage caused by negligence, are they covered by the insurance? Basically, you're covered for your negligence if it's a Club trip, or if you're on the Club committee.

Quite rightly, Club committees don't want to be at fault. Hence a Club committee might not sanction a particular trip. But they shouldn't say "it's because of the insurance". They should say "it's because we can't take responsibility for safety on that trip".

The ordinary club member does benefit a bit from the insurance, in that sueing me if I'm uninsured gets you only what I have (not a lot), whereas sueing me it I'm insured might get you millions if you needed millions.

Members of Club committees get peace of mind from the insurance. Imaging you've been elected to a Club committee not as a paddler but for expertise in say being a treasurer. You're sill collectively responsible with the rest of the committee for the dodgy trip leader who the committee appointed.

At the end of the day, though, the important thing is to get out and paddle, and avoid the accident, rather than worrying about allocating the blame.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by sean107 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 10:42 am

Robert Craig wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 10:16 am

1) Does anyone get sued
That, I think, is the biggest part of the question

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Robert Craig » Fri Aug 17, 2018 10:55 am

sean107 wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 10:42 am
Robert Craig wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 10:16 am

1) Does anyone get sued
That, I think, is the biggest part of the question
It's not only "does anyone get sued", but "does anyone spend the rest of their lives thinking (or being thought by others) that they were responsible for an injury or death?

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Chris Bolton » Fri Aug 17, 2018 11:17 am

In my post above I linked to a previous thread about insurance. The link to the BC policy in that thread is out of date, see here for the current page.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by sean107 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 11:31 am

I'm not saying it's OK if someone dies just so long as I don't get sued (apologies if it came across that way)

I'm just asking - do people actually get sued for the inevitable (usually minor) incidents that happen in paddlesport?

Because there is a massive gulf between common practise of non-club paddlers and who go out with no safety kit in dodgy craft at sea in the dark - and experienced well equipped clubs who wont go out because there is a bit of gentle swell (I'm talking force 2 winds and 0.5 meter waves).

It seems to me that taking a more pragmatic approach would offer better safety awareness for more people - which would be a good thing.

Is the fear of legal issues more theoretical ?

Or is it a practical concern?

Safe practise is obviously a practical concern to be taken seriously with or without insurance/qualifications.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Chris Bolton » Fri Aug 17, 2018 11:46 am

Robert Craig wrote:My understanding is that the BCU insurance is in place whether or not anyone has competence or experience. It covers all negligence.
You may be right, Robert, but after reading the Policy Wording (paragraph 8, paragraph 15.2 "but only… whilst conforming to the rules and bylaws", Professional Indemnity section) and Policy Schedule (Coaching Condition), and not being a lawyer, I don't have that confidence. To me, it's a mass of obscure wording and contradictions, eg, the Policy defines a Coach as somebody who's qualified then the Schedule says all coaches must be qualified - but nowhere can I find what a Coach does - is a Member covered if they do coaching, does coaching include leading? Does 'professional advice' mean paid for - you might think so, except that there's an exclusion for commercial coaching? The basic problem is that the Policy is written for team sports, not outdoor activities.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by sean107 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:00 pm

Am I right in understanding the policy is all about being sued for negligence ?

as in you might get sued for negligence even though you might later be found not negligent

and that if not negligent there is no case for damages

Further that following BCU guidelines regarding qualified coaches following their training essentially means such a suit would fail.

But that being unqualified does not automatically make you negligent.

It's just that you'd have more work to do in the case of a suit to prove that you had properly acted on any duty of care.

My understanding is that the level of care needed is lower for a peer group than a formally led trip - and higher for a commercial trip.

That this lesser duty of care and (low?) risk of being sued could probably be managed by ensuring (in a common sense way) that the group is capable enough and that everyone has taken some responsibility for things like checking the weather forecast and knowing the route, that first aid responsibility is shared etc

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Robert Craig » Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:13 pm

sean107 wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:00 pm
... Am I right in understanding the policy is all about being sued for negligence ?
...
Yes,I believe so. But it would pay up only if damages were awarded.

To my mind the difference between a formally led trip and a peer trip is that in the first instance someone other than the participants (so maybe a club committee) has checked that the leader is safe. So a club committee could be negligent. In a peer trip, the committee can't be negligent.

I'm no expert in any of this this ... all I've done is tread the policy.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by DaveB » Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:25 pm

A couple of posts have raised the question: do clubs and club leaders get sued? The short answer is "Yes, they do."

Anyone involved in running a club has a very real interest in seeing that it is clear to all concerned whether any particular trip is an activity of the club or just a private paddle organised by some club memebr(s) and that club activities are led by qualified leaders working within remit of their qualifications or by paddlers with the skills and judgement to be expected of such a qualified leader.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by sean107 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:44 pm

Robert Craig wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:13 pm
I'm no expert in any of this this ... all I've done is tread the policy.
funny thing is I've had conversations with people who don't even paddle and certainly haven't ready the policy - and that didn't stop them acting like an authority on the matter :-D

I've read some of it (by no means the whole thing)

I couldn't figure out what it means

... ahah I was missing the schedule

https://www.britishcanoeing.org.uk/uplo ... r-2017.pdf

"It is a condition precedent to Our liability that all coaches must hold a qualification as recognised by The Insured. If this Condition is not complied with, the policy will not be operative."

So I think it clear that the policy does not cover experienced but unqualified volunteers.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Robert Craig » Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:53 pm

Ah, that's a change to the schedule, hadn't seen that. Doesn't say that the qualification has to be relevant to the activity ...

Doesn't seem to require anything similar for trip leaders, as far as I can see.

I see the insurance FAQ's have disappeared from the BCU website.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Robert Craig » Fri Aug 17, 2018 1:05 pm

Thinking further, I think that the policy does cover unqualified coaches provided they are club members taking part in a club activity. Can't check, now that the FAQs are gone.

It would be good to have clarification of this - any BCU folk listening?

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Hengle » Fri Aug 17, 2018 1:34 pm

The FAQ's you are referring to are here https://www.britishcanoeing.org.uk/memb ... tions-faqs. The reference to qualification is that the person delivering the session is qualified in the eyes of the deployer (Club in this instance).

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Robert Craig » Fri Aug 17, 2018 1:42 pm

Thanks, failed to find that. It does seem to support the theme that you are covered either: as a coach (but needing a coaching qualification); or as a club member (not needing a coaching qualification).

Pushing the boat out further, it seems to me that an incompetent club member who coaches is still covered by the insurance, as they are a club member. I previously tried to get that question answered, but got fobbed off.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Chris Bolton » Fri Aug 17, 2018 2:15 pm

sean107 wrote:"It is a condition precedent to Our liability that all coaches must hold a qualification as recognised by The Insured. If this Condition is not complied with, the policy will not be operative."

So I think it clear that the policy does not cover experienced but unqualified volunteers.
The problem is that it doesn't define what a coach does. Is a trip leader a coach (not necessarily in my view) and if not, does a trip leader have to be qualified? Members are insured - there's nothing to say that if a club organises a peer trip of club members, they have to be qualified.

The FAQs say "Under the terms of the policy both "experience" and formal qualification is included" which sounds sensible - but in my experience, Conditions in the Schedule are usually taken to over-ride the Policy wording, and it's the Schedule that says all coaches must hold a qualification. But then, the condition actually says "a qualification recognised by the Insured", and "the Insured" is British Canoeing, so if British Canoeing's FAQ says experience is included, experience might be considered as "a qualification recognised by the Insured".

The complexity is that any legal claim for compensation will be judged according to legal precedent on duty of care and negligence, whereas an insurance claim will be considered on the basis of the contract of insurance. So the risk of a gap between the two is real. It's not unknown for an insurance claim to go to court, for the court to rule on exactly what the contract means.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Hengle » Fri Aug 17, 2018 2:17 pm

If the club member is deployed to lead a session by the club, the club would be responsible and would be asked should it come to court etc why they had deployed that person and why they deemed them fit to do so!

Hence clubs needing insurance - it should be noted that the BC Club insurance also covers items such as directors cover for the committee making decisions in addition to the whole club responsibility aspects.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Robert Craig » Fri Aug 17, 2018 2:35 pm

Hengle wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 2:17 pm
If the club member is deployed to lead a session by the club, the club would be responsible and would be asked should it come to court etc why they had deployed that person and why they deemed them fit to do so!

Hence clubs needing insurance - it should be noted that the BC Club insurance also covers items such as directors cover for the committee making decisions in addition to the whole club responsibility aspects.
Agreed! And it would be a bad place to be in.

But I claim that the the club would still be covered by the insurance.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by pathbrae » Fri Aug 17, 2018 4:49 pm

DaveB wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:25 pm
A couple of posts have raised the question: do clubs and club leaders get sued? The short answer is "Yes, they do."
DO you have examples? (not naming names obviously) of any non-commercial coaches / leaders / trip organisers (whatever you want to call them) being sued??
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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Wets » Fri Aug 17, 2018 5:56 pm

I don't know if anyone has been sued or not, but if someone receives (for example) a life changing injury, meaning they need some kind of regular care, and also have a loss of earnings over their lifetime, and they were on a club trip when whatever caused it happened, and if it was due to a negligent act, then morally and legally the injured party is due compensation. This is covered by the BC insurance. This is also why clubs (should) be careful about what is called a "club activity". To be a club activity generally it has to be advertised beforehand as such, so it is clear.

A peer paddle by definition does not have a formal leader, even though there is usually someone taking the role of leading the river informally. A group of paddlers using the club Facebook page to arrange a paddle does not make it a club activity.

If on a peer paddle someone is negligent which causes a loss or injury, then the injured person is within their rights to sue someone. If the person being sued is a BC member they are insured (I believe). This is nothing to do with the BC club insurance (because the paddle is nothing to do with the club).

Any compensation awarded whether anyone being sued is insured or not, is in line with the loss caused (e.g. loss of earnings).

Just my understanding! Happy to be corrected!

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by sean107 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 7:08 pm

Wets wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 5:56 pm
if someone receives (for example) a life changing injury, meaning they need some kind of regular care, and also have a loss of earnings over their lifetime, and they were on a club trip when whatever caused it happened, and if it was due to a negligent act, then morally and legally the injured party is due compensation.
That's true of everyday life too (whether or not a club of any kind is involved)

I've seen a lot of seagoing negligence among regular holiday makers - they dont seem to die in large numbers, carry insurance, or go around suing each other..

How negligent does one have to be to be found liable ?


I can imagine that talking someone into joining a trip they are not ready for while failing to check weather reports and not having any means of rescue would cross the line...

but as long as one is reasonably sensible - it seems to me that one shouldnt expect to be held liable should an unfortunate event occur.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Chris Bolton » Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:28 pm

I can imagine that talking someone into joining a trip they are not ready for while failing to check weather reports and not having any means of rescue would cross the line...
Things can go wrong more easily than that. A true story: A qualified and experienced leader says "I'm leading a trip round XX, who wants to come? It's a serious trip, and the tide race could be quite big". Paddlers decide to join the trip. The group gets on the water, and when they get to the point where they can see the white water, but not too late to turn back, the leader says "There's the tide race, are you all happy to continue?" - and everybody says yes. Then we have several swimmers, wind against tide separating them from their boats, call out lifeboat and helicopter... hypothermia casualties taken to hospital... fortunately, nobody suffered any lasting harm and nobody was sued. I was there, I know what happened, but if it had ended in court, proof, with a clever lawyer asking difficult questions, is a different matter from truth. If somebody says you were negligent, can you prove you weren't? So far as I know, that leader (who did nothing wrong) has not been kayaking again.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by pathbrae » Fri Aug 17, 2018 10:26 pm

If sea kayaking was always absolutely completely safe, would we do it? I'm not sure I would - or at least not for long as anything which is completely safe doesn't really stretch us or challenge us enough to keep us interested over the long term. I know the sea is a lot bigger than me and that weather can turn, regardless of forecasts, but I accept those risks when I paddle, I take all reasonable steps to avoid anything dangerous while sometimes looking for something a bit more exciting... but I'm still aware that I could get caught out at any time and that plan B, C and D might all fail.

This has strayed a bit of topic - but it's often what you do when things do go wrong which will be questioned just as closely as what led up to an incident in the first place.
"call out lifeboat..." suggests that the group was able to get a mayday call out, give their position, number of casualties etc. once it had gone wrong so could minimise the consequences.

"nobody was sued" I suspect the paddlers were aware of the risks and accepted responsibility for their own safety and possibly felt that the decision to continue had been theirs as much as anyone elses.

"So far as I know, that leader (who did nothing wrong) has not been kayaking again...." That's the really sad part of the story. He was caught out by conditions, which could happen to any of us at any time. He had polled the group and gone with the consensus so, as a group, they decided to continue. But it's a real shame if he hasn't paddled again - what a loss to us all to not have that sort of experience paddling with us.

We all learn through incidents like this, whether by being there, as you were, or by reading the incident reports as they are published (while ignoring the BBC versions of events...) I always think that we should all be mentally taking ourselves into these reports and working out what we would have done - and not in some health and safety-centric risk assessment sense or we would never leave the house, never mind the beach - but what would we really have done? Would we have listened to that nagging "don't like the look of that" feeling or would we have been afraid of letting everyone down? Would we have recognised the danger? And, if we had, would we have been strong enough to have turned the group around, knowing that they all wanted to go and play in the tide-race?

And, talking of insurance, aren't we lucky to have the RNLI around when we need them? I'm much happier donating to keep them going than I was paying for my SCA membership insurance. At least I know that if I ever need to ask the RNLI for help - they'll respond!
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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by sean107 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 10:51 pm

One thing that's been on my mind and this confirms is the need to really check and make it OK for people to turn back early - hard when part of a group may be dissapointed.

I dont know the details of your trip - but I know the dangers of peer pressure leading to people sometimes pushing on when they should be making a fuss.

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Re: Insurance and qualifications

Post by Owen » Sat Aug 18, 2018 9:58 am

Allan Olesen wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:48 am
Regarding peer paddles:

As I understand the rules in UK (I am from Denmark, so I have no first hand experience with those rules), if an accident happens during a peer paddle, the group member with the highest formal qualifications will take all the heat from the authorities, no matter if he actually did have a leadership role in that group.
Not really, unless that person was negligent. To sue somebody for negligence you have to prove they were in fact negligent, that's how the law works. In general with peer groups you are all collectively responsible for everyone else in the group. If someone within the group does something really stupid that leads to someone else having an accident then the stupid person is the one negligent, regardless of who was what qualification. In practice most accidents are put down to misadventure.

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