Maintaining control--a professional standard of care

As a professional martial arts instructor, you have a duty to your students and the parents of your students to ensure safety at all times and in all situations. Many claims we see here at Markel involve an instructor misjudging their strike and inadvertently hitting a student or using aggressive hands-on coaching techniques. The following is an example of a martial arts claim involving such a failure to maintain control.
An instructor and a student were engaged in non-contact sparring. The student threw a punch with a closed fist and the instructor ducked to avoid being struck. The instructor punched back and landed a blow with a closed fist to the student’s rib cage. Instead of stopping the action to reinforce the rules of non-contact sparring, the instructor allowed the student to take the activity from non-contact to contact. The student incurred more than $50,000 in medical expenses and the claim ultimately cost in excess of $100,000 to resolve.

Maintaining control and exercising a professional standard of care would have prevented this claim from happening. Linda Jean Carpenter, in Legal Concepts in Sports: A Primer provides a simple definition of a standard of care: the duty owed is to protect the student or athlete from the foreseeable risk of unreasonable harm. In the case above, the teacher failed to maintain a proper standard of care by punching the student in the ribs when he knew he should have maintained non-contact. Thus a costly error occurred.

Applying standards of care may vary per the situation and is dependent upon several factors including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Type of activity—hazardous nature
  • Age (or maturity) of participants
  • Health and conditioning status of participants
  • Size of the participants
  • Skill of participants
  • Size of class and amount of supervision
  • Requirements of local laws
Just imagine the personal cost of the above claim if there was no insurance coverage to help pay the loss. With the right professional standard of care, you can prevent costly errors that may result in loss of students and possibly increased insurance cost.

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us or your attorney if you have any questions.

For safety or risk management questions or suggestions, please contact Markel.

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