Health & Safety

The prospect of a personal injury claim against your organisation is never something you want. The prospect of such a claim, coupled with the realisation that your organisation’s insurance does not cover you for all aspects of the potential final award, is altogether more daunting. That, however, was the unwelcome reality for a non-league football team in November of last year.

The background

In late 2019, Northern Premier League side Ossett United FC lost a claim for damages brought by Rees Welsh. Welsh was an opposing player who had suffered a broken ankle while playing against the Yorkshire-based team (then called Ossett Town) in April 2015. In total, he was awarded £135,000 in damages and legal costs following the case which was heard at Manchester County Court.

That decision has raised concerns within the league and beyond. The club released an official statement suggesting that the judgement “opens up the floodgates for all injured sports participants to successfully sue and win substantial money from the person who injured them and their club.”

The insurance policy

One thing for certain is that the decision will serve to reinforce the importance of insurance. Indeed, the key issue for Ossett United centred on the club’s insurance policy and, more specifically, the extent of that policy.

Ossett United had the league recommended insurance policy in place which covered spectators and the club’s own players but not player-to-player injuries. The club’s defence costs were covered but not the damages and legal costs awarded to Mr Welsh. Player-to-player insurance would have been required to cover all aspects of Mr Welsh’s claim.

Owing to this gap in their insurance cover, the English side are now experiencing considerable financial difficulties and selling their ground “is now looking like the only option” to meet costs.

Key tips

The takeaway from this decision is that comprehensive insurance, tailored to your organisation’s specific needs, is essential. In this respect, the following key tips can help you and your organisation to reduce risks:

  1. Check what is covered and what is not covered by your insurance policy. If you are still unsure after reading your policy, contact your insurance provider or broker for clarification. It is best not to wait until you are facing a potential claim to do so.
  2. Check that your insurance cover has not expired. While this may seem simple, it is important to monitor and maintain your policies and ensure that you are not left financially exposed without the appropriate cover.
  3. Consider engaging a specialist insurance broker to assess the risks which your organisation might face and the types of cover available. This can help you to ensure that your insurance cover is tailored to your organisation’s needs and potential liabilities.

This article has been co-written by Alasdair Madden and Noelle Donnelly. Alasdair is a trainee in our Insurance and Risk team. Noelle is an English qualified solicitor who acts for insurers, corporates and public bodies in defending casualty claims arising in England and Wales. She has a particular specialism in industrial disease.

Alasdair Madden