A common practice in business is to carry liability insurance. I certainly carry a $2m policy in the event that an incident takes place on an assignment and I am sued to determine liability. Every time there is a major event at the US Capitol, they require me and all other press organizations to provide a Certificate of Insurance, listing them as an "also insured", so, in the event I drop something onto someone from my perch making images, or otherwise injure someone, that the Congress isn't liable. Further, on the occasions that I have done weddings, venues like the Four Seasons hotel have a contract that protects them, that requires me to provide a COI.
The leagues have language that talks about errant fly balls, and so forth, but with photographers so close to multi-million dollar player-assets, the risk of their being injured is significant.
Examples abound of problems that have happened:
- When John Iacono of Sports Illustrated laid a 600mm lens down on a slanted roof above a seating section during Game 2 of the 2004 World Series, and it slid off, it apparently missed a direct hit onto a fan, but the debris alledgedly was enough to cause one California baseball fan to sue both Sports Illustrated and the photographer, according to the Boston Hearld.
- Sports Illustrated reported an incident where, just before a playoff game a TV cameraman tripped up Yankees first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. "It's not a problem. It's not going to stop me. It's not that bad.. I've played through a heck of a lot worse." But it could have been a lot worse. And who would be responsible for the millions that player is worth, or for the damage to the playing ability of the team, and lost revenues from a shortened post-season run?
- An ESPN cameraman was knocked over, as shown here during the College World Series in 2006, and while it could have just as easily been an injury to a player, it was apparently only the cameraman who came away with limited injuries.
- Here is a video showing a photographer causing one of the lead cyclists in the Tour De France to crash.
- Here is a video showing someone not paying attention during warmups, and getting crashed into by a runner. From the looks of it, she was probably hurt, but what about the athlete?
- On a lesser note, ESPN reported "John Daly was injured trying to stop his backswing after being distracted by a fan taking his picture...". While this may be a risk of the game for the player, and not attributable to the professional photographers on hand, for the inexperienced, it could easily happen with hair triggers, especially if those fingers are inexperienced.
If you were a league attorney, you'd want to ensure that those operating a business in your venue has the proper coverage in the event that these things happen to your athletes and fans. Same for Sports Information Directors and team PR staff. WIth all the security on the field protecting the athletes from errant fans, those entrusted to be within the secure perimeter must also be experienced enough to know what they are doing so as to not get in the way, and when an accident does happen, the proper insurance is in place so that damaged assets can have their diminished values recovered.
Further, leagues which allow overhead photo equipment have very specific requirements for safety cables/cords, power, and so forth. They too should be concerned about other things that could affect their player-assets on the side-lines.
Major organizations like Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and the newspaper conglomerates all carry a standard package of insurance, covering their employees' actions while working. Many professional photographers, who earn a living as a photographer, carry insurance covering their loss of equipment from theft, and so forth, and most all of those packages also include either $1M or $2M in liability coverage, standard.
The risk comes when an organization hires a part-time photographer, where they earn their living from another non-photo-related job, and see shooting sports as a way to get better seats, or make a few extra dollars on the side. Most, if not all of these photographers are not carrying standard insurance coverages, if for no other reason than they can't afford it, or they rely on their homeowner's insurance to cover their cameras, and don't carry a separate business policy. If a photographer is producing work at hometown/youth-league sporting games, and carry insurance for that, that coverage will likely not include protections for the photographer working a stadium or other sporting venue on a regular basis.
It would be as simple as those photographers getting season passes to provide a Certificate of Insurance naming the league, venue, and team as an "also insured", or for the media organization to provide the same. The one additional requirement would be that organizations also certify that their coverage covers contractors. One organization - US Presswire, has the following language in their contract, absolving the organization of all liability that results from their photographers:
Indemnification. Photographer hereby agrees to indemnify, defend and hold Agency, its affiliates and subsidiaries, and their respective officers, directors, employees, representatives and agents, harmless from and against any and all claims, demands, actions, causes of action, settlements, damages and expenses (including reasonable attorney's fees and court costs) arising directly or indirectly from: (i)the breach or alleged breach by Photographer of any representations, warranties, covenants or agreements made by Photographer hereunder; (ii)from any erroneous or inaccurate information supplied to Agency regarding the Images; and (iii) personal injury (including death) or property damage caused by Photographer at any event under credentials issued to Photographer by or through Agency. (emphasis added)The above language in some form or another, is probably also found in other organizations' contracts, so USPW is not alone in this requirement. However, this type of clause would extract the agency from having to pay, in the event of a lawsuit, and place the league/venue/team in the position of suing an individual photographer, who, for the most part, is "judgement proof." Insuring that your remedies are not limited by a contractual clause between and organization and it's sub-contractors ensures that you can obtain relief in the event of an incident where a loss occurs.
Requiring all photographers to have proper coverage and liability limits is just common sense. In speaking with one of the sub-contractors of one of the major sports leagues' photography departments, the league requires all sub-contractors to carry that insurance. With all the incidents reported above, it's only prudent to require the same of the rest of those working on-field. In fact, not doing so is more than likely accepting an unnecessary liability, and thus, irresponsible.
Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.