Editor’s Note: As many RBR articles do, this one arose from correspondence with a reader who posed an interesting question, an answer to which I sought out from another RBR reader with specific expertise in the area. This issue has to do with legal liability in leading rides – both informal and “organized.” It’s something that almost all of us roadies has been involved in over the course of our regular riding (either being invited on an informal ride with buddies or riding acquaintances, signing up for an organized ride, or going on rides with our clubs, or with friends’ clubs).
Question: I became a bike tour guide and started organizing an annual ride. In both cases insurance was mandatory. At a seminar the bike tour company made us attend, the scenario presented is a paraplegic’s health insurance company sues the organizer.
Incidentally, all the club rides I’ve participated in in Tucson have a leader who makes sure that all riders sign a waiver prior to the ride.
But, if a guy sends out an email and says I’m riding here at this time, on this date, and people show up: Can he be held liable? I recently sent an email to a handful of local hammerheads, and 10 riders showed up for a gravel ride that Saturday. I expected maybe two or three. —RBR Premium Member who asked to remain anonymous
Fred Goss Replies: Anon, anyone can sue anyone else for anything; that is our legal system.
I have never heard of anyone buying insurance for a group ride, and I have never heard of anyone suing someone who had pulled together a group ride.
The basic legal concept here is “duty:” Does the originator of the ride owe a duty to his or her fellow riders to make sure the ride is safe. I know of no case law dealing with this issue as it pertains to friends getting together to ride on a regular basis.
But if a ride involves some sort of fee or cost (like an organized ride or a club ride that requires a membership), then such a ride would likely have a “duty” to take reasonable precautions toward the participants. Most such rides require the participants to sign waivers of liability.
Those are interpreted broadly by the courts, but they are not bullet-proof; an organizer can still be sued if something happens. If he or she has insurance, they would simply turn the matter over to the insurance carrier and go out for a long ride.
Fred Goss is an attorney in Oakland, California. His focus has been on personal injury litigation for the past 30 years. He is an 18-time Ironman, including a trip to the World Championship in Kona. He has been commuting to work on his bike for almost 25 years. He has represented dozens of injured cyclists over the years. Fred can be reached at 510-832-0199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.