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We’ve written numerous articles on insurance for musicians, covering everything from basic terms and phrases, to specific details about liability coverage and policy requirements. We’ve also asked our readers to write in with any insurance-related questions they may have, so that we can help provide answers for bands trying to navigate the business end of their affairs.
This month we take on another read-submitted question. This time dealing with just what, specifically, are some of the downsides of facing a lawsuit and “going it alone” without an insurance policy in place.
“Let’s say I don’t have any liability insurance, and I go out and perform and something awful happens. What exactly are the next steps? Do I get sued? Can I just pay the damages? I know insurance is a good idea (and sometimes required), but what really happens if I try my luck and do things on my own?”▼ Article continues below ▼
Well, let’s tackle the real-worst-cases here, just so you have a sense of not only what financial obligations you may be facing, but also the time and headaches involved with being subject to a lawsuit for damages. See, it’s not just the money, which is what most people focus on. Sure, financial loss and responsibility are at the tops of everyone’s minds, but think about the other things involved when accidents, neglectful actions and purposeful vandalism occur. As always, please consult a legal professional with any questions, this is just meant to get you thinking about some of the consequences to your potential actions.
Let’s jump right in. Say you land that festival gig, things get out of hand and you blew off your obligation to carry a liability insurance policy like the promoter requested. Hopefully they’ll be smart enough to stop your performance until your obligations are met, but let’s say they’re as careless as you are and let you go on anyway. Things go bad. Really bad. You wreck the stage (maybe not on purpose, but still), people get hurt (again, perhaps not on purpose, but injuries are injuries). The ultimate worst case. Your actions led you here. Without insurance, remember?
Now, even with a proper policy, you wouldn’t be off the hook (see our past articles for what happens in those cases), but now (in our hypothetical, at least) you’re facing a lawsuit. A big one. Damages. Dollar signs. Medical bills. No insurance policy and no insurance company to help guide you or pay damages.
Remember, if someone gets injured due to your actions, medical bills don’t just add up, they snowball. And the one thing a lot of people don’t take into account are future lost wages that injured parties may try to recoup if they are unable to earn a living now that your bonehead moves cost them their ability to work. Think about that – what it would be like to be out of work and not provide for your family. The time lost, the wages lost. Trying to keep a family afloat. These are important things to keep in the back of your mind. Like the saying goes, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.
So again, it’s not just the money, it’s people’s lives. And time. Time is a big one here. Do you really know how lawsuits can work? How many steps are involved and how much time and energy they all eat up? Let’s break it down a bit, and you’ll start to get the picture.
For starters, let’s assume this is a civil case and not a criminal one (seriously, let’s hope you’ve done nothing criminal). There are a lot of steps involved in filing and carrying out a suit, starting with what might be one of your best bets if things truly are your fault: trying to settle out of court. Now, here’s where that insurance policy would have come in handy. You could have worked with trained professionals to help you navigate all of this. But you chose to roll the dice. So now you’ve got to take the time to research attorneys, and then take the time out of your own career to make tons of meetings. See how a lawsuit can disrupt your life, even at these beginning stages?
OK, let’s assume you can’t reach an agreement with the harmed parties and settlement doesn’t happen. Bad news, you’re looking at more headaches. The suit’s now filed, the evidence is gathered and all sorts of pre-trial discussions, motions and the like are in store for you. Sounds fun, huh? This is all assuming damages are fairly extensive, and can’t be resolved in small claims court. Even that’s no walk in the park – real life isn’t exactly like Judge Judy.
Where were we? Oh yeah, summons, motions, answers, and potentially more legal steps ahead. Sometimes you’re still able to settle at this stage, but if not (and this is an abbreviated look at the process), you could be headed to trial. Now, in reality, most trials don’t last months like you may see in super-high profile criminal cases (OJ and the like are usually the exception to the rule), but even a few days out of your life constitute time you’ll never get back, and time the plaintiffs won’t get back, either.
So here you are, at trial. The time to settle is out the window, and let’s say you go through the whole process, and they prove their case against you (again, this is a super-abbreviated example, but bear with us), and you’re found guilty. Judgements may be granted, and you’d be right in thinking that the while ordeal is over.
But you could still be wrong! What if you were still convinced you were not responsible in this scenario, and you and your attorney agree that you should appeal the verdict? Or let’s say there was a problem or error during the trial that you think affected the outcome – you could be looking at starting the whole process all over again!
Look, this article isn’t meant to scare you (we’ll leave that to clowns and spooky little girls crawling out of the TV), but it is meant to get you thinking. Be smart out there, especially on the road. Your safety and the safety of those around you, in attendance, and those working the show should be paramount (along with a good performance, of course).
And we’ll reiterate, just so it’s 100% clear. This isn’t meant to be legal advice in any way shape or form. It’s just a way to get your brain thinking about some of the things one MAY encounter when things take a turn they weren’t planning on.
Life happens, be prepared.
You’ve heard us repeat it a million times, but to be sure, always check over your insurance policy and ask your provider to answer any questions you may have. They have the answers, trust us. The best policy (no pun intended) is consult a professional whenever you’re in doubt. Stay safe out there and look for more tips in the months ahead.
And in the meantime, check out www.kandkinsurance.com – you may qualify to get a quote or even purchase insurance online.
main photo by musicisentropy, used under a Creative Commons license.