been following this thread with some interest: Profesionally organized rides. Risks and responsablities a few of us got talking about the legal side of non-professional rides on that thread, so figured a separate thread for informal social rides might be handy. we had a social ride with 50+ bikes yesterday so the legal stuff gets pretty relevant. you read about this legal shit and get tempted to just not get a group of riders together, but we thought bugger it, its fun sharing dirt riding with others so we'll just get to know the legal side of things and try to make sure we are covered.... if reading about legal mumbo jumbo makes you break out in a rash, just skip to the third section below called Defences Against Legal Action. FIRST THE GOOD NEWS while we've been heading towards the USA's sue "everyone approach", australian law has been slowly responding to the average aussie's disgust, and new laws have been coming in to curb the more ridiculous types of cases. e.g. victoria's got a few good amendments... good samaritans (providing assistance, advice or care to another person in an emergency or accident) cant be held liable for any harm they cause. the same goes for volunteers providing a community service through a community organisation. and saying sorry when an injury happens cant be used as an admission of liability provided if fault hasnt been acknowledged. in queensland, two statutes in particular - the Civil Liability Act 2003 (Qld) and the Personal Injuries Proceeding Act 2002 (Qld) - have made it more difficult in claims of negligence. also disclaimers and exclusion clauses are carrying a lot more weight nowadays. you can read more about how aust law is clamping down on over the top litigation here. The Qld legislation says: "A person is not liable in negligence for harm suffered by another person as a result of the materialisation of an obvious risk of a dangerous recreational activity engaged in by the person suffering harm", and hopefully other States are moving in a similar commonsense direction. BASIC OVERVIEW in the other thread sleepy john found some good links on legal issues for non-professional events. here's a rough summary, but dont rely on this as legal advice. just thought its worth getting an overview of this stuff and a thread for discussion on the legal side of informal rides. okay..... legal liability mostly falls under the law of contract and law of negligence. contract doesnt apply to informal social rides as no one is paying for the ride (e.g. there's no contract established), so only negligence applies. so what about the law of negligence? essential things to establish for a claim are: 1. a duty of care being owed by the provider to take reasonable measures for the safety of riders 2. a breach of this duty of care 3. the breach of the duty of care caused harm to a rider. the law does not automatically impose a duty of care, but it probably will when someone assumes responsibility for all the riders. if the court reckons a duty of care is owed, it then decides what is an appropriate level of that duty of care. then it determines if the provider acted reasonably, or did breach this duty of care. example: inexperienced riders could find themselves in a situation suited to more advanced riders. if the provider did not explain it was for advanced riders, and harm results, then there could be the basis for a claim due to a failure to adequately instruct, advise and perhaps supervise the group. note, even if no one is seen as the "provider" of the service (e.g. taking responsibility for the group), the whole "duty of care" thing still applies to ordinary citizens, but obviously to a much lesser extent. DEFENCES AGAINST LEGAL ACTION it looks like a major first step is make sure no one is seen as the "provider" who is taking responsibility for everyone. when we do a snail trail ride, we ensure no one is seen as the central organiser, or person taking responsibility for the ride and riders. we often state it is just an informal social ride and that anyone is welcome to tag along. any roles like leading, sweeping and corner marking are shared among the group which makes it (hopefully) obvious that no one is taking personally taking responsibility for everyone. Dont charge for the ride!. bit of a no-brainer, but if you charge for the ride you have established a contract and enter a legal minefield. if you are doing a barbecue and collecting money for the snags you'll need to make it obvious it has nothing to do with the ride. if by some chance the court still thought someone was responsible (e.g. they are a "provider"), the next step is showing the provider acted with reasonable care in the circumstances: • was the risk of harm foreseeable and not insignificant? (we state there's a risk of harm in our disclaimer) • would a reasonable operator have taken additional precautions that would have prevented the harm? (we make sure any rider reads up about our safety concerns, corner marking system etc on the website before coming along). If it can be proved that if a rider knows and accepts the risks then it gets a lot harder to make a claim in negligence (again, our riders have to read the disclaimer before any ride). there's also the concept of "inherent risk", where its simply obvious that motoribike riding can lead to harm no matter how much care is taken. also, if a rider is harmed as a result of their own actions (e.g. too fast for the terrain) then of course it gets much harder to make a claim. Waivers and disclaimers were not all that effective for a long time, but australian law is now giving them much more power to limit liability. we use this disclaimer and just make sure its on any ride thread, saying any rider must read and agree to it before coming on any ride. note, in victoria at least it looks as though a disclaimer must comply with wording set out in the Fair Trade Act. it would probably carry even more weight if riders signed a printed copy but no way i'm carrying a bunch of forms around and getting signatures.... also make sure the disclaimer is easy to see e.g. put it in the first post of your thread. disclaimers can get thrown out in court if it can be argued that it wasn't easily accessible or seen. e.g. if you put it on the 45th page of a ride thread then it ain't easily spotted. DISCLAIMER FOR MATES RIDING ON PRIVATE PROPERTY Things get tricky when you have friends riding on your property. As far as we can understand the law, you owe them a duty of care if you invite them to ride on your property, so you do expose yourself to the risk of legal action if they are harmed. As mentioned above, a decent mate would never sue you, but there's the unknown factor where if they died in a freak accident that someone in the family may decide to sue you. A friend passed on this legal disclaimer for these situations. Of course there's a disclaimer on this disclaimer, don't assume it's perfect as is and get it checked out by a solicitor before using it! You don't want to get bogged down too much in all this legal crap and get too freaked at the idea of a mate riding on your property... I reckon just make sure you've removed obvious dangers on the property, and get them to sign a disclaimer. The basic legal issue is that you have taken reasonable precautions to make it safe, as much as any "reasonable" person would do. E.g. if you are flying past steel stakes pointing out of the ground and your mate gets impaled on one, you'll probably find a disclaimer gets pretty flimsy in court! Conclusion and further reading no one likes legal crap when it comes to dirt riding, but i hope these basic points above should cover our collective arses pretty well, with not a lot of effort involved, for bigger social rides like the snail trail rides. obviously a few mates out for a bush bash can ignore the lot... although even then its all worth keeping the legal stuff in mind. e.g. any decent mate would never sue you, but if he dies on a ride, or winds up in a coma for years, you just dont know how a grieving angry family might act etc. most of this stuff is just a badly edited summary of excellent links suggested by sleepy john: Adventure Activity Standards (AAS) Guidelines for Dependent Groups Legal aspects TrailBikeTour Aug10 outdoorsqueensland.com.au.Trail Biking.pdf good general summary of duty of care and negligence Negligent liability in sport by Natasha Schot, Bond University feel free to use, copy or adapt the this disclaimer we've stitched together from a pile of other ones we found. we make no guarantees as to how effective it will be in court, but its a good start to limiting liability. i know we like to have a rant at the legal system and stupid negligence cases etc (and feel free to rant here as on other threads) but i'm very interested to hear any practical ideas, tips and answers on dealing with the realities of a risky sport in this current legal climate.