ACCIDENT INSURANCE AT THE DRAGSTRIP: FACT OR FICTION
This subject will be covered in a two-part story (or maybe three) that I hope will be updated every two weeks. I am having problems getting answers from the primary racetrack insurance carriers and sanctioning bodies. A few track operators have been very helpful and I think this will be an excellent series of articles that could have an effect on how you conduct yourself and your family at racing events.
This is subject that has been ignored far too long by racers, their families and track owners. I think it is time to see just what is "covered," should you have an accident at the track that requires medical attention and what is "not covered" by the insurance policy the track owners. As a former track owner of dragstrips and a circle track, I have dealt with the insurance carriers and injured racers on several occasions. There always seems to be confusion on what the track insurance will pay for and what it will not pay for. I will use some examples I have had personal experience with to demonstrate some things that happen fairly often at a track.
I want to start by asking some questions to you readers. No particular order to these, but if you get a chance I would appreciate a response to how you would have answered the questions. This is a great time to raise questions because I am going to be in touch with the primary insurance carriers and use you questions in interviews I have scheduled. The sooner you respond the more likely we will use your question. If you don't want to use your name that is fine, I will NOT be "name-dropping" either. The purpose here is to get the truth out in the open to all the racers, family members and spectators who attend races.
1. Number 1 question: How many of you have ever read the Waiver and Release the track says you MUST SIGN before entering the facility? If you read it, do you understand the implications and the reason for the document?
2. What type of medical coverage is provided by the track if I crash my car during a race and receive a minor injury (under $5,000) and DO NOT need an ambulance to take me to the hospital?
3. What if your crash is a lot more serious and medical bills reach $25,000 to $100,000? This is not unreasonable if you need some surgery and rehab for a crushed hand or head injury.
4. What if another racer is driving like an idiot in the pit area and runs into my racecar? What if he runs into my trailer or tow vehicle?
5. To continue question 4: What if this idiot runs into one of my kids or my wife?
6. You are sitting in the staging lanes and another racer decides to "test" his transbrake...it fails and he rams into the back of your racecar and does a lot of damage. Is there insurance coverage? (If it was my car they hit there might be some assault charges to follow!)
7. You lose control of your car on the track due to oil getting under your tires, you spin into the other lane and hit the car in the other lane. Is anyone liable? Is there insurance coverage for the physical damage? What about if the racer you hit is injured? ARE YOU LIABLE FOR THEIR MEDICAL COSTS?
8. You enter a "Street car race" day at your local dragstrip. You have an accident on the return road with your "daily driver" streetcar. Do you think you have insurance coverage for this loss? What if it is the other guy is at fault? Will his auto insurance pay for your damages? Before you answer this one, get your Auto Policy out of the file cabinet and read it!
9. Your wife and kids are sitting in the grandstands watching a bracket race and after you make your run they leave to come to the pit area BUT...your daughter slips on the bleachers that are damp from the evening dew. She sustains a broken arm and some bruises. Is the track liable for the injuries? If someone slipped on your sidewalk at your home do you think you would be responsible?
10. Here is a scary thought that crosses my mind once in a while. At national and regional point races there are about 400 to 500 camping units. motorhomes, Toter trucks, converted 5th wheel trailers, etc. Let's say one of them catches fire and their propane tank explodes. I will take personal injury out of this one for now. The fire spreads from one motorhome and trailer to the next. Putting it out will be next to impossible because everyone is parked so close. The origin of the fire ends up being a careless racer who left his propane cooker on. There is no doubt he is responsible for the damages. We know who is liable, but how much coverage does he have? $3,000,000 to $4,000,000? I seriously doubt it!
11. Do you have a claim against him for your trailer, your racecar, tools, etc? The answer is yes. The problem is, there won't be any funds to collect from. Can you sue that person in court? MAYBE -- remember the Release and Waiver you signed?
12. What if the same scenario occurred but the cause was the dragstrip's faulty wiring one of the camper were plugged into. NOW who is liable and what are the coverages offered to you, the PAYING CUSTOMER?
I will have the answers to these questions and more in about two weeks. I am getting more information in from track owners and insurance companies even as I write this article. There are a lot of things that are EASY NOT TO THINK ABOUT...but insurance coverage is one you better know where you stand BEFORE the unthinkable happens.
I can let you in on a couple things that ARE INCLUDED in most racetrack insurance policies. These pertain to tracks that are sanctioned by NHRA and IHRA and applies to most of them. Each track is it's own business so each policy may be a bit different to conform to state and local laws.
Here are a couple coverages that race insurance policies deal with:
I will go into detail on policy coverages that affect the racers and families in about two weeks. STAY TUNED and email me your questions or experiences dealing with racetracks and insurance pertaining to race events. (I don't want to hear about regular insurance company problems; those I hear about everyday!)
I'll be back with part 2 in a couple of weeks.