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Guidance on Insurance for group walking and running activities

Netwalk Broxtowe

Is it essential to have Insurance to lead a group activity?

A lot of these difficulties are created by fear of doing something wrong. We hope by sharing more knowledge around this subject we can help people to build their knowledge and understanding of what it takes to go for a walk. Hopefully after reading the information on this page you’ll feel more confident to organise something for yourself.

The big question often asked by people thinking about organising a walk, or run for a group is:  

“Do I need to be insured?” 

Are you liable if something went wrong during an activity?  

This page has been put together to help alleviate some of those fears and is aimed at anyone thinking of organising an activity. Click on the question’s below to reveal our answers.

You may also want to read our page dedicated to Risk assesments.

Q: Is there a law in the UK that requires me to have insurance to organise and lead a walk or run? 

A: No, there is no legal requirement in the UK for you or the participants to be insured.  

That said though, in some circumstances it may be wise to have insurance. For the reasons explained below.  

Q: When would I not need to worry about insurance? 

A: It’s hard to be exact about this unfortunately.  However, if you apply common sense and give some thought to whether it’s foreseeable that anything significant could go wrong, then it should be quite easy for you to judge.  

For example: Let’s say you invite a couple of friends to go for a local walk or run with you. You know them and their capabilities well, and you’re not likely to encounter any significant hazards that they wouldn’t regularly encounter in their everyday lives.  This is likely to be seen as an informal arrangement between you. Your friends wouldn’t expect you to be taking responsibility for them (just like they wouldn’t if you went for a meal, to the cinema etc.), and wouldn’t expect you to have any insurance for the activity.  

However, if you plan to do something more ambitious (such as venturing off into the mountains) and/or open out the invite, say to friends of friends or to members of a Facebook group, then the situation starts to change.  

It is likely that you’d be seen as the person in charge and taking responsibility for the safety of those attending. Insurance, therefore, becomes something to think more seriously about.  

Q: If I don’t have insurance and someone gets injured during the activity, what will happen to me? 

A: If you are seen as the organiser/group leader, there is a possibility that an injured person could make a claim against you through the civil courts for financial compensation.  

This is because, you have a ‘duty of care’ to the participants in your group. However, for a claim to be successful two other things need to apply.  

  1. Firstly, you must have been negligent in some way through either something you did, or something you didn’t do; and  
  1. Secondly, the injury must have been caused by that negligence.  

For example, if an adult participant tripped over their own shoelace that they forgot to tie, then they couldn’t really claim against you.  

But, at the other end of the spectrum, if you led a group who clearly didn’t have the capability or equipment onto very steep mountainous terrain, and someone slipped and became injured, it is very likely that they’d be successful if they chose to claim against you. And you’d personally be liable to pay any compensation.  

In between these two examples things can become less clear cut, and the outcome of claim could be influenced by how good a solicitor is at making the case either way.  

Which is why being insured can be helpful and provide reassurance. This is because the matter can be passed over to the insurance company to deal with on your behalf, and to pay out any compensation. 

Q: Can I avoid the need for insurance by getting participants to sign a declaration or disclaimer saying they “accept the risks involved” and/or agree to take part “at their own risk”? 

A: Not entirely. Well worded declarations or disclaimers can, if used correctly, reduce the risk of something going wrong and/or of an injured person making a claim against you. However, they do not remove your ‘duty of care’ or responsibilities towards a group you are seen as the leader of.  

Declarations and disclaimers should only be seen as a means of communicating information, such as details of hazards and risks that may be encountered during the activity, the previous experience participants should have, or the kit/equipment they must have with them. And for assuring yourself that participants understand and agree to the requirements.  

However, they don’t replace the need for properly assessing the risks involved in the activity, and ensuring you do everything you reasonably can to ensure the safety of the participants throughout it.  

Also, if declarations and disclaimers are excessively long or over complicated and become seen as the ‘small print’ that nobody actually reads, they can become counterproductive. 

Q: Does it make a difference if the activity I’m organising is free? e.g. I’m doing it voluntarily in my spare time 

A: No, not really. Although if you charge people to take part, there is probably a higher expectation that you are operating professionally and that, as such, you’ll have insurance in place.  

Q: How do I avoid a claim of negligence?  

A: This is a big subject as every situation is likely to be different. So, this document cannot be seen as a comprehensive guide for every circumstances.  

In summary though, there are three things that both help to ensure that things don’t go wrong and that you wouldn’t be considered negligent if an injury did occur.  

  1. Competence: You have the capabilities and necessary experience to plan the proposed activity so it can happen safely. 
  1. Risk Assessment: You have properly thought about the hazards that may be encountered, assessed the risks they may create, and identified the precautions that ought to be taken to keep everyone safe. 
  1. Resources: You have the ability (and help if necessary) to adequately supervise the group, ensure the identified precautions are actually taken, and deal with any foreseeable problems that might arise.  

This might sound quite daunting and a big responsibility. And if, for example, you’re proposing to take a group of inexperienced people up a rugged mountain, it probably should be for anyone that isn’t a fully qualified Mountain Leader.  

However, for a less risky activity, such as a walk or run in a local area that won’t venture far from civilisation the context is very different.  

If you know the route well, the hazards are the kind of things that the group will encounter often in their everyday life (such as cracks in the pavement or crossing the road) and the size of the group means it’s easy to keep your eyes on everyone: then it is much simpler and is largely just common sense.  

Our separate guidance document on risk assessments for walking and running activities, provides more information on this.  

Q: If I want to be insured, what kind of insurance do I need?  

A: The insurance you should look for is ‘Public Liability Insurance’. This category of insurance protects you against claims from participants or other members of the public who are injured (or their property damaged) during an activity you are responsible for.  

If you are organising things as part of a business, then you may also need Employer Liability Insurance if you employ anyone, and/or Professional Indemnity Insurance if you provide professional guidance or advice to others.  

Also, it’s important to remember that this Public Liability Insurance doesn’t cover you for any injuries to yourself during an activity. For that you would need Personal Accident Insurance

These are, however, beyond the scope of this resource. 


Insurance specifities

Q: How can I get Public Liability insurance?  

A: You can purchase Public Liability Insurance through an insurance provider or broker, just like you would do for vehicle insurance. There are many providers that can be found via a Google search, some of which specialise in sport or outdoor activities. 

However, there are other options too which may be cheaper and more appropriate.  

If you become trained as a walk or run leader, and the training is accredited to a governing body (such as UK Athletics), or an accreditation body (such as Sports Leaders UK), then you may automatically become covered by insurance provided the organisation you do the training through.  

Examples include: 

  • Anyone who completes the official ‘Walk Derbyshire’ Walk Leader training would be covered by the insurance held by the local council for leading walks in their area, if overseen by the local council.  
  • Anyone who completes the ‘Leadership in Running Fitness’ course will be covered by insurance held by UK Athletics for leading activities within the scope of that training. 

It is important to note though, that insurance cover will be dependent on following any rules, procedures or codes of conduct specified by the organisation you are insured through. Which will include ensuring suitable and sufficient risk assessments are carried out.  


Q: Do I need any specific qualifications to obtain Public Liability Insurance?   

A: Not always. However, holding an appropriate qualification is a requirement of some insurance companies. If it is not, then it is still likely that the premium would be cheaper than if unqualified.  


Q: Should I ask participants to take out their own Personal Accident Insurance?     


A: You could, but unless the activity is particularly hazardous, then it may give them the impression that it is more dangerous than it is. Also, it wouldn’t remove any liability on you if an accident was caused by your negligence. It would only enable them to claim for an injury that was nothing to do with your actions.  

Thank you to Peak Running for their work in helping to produce this resource.

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