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Combined liability and employers liability insurance for clubs

One of the primary benefits of Mountaineering Scotland club membership is our specialist insurance policy for clubs. 

As a committee member, you may not realise it, but the constitution of your club almost certainly makes you personally liable for the liability of the organisation. Specialist comprehensive third party liability insurance is therefore an essential requirement. 

The Mountaineering Scotland Combined Liability policy is designed to protect your club, its officers and members for claims awarded and arising from issues related to club governance and a broad range of mountaineering and social activities.

The Combined Liability policy is designed specifically to meet the needs of the Mountaineering Scotland and its affiliated individual members, club members and associations. This includes the following:

  • Individual members, club members, club volunteers and hut wardens
  • Trustees of clubs (when the trustee is a registered member of the Mountaineering Scotland)
  • Mountaineering Scotland, employees, committee members, officers, trustees and volunteers

Insurance cover is only available to fully paid up members who have a permanent UK address. Such members are covered for mountaineering activities in both the UK and overseas (but excluding USA and Canada). 

Club members

We require clubs and groups to register all their active members in order to benefit from our club membership and insurance. Prospective members or 'guests' are covered by the club's insurance for up to four meets. New members must be registered and paid for within a month of their joining the club. 

See below for more details.

More information:

Any questions?

  • If you represent a club which is already affiliated to Mountaineering Scotland and have general enquiries about the insurance scheme and the cover provided, please check the details on the insurance centre website at www.howdengroup.com/uk-en/mountaineering-scotland or direct your queries to our insurance brokers, Howden via jo.dallaway@howdengroup.com

  • If you represent a club which is considering affiliation and have questions about the cover provided under our combined liability, huts or employee liability schemes, please contact the CEO at Mountaineering Scotland in the first instance at info@mountaineering.scot

Liability actually attaches to the individual members of clubs, not to the club itself, unless the club is incorporated. Most mountaineering and hill walking clubs are unincorporated associations and therefore they have no legal personality of their own, unlike companies limited by shares or guarantee (or partnerships in Scotland). 

So as far as clubs are concerned, all members of a club are equally liable at law in the event of any claim arising from, or in connection with, its activities. In practice, a claimant may address a claim to a limited number of individuals. 

Liability can attach to the collective membership of mountaineering clubs under a variety of circumstances, some examples are:

  1. A member or third party could be injured by faulty or poorly maintained club premises or hut. 

  2. A member or a third party may sustain injury as a result of faulty equipment provided by a member or members of the club at an event organised by the club. 

  3. A novice may sustain injury on a walk or climb led by a member or members during an event organised in the name of the club. 

  4. A member may cause an accident or injury while belaying another person climbing indoors or outdoors.
  5. A rock or debris might be dislodged and cause injury or damage to a member or a third party or property.
  6. Members or third parties may take offence to published materials, e.g. guidebooks / newsletters / website. 

  7. Food poisoning could be suffered by a member or a third party from materials either made or distributed by a member or members of the club at an event organised by the club, or illness could be caused by a contaminated water supply to a hut.

  8. The club may become insolvent as the result of mismanagement of finances. 

  9. A landowner's gate may be left open and cattle or sheep escape and cause third party injury or damage.

In the case of a claim involving an accident at a hut, a claim would normally be addressed to the hut warden, officers, committee members and trustees. Any individual singled out to defend a claim would be entitled to an indemnity from the membership on whose behalf they were acting in respect of the claim itself and associated costs - to the full extent of any uninsured losses. 

Under the terms of the policy, if you are a member of a club which has registered you with Mountaineering Scotland, you are covered for your mountaineering activities when you are participating in club as well as your own personal activities. Please bear in mind:

  • Liability insurance does not offer protection for mountaineering instructors or leaders who are being paid for their work – refer to the Mountaineering Scotland Insurance Centre for details of professional indemnity insurance.

  • Liability insurance is not a comprehensive travel policy; however, as a member of a Mountaineering Scotland club you are eligible to access BMC Travel and Activity insurance cover
  • The Combined Liability insurance does not include personal injury cover.

  • Summit Financial Services offers a range of life insurance and financial protection products specifically tailored to the needs of mountaineers.

Members of clubs only enjoy cover by our liability insurance if they are registered with us.

Mountaineering Scotland maintains a database of registered members; in the event of a claim, the database and/or the most recent registration made by the clubs shall be used to establish whether a member of a club involved in a claim is registered and eligible for cover. We ask that members joining a club must be registered with Mountaineering Scotland within one month of joining.

For insurance purposes, a member of a club who no longer participates in club events, including social activities, need not be declared in the registration submission by that club, however they will not be covered by the liability insurance. 

Cover for a club is included in respect of its liability TO guests who attend social functions or who accompany members on activities such as an occasional family walk organised by the club. However, cover is not provided for a guest’s personal liability. 

If a non-member participates in a club event, s/he is not personally covered by the insurance. If that person causes a claim to be made, s/he can be sued on a personal basis, or the club can also be held responsible and may be brought into legal action. Our insurance will cover the club, its officials, and its members and the event only. 

It is worth noting that as the non-member is not covered in his/her own right, should they be the subject of a claim by a member of the club (who is insured), the member who brings the claim may be unable to receive any damages awarded, due to the lack of insurance held by the non-member, if they are unable to pay the damages.

There will be occasions when non-members will wish to attend a meet as a guest before they decide whether they wish to join the club. In this context we have agreed with our insurers that a guest may participate in up to four meets before s/he should be registered with Mountaineering Scotland for insurance purposes. 

There is automatic cover for the club when individuals participate in club events on a guest or trial basis. The club is indemnified for liability and the individual guest has insurance in his/her own right in respect of these four “taster” sessions. If a guest continues to participate with the club on a regular basis, however, they should be registered as a full member and the relevant subscription paid to Mountaineering Scotland.

Assuming that the club constitution allows their membership, children (defined as anyone under 18 years old) may join a club and participate in its activities and the club will be indemnified against liability. Although children legally cannot be held responsible for their actions, the insurance charge is still applicable because when liabilities are incurred by a child in respect of third party personal injury or property damage, the duty of care will ultimately lie with the club. 

If a club organises meets involving unaccompanied children, it is a requirement of the insurance broker that the club has an appropriate Child Protection Policy in place. This will ensure that the club and its officers are covered by our insurance policy in the event of a claim against them made by a child in respect of abuse. In the event of such a claim being made, the insurance policy may be invalidated if no Child Protection Policy is in operation. 

Insurance cover is provided for a club if a claim is made for civil damages following an allegation of abuse against a child. No cover for abuse is provided for individuals accused of abuse because such cases are brought under criminal rather than civil law. 

Mountaineering Scotland has worked with other mountaineering organisations and Perkins Slade to develop Safety & Liability Guidance for clubs. 

The intention of the guidance is not to constrain club activities but to allow clubs to manage their affairs in such a way as to help minimise any possible liability in the unfortunate event of a member having an accident. It is important that all members of clubs are fully aware of the guidance. The guidance also provides useful information to members who visit the hills in informal groups. 

Updated December 2020