Climber or leech?

Posted by Ian Dunn on 30/05/2001

A new disease could kill our climbing walls - a personal view by a wall manager.

One of the things I used to love about our sport was its freedom from rules, regulations and people telling me what to do. I’m afraid though that these days may be coming to an end because our sport has been infected by something worse than Foot and Mouth disease.

It seems in climbing at the moment, or should I more specifically say at climbing walls, there is a new breed of climbing leech, inspired by adverts from ‘No win, No fee’ lawyer leeches, encouraging them to make claims every time they break a nail. Yes I’m afraid it’s a sad fact but there are now dozens and dozens of so called climbers trying to cash in on this little game.

But who do they think pays? It may be the insurance company that pays the leech, but you can be sure that they’re not going to be losing out, so it’s down to you and me in the end. Insurance for walls has more than doubled over the last year and the wall managers are going to have little choice but to pass it on in higher entrance charges. So now some new leech comes to the wall, is forced to pay £6 to get in, feels ripped off, so takes a dive and sues for £20K. Next time the slimy little worm dares show his face, the new charge is £7. It’s a vicious circle that we have to
break, because there’s no end to it.

Unfortunately at the moment a number of insurance companies are known to have paid out of court for an easy life. Understandable from their point of view as going all the way to court is serious bucks, but this unfortunately encourages the leeches to make even more claims. When an insurance company is ready to fight the leech often slimes away, or often more accurately the truth is the marginally brighter no win no fee leech, pulls out ‘cos he knows he’s on to a loser. In a few great cases the leeches have pushed all the way and lost, how sad!

So if you don’t want to pay higher entrance charges to get into walls, please don’t make ludicrous claims and please encourage anyone you know who is thinking about it, not to be so selfish. I’ve heard of claims that are so ridiculous they’re laughable, but unfortunately true. One guy fell inside a chimney – the claim - ‘chimneys are dangerous and shouldn’t be built’, another fell  from the top of the wall because he hadn’t clipped in, and why? - because there was no sign telling him to clip in. And then there’s the endless tedious people who’s hold spin; or those  who find the flooring not to their liking, or wait for it, those who slipped because the hold was dirty!

I’m sure 99.9% of you who are reading this feel like I do. What the hell has gone wrong with the world? Climbing is all about  assessing the risk, weighing up a situation, making decisions, go or not, and taking the necessary safety precautions. If you fall and hurt yourself, feel daft, brush yourself down and limp away or try again. Just try to imagine for a minute that it’s your fault,  you got it wrong, your assessment was flawed, you’re going to do it better next time. If you’re one of those leeches who thinks great who can I sue?, please just crawl back under your rock, you’re not wanted in the climbing world.

Oh, and by the way if you’re a Centre Manager, and you’re not being sued yet, I’m afraid you soon will be. It’s a disease and it’s catching, perhaps this article is encouraging even more? So if your holds are dirty, your flooring’s not fixed and as soft as a feather, you’ve not had your wall serviced for ages, your lighting’s not perfect, and you’ve not finished writing those risk assessments, and notices that you’ve been working on for ages,take care some leech is going to find a way to get you!

Increased litigation will:

- Increase the entrance costs to walls,
- Limit future developments as cash is tied up,
- Discourage entrepreneurs from opening new walls,
- Possibly close some walls to under 18’s altogether,
- Limit the design and interest of new walls,
- and may well even end up closing some walls down.
- Who’s the winner?



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