A new law helps protect outfitters and guides

ISLAND PARK, Idaho (KIFI)- A new Idaho law clarifies what you can and can’t sue a guide and outfitter for. Previously, clients would sign an acknowledgment of risk form when preparing to go out with their outfitting guide, but legally there was now way to enforce that document, should an accident occur.

Mike Wilson, the owner of the Drift Lodge and Fly Shop, says the law helps put outfitters on equal ground in terms of liability that ski resorts and golf courses already have. “It gives us fair and equal or, you know, fair and equal treatment within their liability laws.”

The law came to the legislature because of a problem that was plaguing the outdoor guide industry. Due to the language of previous laws, many outfitters were struggling to obtain the proper insurance. “We were hearing increasingly from guides [and] outfitters about insurance providers either pulling coverage – or that is to say, not extending liability insurance coverage, even without any claims against the policy,” said Aaron Lieberman, the executive director of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association.

Lieberman adds that now outfitters can have hope that they didn’t quite have before, as the new law can be a deterrent. “It will deter where reasonable, inappropriate claims by the clients against liability. So not any legitimate claims by recklessness or negligence, but what we would consider frivolous claims. So in particular, those based simply in the risks inherent to the activities we provide so that wind blows, that rocks are hard, that water is wet, and that if you spend too much time in it, you can drown those types of things.”

Despite this challenge, Lieberman adds that the guide and outfitting industry within the state was strong -if not the strongest it could be – in the region. “I think it’s sort of a testament to the strength of the industry here…the opportunities that Idaho affords. That’s just a reflection of what the industry is able to do. But really a testament to those things that we were able to maintain that strength despite not having the same general protections and sort of foundation that some of our neighboring states had. That said, it will the change does stand to make to make it easier for Idaho outfitters to be more competitive.”

Wilson says he is already booking trips for the summer season. With this new law in place, change will come. “We have to be responsible and can still be if we’re grossly negligent, then, you know, northing’s changed. But thats the way it should be everywhere.”

Leah Corrigan, the founder and principal of the Recreation Law Group, says Idaho law makers kept an open mind to just how serious the issue was. “Recreating in the outdoors has inherent risks that outfitters and guides really can’t eliminate or control, and that outfitters and guides shouldn’t be responsible for things that occur in the wild when you recreate that that they really can’t control. So I think that was a a good outcome.”

Corrigan adds that the new law will make it easier for outfitters to be sustainable. “It’s a big win…especially [for] smaller outfitters who are just trying to make a living. And in central Idaho, not making a huge living, just trying to make a living and being able to cover those insurance premiums and do business, as they have for decades, it’s going to give them a little more certainty into the future, which is a good thing.”

She says as it may drive insurance costs down for the outfitters, consumers may start to see a change in costs for the trips; however, the future of Idaho outfitters will be as secure as ever. “This legislation allows the business of outfitting and guiding to be sustainable into the future, and helps protect from genuinely frivolous claims of liability that are increasing every year.”

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