August 17

Alexander Technique and the insurers


Alexander Technique and the insurers

As a teacher of the Alexander Technique the risk of being sued is…? Answer: very unlikely.

Risk is a measure not just of probability, however. Risk is a measure of likelihood and consequence.

The consequences of being sued are for most of us catastrophic. What do I mean by “catastrophic”.  I measure catastrophic as the loss of all your assets – car, home, investments, savings – even if you were found to be totally without blame. Your assets eaten by legal fees. This is why it’s important to carry liability and indemnity insurance. The insurer carries your risk and calculates that you will pay a yearly fee and never claim. They make a profit and you are reassured that you are covered.

Not all insurance products are the same. It’s important to understand who you are insuring with and what you are being insured against. Liability insurance covers anyone who might be injured or any property that may be damaged by you carrying out your business. So if, for example, your Alexander table collapses and you student is hurt, that injury is covered by your liability insurance. Indemnity insurance covers you when a person suffers a loss that is due to your advice or your negligence. So, for example, if you injure a person’s neck through inappropriate manual guidance that would be classed as negligent.

As your professional society, AUSTAT might also be found to be negligent if you had injured someone through negligence.  Under the NSW civil liabilities legislation, parties can sue where it is believed there has been contributory negligence. Currently, AUSTAT is bound by the Constitution to oversee and monitor training courses. If a teacher used negligent manual manipulation techniques, then a court could argue that AUSTAT was negligent in its oversight of that person’s training.  This will change significantly if AUSTAT adopts the mooted Training Standard.

The AUSTAT code of professional conduct, the AUSTAT Constitution and the AUSTAT Continuing Professional Development program reduce AUSTAT’s risk of contributory negligence. Although we all carry our own personal insurance, insurance is always linked. So if one person was to make a claim, all our insurance premiums would rise because of the risk factor change. The next premium after 9/11, in 2001, I was staggered that my premium had risen by over 200%. The insurers’ calculation was that everyone’s risk around the first world had escalated due to that major terror incident.

Some things to be aware of: if you break the law your insurance policy will not cover you, even if it is an accusation and not proven. The insurer will not cover your legal defence. With this in mind, it is important to be unambiguous and clear in the way we relate to and put hands onto our students.  Remember, if you are working from home and you don’t declare that to your insurer, then they will not pay any claim that you make on any of your home contents and buildings insurance.

An insurance broker that AUSTAT recommends is Gallagher. Gallagher have an exclusive product designed for the Allied Health industry.  Gallagher offers AUSTAT members competitive rates. CLICK HERE to find out more.  There are cheaper liability and indemnity insurances available, however it may be worth checking who underwrites them and what the small print says.

It’s extremely important to inform your insurer if anything changes that could affect your risk calculation. Read the fine print and remember that you have a duty of full disclosure. I teach groups, I am an AUSTAT Head of Training, and I teach nationally recognised training for organisations including work health and safety. I disclosed all of this to my insurer and I ensured that those extra items appear on my certificate of currency. If you teach yoga or tai-chi or any other modality of teaching it may be worth notifying your insurer.

AUSTAT has to disclose any disciplinary proceedings that occur, some special general meetings, and any changes to the Constitution that may affect our risk rating. When government stopped health funds from covering Alexander Technique, this had to be disclosed.

You don’t have to be a member of AUSTAT to get professional liability and indemnity insurance, however, your professional membership is important in your defence should someone decide to sue you. The formal structure of AUSTAT and its codes, rules and CPD offer protection.

AUSTAT recommends that all our teaching members maintain professional liability and indemnity cover. It isn’t worth the risk of not having it.

This article is for the information of our members to raise awareness. It is not meant to be advice or legal opinion. If this article has raised questions please contact your insurer or legal advisor.

Michael Shellshear

 [EH1]Link to: Natural Therapies Insurance | Gallagher AU (

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