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Insurance costs ‘wrecked’ Segway business

Colm Berry says insurance coverage prices “wrecked” his enterprise after his premium rose 25-fold in simply 5 years.

The Dubliner arrange Woodlands Segways in 2014, bringing 10 battery-powered, two-wheeled “personal transporters” to Lough Key Forest Park in Co Roscommon.

Insurance price him €1,200 in his first yr in enterprise. By 2019 he obtained a quote of €30,000, which, with an annual turnover of about €60,000, wasn’t possible. “Today you just couldn’t get insurance,” he says.

The Segways, which journey at concerning the pace of a bicycle, rapidly turn out to be a key attraction within the park the place zip wires and a tree-top stroll make it a well-liked household vacation vacation spot.

But when a girl walked into Berry’s workplace in August 2015 and complained she had been knocked to the bottom after being hit by a Segway, he knew he was in hassle.

The Segway guided excursions had been alongside trails shared with pedestrians and cyclists and one Segway consumer had swerved to keep away from somebody, earlier than skidding on moist floor and colliding with the girl.

Berry agrees the girl had a grievance however was “shocked” when two years later she was awarded €25,000 by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) for what he says was “soft tissue damage”.

He had all the time insisted two employees accompany shoppers on the excursions, one in entrance and one on the again, and recollects when the girl complained, “I informed her it may wipe me out.

“I have no problem with her. She was out in the park minding her own business when this happened. It is the level of awards I have a problem with,” he says.

While Segways had been new to individuals in 2014, he rapidly constructed up a clientele and wonderful evaluations on Tripadvisor, however says the accident “threw a spanner in the works”.

He was “petrified” there could be one other accident so he stopped taking company bookings for team-building workout routines. He additionally lived in worry of the subsequent insurance coverage quote. The yr after the accident his premium rose to €3,500 “which was actually a relief” however there have been substantial will increase within the following years, to €5,000, then €10,000 “and then it went bananas”. At the tip of 2019 the quote was €30,000 so he shut up store.

“Insurance is just a killer,” he stated. “Every yr there was stress, questioning if we’d get insured.

“I don’t think people realise there’s a human cost behind every claim. In this case absolutely it was our fault but even if people fall because they are going too fast, some will try to apportion blame.”

He is disenchanted that after making a considerable monetary funding and taking a danger, the insurance coverage scenario “wrecked” his enterprise.

He estimates the overall set-up prices had been within the area of €100,000. “You try to do something entrepreneurial and get something going in rural Ireland and it comes back to bite you,” he stated.

The 47-year-old biochemist by occupation has secured a brief job testing water samples. “So now I’m in a job earning what I first earned when I came out of college.”

Dramatic reform

Unless there’s dramatic reform he could be reluctant to advocate anybody to begin an out of doors exercise enterprise. “In fact, I’d say don’t touch it with a barge pole.”

Among the elements he believes want addressing are the dimensions of the awards, and the tradition of a scarcity of non-public duty. “And I think the legal profession are driving it too,” he says. With so many insurers exiting the market, he doesn’t suppose they’re “making a killing”.

He nonetheless owns a fleet of 10 Segways price €6,000 every however he doesn’t anticipate anybody shopping for the Segways due to the issue getting insurance coverage.

His firm web site continues to be reside however is advising shoppers that it’s closed down for 2021. The messages doesn’t sound hopeful: “We will try to secure insurance for next year but due to the claims culture, large compensation payouts and lack of real insurance and legal reform at the moment, we are not hopeful for the future,” it notes.

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