Listen to this story
By Brian Schaeffer
CEO, Texas Association of Campground Owners
Sadly, we live in a very litigious society. You can’t say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing or, worse yet, have the wrong thing happen that you had no knowledge of — without getting sued.
Technically, you can engage your brain before you speak and avoid saying the wrong thing. Also, most folks do actually know right from wrong and can stop themselves from doing things that will get them into hot water.
But, how on earth to you keep from having bad things happen — and risking a lawsuit — when you don’t have any idea of the specifics?
ANSWER: Get a clue! Knowledge is power folks.
Here’s a few examples and remedies.
Joe Q. Public calls your park and asks what facilities you have for handicap guests. Your staff behind the counter says, none that they know of. Then you get named in a drive-by lawsuit. This is completely avoidable, if you educate yourself and your staff about the general ADA requirements and all that you have actually done at the park to make it accessible to all guests.
Then develop an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance plan for things you plan to accomplish in the future. Of course there are ADA consultants who can help you with this as well.
You have a monthly guest at your park. Through a series of “heart-breaking stories,” your guest is woefully in arrears on their camp fees. You try to collect. They go to legal aid and it’s on like Donkey-Kong and the meter keeps running. This too, is avoidable.
Hopefully you have used an application process or services agreement that will weed out problems before they occur or let you deal with them quickly and legally when a problem arises. In many cases your campground association may have already done this for you.
• You have a parole officer stop by your park and want to visit with one of your guests or staff members because they are a registered sex offender. You are stunned!
Here again, it didn’t have to come to this. If you are not background checking your long-term guests or your workers and contractors, you are missing the boat. Even a basic Google search with bring up many sexual predators. This information is available – get it!
Is there a general backstop that can help protect you from all the things that you don’t know? No, perfect doesn’t exist. But, you can change the odds to be in your favor.
Start by belonging to trade organizations, especially if they have experience or even forms to assist you in running a tight operation.
Furthermore, you should have a relationship with a local attorney who you can go to get sound advice BEFORE you say, “Hold my beer I’m fixin’ to try something,” which never turns out well.
Ignoring problems rarely results in them going away. Educate yourself as best you can and make use of every resource reasonably available. Over exposure is NO fun.
Brian Schaefer is the executive director and CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners. He is also the president of AGS and Texas AD Internet.