Who Pays When an Employee Dies: The Cirque Du Soleil Tragedy

For the first time in Cirque Du Soleil’s 29-year history, a performer died last month when she fell during an aerial sequence in the show “KA” in Las Vegas. This wasn’t just a shock for the audience, but also a test of the entire Cirque business.

It also made me ask the question, “Who pays when an employee dies on the job?”  Every business owner should use this sad event as a reminder that employee safety – and insurance coverage for accidents – is required in every business.

Is your business prepared for the worst?  Cirque was: They have both extensive safety procedures and more than three layers of insurance to guard against tragedy.

According to Michael Rodrigue, Assistant Vice President of Risk Management and Insurance, Cirque not only has extensive insurance of its own, but also requires that all of their venues and vendors also maintain their own substantial insurance policies.

Finally, besides these two layers of corporate liability coverage, all performers are offered an extensive personal insurance package, including life insurance.

In case this sounds like an administrative nightmare, Rodrigue explains that Cirque has streamlined the process. The corporate policies are maintained centrally by the global organization, he says. “We do not maintain insurance on a per-show basis. Each policy’s limits, retentions, exclusions and other conditions will be similar for all of our shows, whether it is a big top or a resident show. By having standardized coverage, the insurance process is made easier for everyone involved—brokers, insurers and Cirque, especially when we need to cover a new show.”

So who pays when an employee dies?  In this case, the woman’s heirs will have as many as 3 policies contributing to their compensation: Cirque’s corporate liability policy, the venue’s liability policy (if the accident is determined to have been caused by the venue in any way), and the woman’s personal life policy.

Of course, safety is more important than just having adequate insurance. Cirque Du Soleil does make the acrobat’s safety a top priority, “Safety is deeply rooted in our corporate culture, and to be honest, the concern for the artists’ health and safety takes precedence over any artistic endeavor or business decision,” says Rodrigue who oversees risk mitigation for more than 1,300 artists around the world.

But the Cirque tragedy is a sad reminder that even the best procedures are no guarantee of safe operations.  Unforeseen events can strike any business at any time.  Perhaps the death of this talented artist will be enough to make us all pause and take stock of the safety and insurance needs of our own businesses.

Are you doing enough to protect your employees?  Leave a comment below and let me know how you are prepared for the worst.

Dedicated to your (Risk-Managed) profits, David

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