Volunteer Activities: Are You Covered?

Written by
August 1st, 2011

Volunteerism is alive and well in our communities. We are fortunate to have so many volunteer organizations which are made up of excellent people giving of themselves to help and protect others. Volunteers, whether it be as a coach, 4-H advisor, chamber of commerce committee member, church board member, or even if you helped raise contributions for the last United Way campaign in your community, do have some liability exposure.

Have you ever thought about how your existing insurance policies might respond if legal action was brought against you while conducting volunteer activities? If someone is injured during a project that you are overseeing, are you covered? If you serve as a board member and are sued for breach of duty, imprudent investments, discrimination in hiring or wrongful termination, are you covered? To answer these questions, there are two places to check: your personal liability insurance and the organization’s insurance. Here’s a look at both of them:

Your Homeowners or Personal Liability insurance policy gives you liability protection for bodily injury and property damage to others while participating in non-business activities, i.e. if you are sued for injuries to a child who is unintentionally hurt while you are the volunteer football coach or 4-H advisor. Your existing homeowners policy would also be an excellent place to endorse coverage for your personal property if using it in a volunteer capacity, for example, if you were using your video camera to cover the organization’s summer camp and the camera fell in the lake.

It’s important to remember that no liability protection is provided if your volunteer activity is related to a business (i.e. trade or professional association representative) or if you receive any compensation. Most homeowners policies also specifically exclude coverage for any act or omission while serving on the board of an organization. While your policy will outline additional specific exclusions, common ones include intentional acts, legal action taken against you other than for bodily injury and property damage, and lawsuits related to personal injury (i.e. libel, slander or false imprisonment).

It’s also important to check for coverage under the organization’s liability policy. Ask the organization’s leadership for proof of insurance for general liability, directors and officers liability, and employment practices liability. Also check to see if volunteers are covered (named as additional insureds) under those policies and whether or not the organization is carrying sufficient liability limits for potential loss situations, including:

  • Failure to examine documents signed
  • Silence with respect to improper conduct of fellow officials
  • Improper rejection of bids
  • Failure to exercise diligence in management
  • Incurring unnecessary expenses

One solution to some of these exclusions may be to purchase a Personal Umbrella, which is designed to provide coverage for personal injury and would be an important investment on the part of anyone looking to volunteer. The best news: a $1,000,000 Personal Umbrella can be purchased for as little as $15.00/month!

This article is not meant to discourage any present or prospective volunteers. If you do volunteer, or have ever considered donating your time to a cause that is close to your heart, our intent is to help you be well-informed, comfortable and adequately protected when it comes to volunteering. Let us help you make compassionate judgements as you evaluate how you will serve your community. Feel free to discuss your activities with knowlegebroker, Brandy Enger to help put your mind at ease!

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