Can your church get sued over a car accident, even if the church does not own a vehicle? The answer is yes. Any time a person drives his or her own vehicle on church business, liability is generated for the church ministry. This could be the pastor driving to visit a patient in a hospital or a volunteer youth leader driving kids to a youth conference. Whenever a “church activity” includes some kind of transportation, provided by volunteers in their own vehicles, there is liability for the church. This means that if that pastor or volunteer causes a serious accident, the church could be the target of a lawsuit by the injured party. The argument that will be made, and accepted by the court, is that, “were it not for the church, the person who caused the accident would not have been on the road.” Lest you feel targeted, know that this same standard applies to all businesses and non-profits who have employees or volunteers on the road. Because of this, it is important for churches to screen those who are driving on church business. Here is what we recommend you do:
- Compile a list of times and places that people go regularly, when driving on church business. Make sure the church leadership is comfortable with whatever driving occurs. We find that during this research, many churches discover that unnecessary driving occurs and they choose to eliminate it.
- Make sure the regular drivers are screened. An annual MVR (motor vehicle record) check on all drivers is appropriate.
- Have a church driving policy reviewed and signed by all drivers, outlining acceptable driving practices. Some ideas to include are: There must be a seat belt for each passenger and it must be worn, no cell phone use allowed, you must receive express parental permission to transport children.
- Obtain a copy of each driver’s personal insurance, showing that he or she has at least $100,000 of bodily injury liability insurance per accident, per person. This helps makes sure there is proper insurance in place, should there be an accident.
Driving is often an important part of church ministry, so it is important to do it in a safe and orderly manner. Even if a church driver causes an at-fault accident, having these procedures in place can demonstrate to a jury of your peers that you took this risk seriously and took appropriate steps to manage it.
If you would like more information or have any questions regarding this topic, do not hesitate to call us. We are here to serve you.
Schenectady, NY 12301-1038
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