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Are you liable?

As a house of worship, you can be held responsible for injuries or accidents that happen on your property or that occur during an event sponsored by the organization if you are found to be negligent, or failing to exercise reasonable care. That is why it is so important to have liability insurance—you never know when someone will be injured or have their property damaged while they are involved with your organization.

So, how far, exactly, does a house of worship’s liability extend? Here are a few examples of situations in which you may be held liable in a court of law:

  1. Somebody slips and falls on your kitchen floor. When a person becomes injured on your property because of a condition that you either created or allowed to remain after you had reasonable notice of it, you may have to pay for their injuries. Depending on the individual situation, you may be responsible for costs such as medical expenses, pain and suffering and loss of income (if the person experienced lost wages as a result of the injury). Even for a situation in which the person who was injured is clearly at fault, your insurance policy may allow a goodwill payment to cover their medical costs.
  1. A volunteer is accused of sexually abusing a child after a religious education lesson. Whether or not the volunteer is found guilty of sexual abuse, your organization may face allegations that you bear some responsibility for the acts of the volunteer. This is a situation in which it is important for your house of worship to have shown due diligence in protecting the children of your congregation. You will need to show that you performed appropriate screening of the volunteer, properly trained and supervised them, and that you have a written policy against sexual abuse that you followed.
  1. One of your employees strikes and kills a bicyclist while driving a vehicle on behalf of your house of worship. While the employee may be liable, your house of worship, too, may also be responsible for damages caused by negligent acts committed in the course and scope of the worker’s employment with your organization. In this case, too, it is important to have policies that govern who may and may not drive for your organization. You should be running annual motor vehicle record (MVR) checks on anyone who drives for you.
  1. One of your council members is caught trying to steal money from members. When a member of your council commits a criminal act, it is generally outside the scope of acting on your organization’s behalf, but there are circumstances where it can be alleged that your organization has responsibility.

The best way to be prepared for any of these possibilities is to have liability insurance. For more information about coverages available from Church Mutual, visit our insurance for houses of worship page.