Churches, even though they are non-profits, can be sued just like any other entity. These churches need to focus on risk management, both to protect other people and their bottom line. There are a series of steps that your church must take to provide a safe environment.
Risk management is part of the stewardship of church assets. Church leaders need to do what they can to protect the church. In doing that, they would also develop policies to protect worshippers and visitors to the facility. Risk management is a matter of safety above all else.
Risk management begins with an assessment of possible challenges that a church may face. Liability can be attached to practically anything the church does and any function.
Here are some steps that churches should take as part of the risk management process:
- Physically inspect the entire property to determine whether there are any particular risks.
- Develop checklists of areas of concern that need to be addressed further.
- Consider any situations, in addition to physical risks, that could place someone else at risk.
- Formalize ways to address the risk and minimize it.
- Make sure that the church has the appropriate types and levels of insurance to cover the risks.
Here are some steps that a church could take to avoid the risks that it identifies in its risk management review:
- Figure out ways to prevent the risk of harm from occurring in the first place, such as regular inspection schedules for the property.
- Ascertain loss reduction techniques, both before and after any loss occurs.
- Transfer liability to others to the fullest extent possible using your indemnification agreements.
Review Your Contracts
The church must also review its contracts and lease agreements. Some documents may force one party to bear the risk through an indemnification agreement. In an indemnification clause, the costs and liability for a certain type of risk are transferred to one party. That party must even cover legal costs for the other party. If the church negotiates future agreements, it must be careful not to assume any additional risk. If the church is already assigned liability in indemnification agreements, it must add these considerations to any risk management procedures.
Having Policies and Following Them Is Crucial
Churches should have formal policies and procedures to help manage their risk. If the church is sued, one of the first things that a plaintiff will ask for is the church’s risk management procedures. If there are none, a church would be placed in a more challenging legal position.
Then, a court may scrutinize whether the church followed its risk management procedures. Procedures are helpful, but if the church fails to pay adequate attention to them, it could lead to liability.
Regarding managing risks, proactiveness and organization are the two most important things. The tasks should be assigned to a church employee or an active church committee. Then, the employee or committee should make regular reports of their work and their progress. Although a church cannot always avoid every single possible liability, it can reduce its own risk through sound planning and preparation.
Contact Our Virginia Beach Church Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC
Religious organizations may consider legal help when it comes to protecting themselves. Contact our Virginia Beach church lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC today. Call 757-LAW-0000 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, Williamsburg, and Eastern Shore, Virginia.