Churches can be sued just like any other legal entity. It may take one large claim against the church to drain all the assets and potentially force your institution into bankruptcy. Many things can go wrong that could injure a worshipper and give rise to a lawsuit. Churches can protect themselves through liability insurance covering many accidents or occurrences.
How Churches Can Be Liable for Damages
There are numerous ways that people can suffer personal injuries when they are present on church property or interacting with church employees. These incidents could include:
- Car accidents in a church vehicle
- Slip and fall accidents on church property
- Sexual abuse by a church employee
A church must exercise reasonable care in maintaining the premises and in employees’ performance of their duty. If not, they can be found negligent in a lawsuit. Accidents happen sometimes. Churches want to open their doors and be welcoming, but there are risks when people come and go, especially those unfamiliar with the property. A church cannot simply close its doors when there is any risk because it would not fulfill its purpose.
Churches Should Purchase Several Types of Coverage
Churches can also obtain liability insurance. There are several different types of protection available. Churches should always have general liability insurance to protect against accidents like slip and falls. Experts usually recommend that a church carry at least $1 million in liability insurance. Depending on the size of the church and its assets, officials should consider obtaining even more coverage.
Liability insurance alone is usually not enough for churches. Other things can go wrong that may be excluded from standard liability insurance. For example, a staff member could harm a congregant, which would not be covered under a general policy. One incident and settlement could mean the end of the church if there is not adequate insurance for church liability.
Insurance Coverages a Church May Need
Accordingly, churches should also consider the following types of coverage or riders to their liability policy:
- Sexual misconduct and molestation liability insurance.
- Director and officer liability insurance to protect board members from being personally sued.
- Employment practices liability if the church is sued for discrimination or harassment.
- Workers’ Compensation insurance.
- Auto insurance when the church owns vehicles driven by volunteers or church employees.
Further, a church should have an umbrella policy if its general liability coverage does not fully cover any high-dollar claims. A church should consult an insurance professional to review the necessary coverages and find the right solutions.
Liability protection for churches is an expense, but it is one that is well worth paying. Without insurance, your church could be legally responsible for a significant judgment. A judgment creditor can collect against the church’s assets for legal liability. For example, in the lawsuits against the Catholic Church, plaintiffs received the church’s liquid assets. Some dioceses even had to sell the property to raise the necessary money to pay settlements.
Contact a Virginia Beach Church Lawyer at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Who Can Help You
A Virginia Beach church lawyer at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC can work with religious institutions, providing the legal help you need to fulfill your mission. You can call us today at 757-LAW-0000 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. Based in Virginia Beach, we serve clients in and around Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore, Virginia.