In 2019, the Outdoor + Adventure practice group at Fred C. Church rolled out an “investigative” blog series, called Mythbusters. The previous four posts in this series featured industry veterans expertly debunking and sharing their knowledge about some of the most common misconceptions held by clients who own and operate outdoor and adventure businesses.

To kick off the new year, the Fred C. Church Outdoor + Adventure team is taking on the role of industry “expert” and will be talking about the risks involved when staff use their personal vehicles for business purposes.

Sure, we know that taking a long, hard look at the details of your current Commercial Auto Insurance policy probably isn’t something you have the time or the desire to dive into.

Instead, as a business owner in the outdoor adventure, education, and travel industry, your top-of-mind liability concerns are much more likely to be related to the physical safety of your participants and staff. Luckily for you, this is where the experienced team at Fred C. Church can step in and be your risk resource.

We feel that being focused on participant safety should not come at the expense of securing other critical liability coverages, such as the previously mentioned Commercial Auto insurance. In fact, some of the most commonly overlooked exposures in your industry are those risks associated with you and your employees using vehicles for business purposes.

Mythbusters #5: An organization’s commercial auto policy will be first to respond when an employee uses their personal auto to drive participants to/from the field and involved in a crash.

This statement is actually False.

Even when staff are transporting participants for an emergency evacuation, or driving for any other business-related reason, the staff member’s insurance will be the primary coverage and respond first if the driver were to get into a crash. In the event that the staff member is not carrying insurance sufficient to pay the claim, the employer’s commercial auto insurance will then respond.

In our experience, there is a lot of confusion surrounding whose insurance coverage does what if a crash were to occur while an employee was driving their own vehicle on the job. So, what can a business owner do? We recommend that employers develop guidelines for use of personal vehicles, whether in the field or using their car for a simple supply run to the local grocery store. It’s also extremely important to make clear to each employee the risks associated with driving their personal vehicle for any business-related activities.

When setting up company guidelines for use of personal autos, here are a few you may want to consider including:

  • Motor vehicle records for all employees who will regularly drive on company business, regardless of the vehicle used, should be carefully reviewed on an annual basis
  • Employees should use company-owned vehicles whenever possible
  • Employees must secure both comprehensive and collision coverage on their personal vehicles, as well as maintain the minimum state requirements for auto insurance, and provide sufficient written evidence of this coverage to the employer annually
  • Personal vehicles must meet important safety standards; for example, they must pass state inspection, all lights must be in working order, seat belts must be functioning, etc.
  • Electronic device/cell phone use policies for company vehicles, as well as any state regulations, will extend and apply to personal vehicles used for company business
  • Employees should inform their insurance carrier that they will be using their personal vehicle for business purposes

Once you have established guidelines like these, it’s highly recommended that you share them with your employees. Make sure that they not only meet these requirements but also understand the risks of using their personal vehicle for business use, including:

  • In the event of crash or damage to their vehicle, their auto insurance would be the first to respond (Please note that insurance carriers typically EXCLUDE all business use of a vehicle unless it has been placed as an endorsement to their policy)
  • The employee is responsible for any deductibles on their auto policy
  • Their insurance coverage limits must be met before their employer’s insurance would respond, if at all
  • If the employee is in a crash in which they are found negligent, she/he could be personally liable for injury to others, damage to others’ property, and more
  • Any tickets, violations, towing expenses, etc. incurred while driving their personal vehicle on company business is the responsibility of the employee

The Outdoor + Adventure team at Fred C. Church understands how vital it is to have set guidelines in place to protect not only your participants but also your employees. Because one substantial claim, whether due to a freak accident while on program or a staff member’s negligence running an errand for the organization, could have a devastating (and avoidable) impact on the financial success of your organization.

At Fred C. Church, we have served as a risk management guide for a wide variety of outdoor adventure clients, working alongside their senior management and Board of Directors to identify, assess, and mitigate strategic, financial, and operational risks that threaten their organization, staff, and clients. As a result, these clients have a thorough understanding of their potential risk scenarios and how to manage them. Because our unique approach has uncovered so much valuable information over the years, we were driven to share it by developing our Mythbusters series.

If you have been following along since the launch of this series, then you may remember some of the interesting and thought-provoking topics we have covered. For example, we boldly declared that Murphy’s Law is incorrect (Myth #1). We also overturned the long-held belief that all job applicants must pass a physical exam to work in the field (Myth #2). We refuted the myth that OSHA rules and regulations don’t apply to the outdoor and adventure industry (Myth #3). And, more recently, we covered the frequently debated topic of liability waivers (Myth #4).

There are many more Mythbusters to come in 2020!

This year we will continue to expertly debunk common industry myths, either using our own internal specialists or inviting well-respected colleagues to help us out. You can expect to hear from attorneys Reb Gregg, Doug Stevens, and Cathy Hansen-Stamp, who will once again offer their guidance. They will cover topics ranging from writing standards to understanding protocols surrounding staff injuries in the field, to why one must be mindful when saying, “I’m sorry,” when speaking with a victim or the family of a severely injured participant.

We look forward to providing our clients and business colleagues content that causes them to stop and think about risk management concerns that are common to the Outdoor + Adventure industry before they become incidents that may have been avoidable with the proper plan.

Disclaimer:

The Fred C. Church myth series is intended to spark ideas and conversation around the risks our business associates and clients face on a daily basis. Although we hope you learn from our distinguished experts, we strongly recommend you first consult with your attorney or insurance broker before making any insurance or legal decisions that could affect your organization.

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