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When Your Church is Subject to a Liability Claim

Accidents happen; it’s inevitable. And when those accidents occur, it can be a scary time for both the injured party and the church. When such events take place and the injured party files a claim against the church, it’s called a liability claim.

Liability is the legal term for fault. A liability claim is a demand for money to compensate someone for his or her injuries or damages. Oftentimes, these claims are presented by the injured or damaged party to the potential party at fault in the form of a lawsuit. An organization (church) is responsible for such injuries if they are proven negligent. What happens when a claim is filed against your church? Before you react, consider the tips below.

  1. Make no admissions of liability. Do not acknowledge or deny responsibility when an accident occurs. Tell the injured party that your church will report the incident to its insurance company, and the insurance company will be in contact with them directly. This avoids taking responsibility for something that may not be your fault.
  2. Gather all relevant facts. Capture names and contact information for all parties involved, or who may have information on what occurred (especially witnesses). Immediately take photos of the scene of the incident, if applicable. Lastly, complete an incident report to record the event.
  3. Leave the scene untouched. Ensure the area is properly blocked off and left alone until you have spoken with an adjuster.
  4. Secure equipment. Any items or equipment involved in the accident should be placed in a locked area once you have spoken with your adjuster and kept there until they can be inspected (ladders, chairs, etc.).
  5. Report the loss. Immediately report the loss to GuideOne Insurance.
    1. If the claim involves issues that are potentially criminal in nature (allegations of physical or sexual abuse), immediately report it to the proper authorities.
    2. If the claim involves minors, be sure to avoid disclosing names or details to other parties.

The most common mistake churches make in these types of incidents is admitting liability or making offers of assistance that they are not authorized to make. It’s important to note that just because someone initially says they are not injured or that they aren’t filing a claim, doesn’t mean they won’t change their mind at some point in the future. Ensure all accident-related information is documented and reported immediately in order to avoid a much larger issue later on.

Church liability claims can prove to be very costly to settle. As a church facility that is liable for more than just the building itself, it’s important to have proper maintenance procedures and be proactive in loss prevention. This will help to reduce the risk of a liability claim against your church and make for happy and safe congregants.

© 2024 GuideOne Insurance. GuideOne® is the registered trademark of the GuideOne Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.