What Exposures do Nonprofits & Volunteer Drivers Face on the Road?

It is prevalent for nonprofits to have volunteer drivers to help meet program and service needs. With so many volunteer drivers out there on the road performing a wide variety of tasks, it is important to identify any coverage gaps. Nonprofit leaders are commonly concerned that they are putting their volunteers or their nonprofit at risk because of the inherent dangers that come with driving. One area of increased risk is that vehicle accidents are more likely to occur when driving an unfamiliar vehicle. Therefore, it may be less of a risk for volunteer drivers to drive their own cars. Volunteer liability is sometimes limited when volunteers are providing services for tax-exempt charitable organizations. For example, while there may be protection for volunteers, the protection does not apply when volunteers are operating motor vehicles. It is helpful to learn about your state liability laws relating to volunteer transportation programs.

When Volunteers Drive Their Own Cars

When volunteer drivers are driving their own cars, they will be covered initially by their own personal auto insurance for those named in a lawsuit arising out of personal auto use. Although, if a catastrophic injury occurs to someone while the volunteer driver is using her own car and damages exceed their personal auto insurance limits, the nonprofit could be held liable if it is named in a lawsuit resulting from the accident. Never assume that the volunteer driver has adequate personal auto insurance. Non-owned auto insurance will cover the nonprofit if the volunteer driver's personal auto insurance policy has been exhausted or canceled, so this is smart protection for nonprofits. Since this coverage protects only the organization, consider adding volunteers who drive their own car for business purposes as an additional insured under the nonprofit's non-owned auto policy to expand their personal policy limits to fill in coverage gaps.

When Volunteer Drivers Use the Nonprofit’s Vehicles

You may be wondering who is legally permitted to drive the nonprofit’s vehicles.  With the nonprofit’s permission, anyone can drive the nonprofit vehicles. The nonprofit’s commercial auto insurance policy will apply to any accidents involving the nonprofit’s vehicles. However, it is important to thoroughly assess these components in the policy: liability, physical damage on the vehicle itself, and medical payments for injuries. Review your policy with your agents to determine which specific losses are covered and where there are risk exposures. For instance, you do not want to assume that the policy covers theft when that may be excluded. The nonprofit's auto insurance will generally cover all vehicles owned by the nonprofit. Securing coverage for non-owned vehicles will offer the proper coverage for leased, rented, or personal vehicles driven on the nonprofits' behalf.  

Risk Management Steps

Take precautionary measures tailored to the driver's role. For instance, those transporting children or vulnerable adults should receive special training for this. These types of factors should also shape the driver screening process, orientation, and training. Securing NJ Nonprofit Insurance and conducting driver screenings are vital components to the risk management process. First, determine the level of screening appropriate for the role of volunteer drivers. Those transporting clients should undergo a more robust screening, a background check, and supervision. Speak with your insurance agent about how your auto policy relates to this guidance on volunteer drivers' screening procedures. These tips can be applied to manage the risk inherent in volunteer driving:
  • Identify a Driving Program “supervisor” to assign drivers
  • Screen your volunteer drivers for basic qualifications, proof of a valid license, and up-to-date vehicle registration
  • Conduct formal orientations and training programs to determine which driving infractions disqualify a driver and whether driving record checks are required
  • Create guidelines for driver conduct
  • Have volunteer drivers sign a Volunteer Driver Pledge Form, clarifying whose insurance is responsible
  • Educate volunteers about their personal insurance policies and limitations of the nonprofit’s auto coverage
  • Be prepared for incident and accident response as everyone should be aware of emergency procedures to follow if an accident occurs.

About David G. Sayles Insurance Services

At David G. Sayles Insurance Services, we help our clients decide which of these options is best for them based on their current situation and risk factors.  Contact us at 1-855-977-1842 or insureme@dsayles.mysites.io for a consultation!

About David G. Sayles Insurance Services

At David G. Sayles Insurance Services, we help our clients decide which of these options is best for them based on their current situation and risk factors. Contact us at 1-855-977-1842 or insureme@dsayles.mysites.io for a consultation!

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