Houses of worship bring a sense of hope and an atmosphere filled with fellowship to those who are willing to come. As well as impacting those inside the building, houses of worship impact outside by giving back to the community. Unfortunately, these non-profits usually operate on small budgets in which they can suffer severely from insurance losses.
The top liability losses are sexual abuse, slip and fall, and counseling and discrimination claims.
Many houses of worship go to court each year to defend abuse and molestation allegations. It is important to ensure that the selection process for volunteers and employees is up to par and that proper security measures are in place to prevent the abuse. Background checks should be conducted, prior employment and personal references should be checked, minors should never be left alone with any one adult for any church-sponsored activity and policies and procedures should be in place for the supervision of all volunteers and employees.
Slip and Fall
Maintaining parking lots and sidewalks by repairing cracks and clearing snow and ice can help prevent serious injury to members. Also, utilizing “wet floor” signs or safety tape as needed and having any spills cleaned up as soon as possible help prevent this type of accident. Insureds should make sure that ground is level and not muddy for any outdoor services.
Many houses of worship offer counseling services to members, which are provided by clergy. Typically, this service is offered free of charge, and it can involve anything from faith-based counseling to marriage counseling, or even counseling for sensitive and/or personal issues. When these professional counseling services are offered to members, the house of worship opens itself up to the same exposures that any other professional counselor could face. Clergy should refer members to professional counselors when appropriate (for example, to a psychiatrist to receive proper medication) and have procedures in place to protect the confidentiality of members. This helps prevent lawsuits for counseling errors and omissions.
While religious organizations may be exempt from having to pay taxes, they are not exempt from being sued for discrimination by a third party. Common discrimination allegations include sexual orientation, gender, race and disability.
I hope these help in successful prevention!
Information provided by Mike Plakis.