Church Injury Lawsuits: Who Pays for What?

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A church or any house of worship can be a minefield of potential lawsuits. Many churches have playgrounds, woods nearby, steps leading to a platform, floors on which people could slip, and hot beverages for Sunday mornings. Churches are full of elderly who can easily fall, as well as small children who are prone to accidents.

Church property can be so vulnerable to claims that those who run the church insurance department might be a little uncertain about who pays in some situations. For instance, what about trespassers? What about churches that "lend" their field to the local boys' softball team?

People who find themselves on church property can be generally categorized under invited, trespassers, and licensed. Here is how to handle each situation in most cases:

Those who have been invited onto church property, such as guest speakers, require plenty of precaution. You must tell them about every danger that you're aware of (such as steep stairs), and you must also be on the lookout for other possible dangers. It's a good idea to have these specially invited guests escorted while they are on the premises; they have many rights when it comes to lawsuits.

When it comes to trespassers, it's common sense to think, They can't make any claims against us because they were trespassing!  But you'd be surprised. Basically, if you know of certain dangers on the church property, you should play it safe and post signs so that even trespassers can't sue you. Do you have an electric fence? Bushes with poison ivy? Piles of concrete blocks or stones? A faulty tire swing? Simply post a warning sign, and you should be fine.

Those who have been licensed to enter the church property are just people who have your permission to be there. If these "licensees" are injured while on the church property, usually the church won't be expected to pay for the damages unless the person was injured by a danger which the church was aware of. For example, if a group of bird watchers are allowed onto the church property every Saturday, and one of them trips over a pot hole in the church's parking lot, they could file a claim against the church if they were not warned. Again, a simple warning sign will work.

No matter if the people on the church property are invited or uninvited, adequate warning signs should be prominent where needed, and the safety of everyone should be considered.

For more information on church insurance and coverage for any type of house of worship, contact us today! We're Lower Premiums, an independent insurance agency based in Anderson, South Carolina.


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