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FIELD TRIP INSURANCE INFORMATION

In light of the concern about what is known as "the insurance crisis," GSA wants everyone involved in field trips to understand the implications of GSA's insurance coverage. This information attempts to do this without getting bogged down in insurance jargon. If you have questions after reading this, please contact Mary Kerns, Senior Accountant, at (303) 357-1065 or mkerns@geosociety.org.

Liability Coverage

Liability coverage protects GSA and its agents (employees and volunteers) in the case of injury or damage to a third party. GSA's coverage is for liability only. Settlement in favor of someone sustaining personal injury or property damage will occur only if GSA can be found negligent-something that may have to be decided by the insurance companies and the courts. GSA's insurance does not automatically pay medical bills or vehicle repairs.

Coverage

When we refer to "coverage," we refer to GSA´s standing with the insurer. The insurance company will consider only those claims arising from the circumstances specified in the policy. If we say a vehicle or person is "covered," we mean the insurer will consider the claim. Payment will be determined only if GSA is found to be negligent.

The critical point to remember is . . .
First line payments for bodily injury or property damage must be covered by some other type of insurance beyond GSA's liability coverage.

Liability Coverage Limits

GSA's current limits are:

  U.S. and territories $1 million
  Foreign countries None, but if the suit is brought in the U.S., coverage applies.

Covered Persons

Those persons covered by GSA's liability insurance include GSA's employees and agents. Field trip chair people and field trip leaders are GSA agents when acting in their official capacity for a meeting activity. Drivers are GSA agents when they are either employees (permanent or temporary) or volunteers. These persons are protected from suit by someone on the trip. "Coverage" does not mean payment for injury or property damage sustained by a field trip leader or chairperson.

Registrants are "covered" in the sense that their claims will have standing with the insurer if there is a question of GSA's liability. An incident must occur in circumstances in which GSA was said to have "possession and control." A registrant's claim will not have standing with the insurer unless this requirement is fulfilled.

Covered Locations

Insurance applies to territorial United States and its possessions. Incidents that occur on field trips in foreign countries, including Mexico and Canada, will be covered only if the suit is brought in the United States. Check with GSA if you have a foreign trip planned.

We often are questioned about coverage at quarries, mines, and other sites. GSA is not deemed to be in "possession and control" of the site, and therefore does not have standing with GSA's insurer. Of course, individual circumstances might alter this general ruling.

Individuals are assumed to carry the monetary as well as physical risk. In the instance where the mining company is negligent, the company's insurance should apply.

Covered Vehicles

Liability insurance covers hired, non-owned vehicles (including boats), but absolutely does not cover:

  1. hired or non-owned aircraft
  2. hired or non-owned boats more than 25 feet in length
  3. activities in or under the water

If a car "trails" the official GSA field trip vehicle, GSA's liability coverage does not extend to this person, the vehicle, nor the passengers.

GSA REQUIRES THAT ALL DRIVERS OF "TRAILER" VEHICLES SHOW PROOF OF INSURANCE TO THE FIELD TRIP LEADER OR FIELD TRIP CHAIRPERSON, AND GSA MEETING COORDINATOR.

NOTE: THERE IS NO PHYSICAL DAMAGE FOR ANY AUTOS. (THEREFORE, BUY THE EXTRA INSURANCE FROM THE RENTAL CAR COMPANY.)

Covered Occurrences

The basic rule is that "coverage follows the vehicle." The critical factor is the level at which GSA has possession and control of a vehicle and its driver, so it must first be determined if the vehicle is, in effect, GSA's.

EXAMPLE GSA'S RESPONSIBILITY
1. Greyhound bus and driver. Coverage is from the carriers insurer. None for vehicle or driver.
2. Rental van or van on loan from a geological survey or university with a GSA driver. None for vehicle, but incidents caused by the driver are covered. Additional insurance should be obtained for the vehicle by the Field Trip Leader from the rental car company.
3. Private car that GSA borrows or pays for, and a driver who is in some way compensated by GSA. Some exposure for the incident caused by the vehicle. The driver is covered.
4. Private car driven by the owner that "trails" a field trip. None for vehicle or driver. Coverage is from the owner's insurer.

 

Providing for Additional Insurance

The conclusion is that . . .

  1. Field trip registrants must be advised to provide their own medical insurance. We expect all registrants to carry medical coverage on themselves. (They should be made aware of this by the Field Trip Chairperson or Field trip leaders.)


  2. However, GSA cannot be found "imprudent" in this area. Therefore...

    IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT, IF LOSS OF LIFE OR BODILY INJURY INSURANCE IS AVAILABLE, AS WITH AUTO RENTAL COMPANIES, YOU PURCHASE IT AND BUDGET IT AS A FIELD TRIP EXPENSE.


  3. Carriers must have proof of their own insurance. If they don't, we cannot use their vehicles. According to state law, each vehicle must be insured for leasors and rentors regardless of who causes the accident.

    PROCURING A RECORD OF INSUREDNESS ON EACH VEHICLE IS PART OF THE FIELD TRIP CHAIRMAN'S ADMINISTRATIVE RESPONSIBILITIES.

    Rental companies (Avis, Thrifty, etc.) usually ask for a Physical Damage Waiver payment. Although it is their way of getting customers to cover the insurance premiums, you must plan to pay the waiver fee. Include it in your budget.
General Release and Save Harmless Waivers
  • Waivers are only one step in the entire process of protecting the Society and its agents. They are by no means the only step. Courts hold that persons may not waive their legal rights. If GSA or its agent is found imprudent or negligent, a waiver will not come between the Society and appropriate redress for the individual. In general, the final word on the value of waivers is determined by the courts.
  • Even so, we take the position that something is better than nothing. A waiver is at least a written indication that the registrant was made aware of some risk; therefore, all registrants for section meeting field trips are asked to sign a waiver releasing GSA and its agents from liability. We suggest that the General Chairperson set up a procedure for securing the waivers. These will be called on in case an injury occurs. Please click here to view a sample Waiver form.
  • Occasionally, GSA headquarters is asked to sign a hold harmless waiver in order that field trips have access to private land. Of course, we are reluctant to do so. One option is to name the property owner as co-insured on GSA's policy. This is addressed on a case-by-case basis. Please contact Mary Kerns, Senior Accountant, at (303) 357-1065 or mkerns@geosociety.org, when faced with this situation.

 



 
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LIABILITY COVERAGE

COVERAGE

LIABILITY COVERAGE LIMITS

COVERED PERSONS

COVERED LOCATIONS

COVERED VEHICLES

COVERED OCCURRENCES

GENERAL RELEASE AND SAVE HARMLESS WAIVERS