Professional liability insurance is not the kind of insurance which you purchase to protect yourself if somebody breaks a leg in your residence and sues you for damages. Professional liability insurance protects you when something occurs while you are on the job at school or performing school approved duties. Usually the school provides professional liability insurance for all its employees. Exactly what is covered and what is not is something you need to find out for your own protection and peace of mind.
If you have never reviewed your coverage or haven't done so recently, do so immediately before it's too late. Here's why:
- You expose yourself to risk in the class room. You expose yourself to risk on field trips or other school sanctioned functions.
So, my first question to you is "Who will pay for your legal representation in the event that you are sued individually or as a party in a legal action?"
Then you need to find answers to the following:
- Is your personal liability insurance going to pay for legal representation?
- Is there a deductible?
- Will the school's insurance company pay for your representation?
- Can you afford $5,000, $25,000, or $50,000 for legal expenses?
Teachers in every private school deserve adequate liability coverage as part of their benefits.
This is a great argument for teaching in the public sector. The powerful teachers' unions ensure that details such as liability insurance are negotiated as part of your compensation package.
Your school must allow you to review the coverage which it has in force. If you have questions about what is covered, ask. What if you don't get answers which satisfy you? Take your questions on up the line until you have the answers which you deserve and need! What if the powers that be put you off or flat out refuse to address your concerns? Document your concerns in writing. Find another position fast!
You have to know what sort of protection you have in force when an incident occurs while you are running drama club rehearsal after school or an accident happens while you are coaching the soccer club at an away game on Saturday. You simply have to know!
"A nationwide survey of principals has found that schools across the country are eliminating or altering basic programs and activities due to the fear of lawsuits." American Tort Reform Association Press Release.
Teachers tend to put off dealing with mundane issues such as professional liability insurance.
We assume that some paternalistic institution will take care of us. Trust me! That paternalistic institution is looking out for its own interests, just as you must look out for yours!
I am not for a minute suggesting that you might have poor insurance coverage at your school. I am suggesting emphatically that you make it your business to find out exactly what coverage you do have. Your exposure is real! You and the school are acting in loco parentis while students are in your care. Do you understand fully what the legal implications of that concept are?
"In recent years, the courts have taken this guardianship status further by holding schools liable for negligence if they fail to protect a child who is harassed or sexually abused by another student at school. In the past 20 years, several courts extended the surrogate parental obligation further still, finding that schools have a legal obligation to take "reasonable steps" to protect students from hurting themselves."
The bottom line:
- Review your personal professional liability insurance coverage. What exactly does it cover?
- Review your school's professional liability insurance coverage. What exactly does it cover?
- Don't assume that you are covered by the Teacher Protection Act or other federal or state legislation. TPA's protection is extremely limited. No states have teacher protection laws on the books.