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Liability Insurance for Warmshowers.org, Directors and Officers

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WS Member Portrait de Warmshowers Administrator
Liability Insurance for Warmshowers.org, Directors and Officers

Hi All -

I wanted to let you know we finally got an insurance company to quote us for liability insurance. The quoted premium is $875/year.

The lawyer we consulted, the Colorado Good Samaritan Laws, the lawyer Chris talked to, and every other source have said that liability insurance is a fundamental requirement for an organization like ours. It protects key volunteers from lawsuits, and the most important part is it pays for the defense in the case of a frivolous (or non-frivolous) lawsuit. All these things are big deals in the US.

The quote is here. I'd appreciate the go-ahead of the Leadership Council. Yes, this is about 30% of our budget. A very sad thing to do, but I think critical to our emergence as a "real" nonprofit. (We have enough money in the bank to pay the premium now for the next year, and January is when we get the bulk of our donations.)

Thanks,
-Randy

WS Member Portrait de skaplan@jackhill.org
liability insurance

Hi. It's not clear to me what Warmshowers could ever be sued for. The Good Samaritan Law protects people who render emergency assistance, something that is not within Warmshowers' purview. I'm a lawyer in Vermont, and while my practice has nothing to do with this kind of issue, I just don't see how Warmshowers could be subject to any kind of lawsuit for which you would need insurance. Despite what the public is often led to believe, there has to be a sound basis for a lawyer to sue someone, and a lawyer can be sanctioned for filing a frivolous lawsuit. I realize that others have more knowledge about this than I do, but I'm very curious to know what you were advised.

Stephanie Kaplan

WS Member Portrait de @wsadmin@
Wow, absolutely wonderful to

Wow, absolutely wonderful to have your involvement, Stephanie.

Would you mind taking a quick look at the two links in http://www.warmshowers.org/content/meeting-attorney-about-ws-liability-and-organizational-issues and see if we're understanding these correctly?

They explain that Colorado's Good Samaritan laws actually give some protection to nonprofits, but that liability insurance is still necessary.

The lawyer stated that the key reason to have insurance is just to *deal* with a frivolous lawfuit.

WS Member Portrait de WS Member
liability insurance

I would agree to having liability insurance. Chris Russo stated that there was an element of trust that the policy was adequate for our needs. I concur. I wouldn't be able to decipher a legal document so I defer to your judgement regarding the policy.

Lou Melini

WS Member Portrait de WS Member
liability insurance

I agree that we need liability insurance. I also agree with Chris Russo's comments. I think the purchase is a good step forward for WS.

Lou Melini

WS Member Portrait de skaplan@jackhill.org
liability insurance

As I said, I have no particular expertise in the issue of liability for nonprofits. But I still don't understand why Warmshowers needs it, given the nature of the organization. I looked at the Couchsurfing website and they have a disclaimer of responsibility for any problems that arise for users of the site. For all I know, however, they could also have insurance and it might be worthwhile to find out if they do. Of course, the lawyer who advised you might have already done that.

Stephanie Kaplan

WS Member Portrait de @wsadmin@
Thanks so much for your

Thanks so much for your thought on this.

Our fear is that there's a possibility that something actually bad could someday happen to a guest or host. And then given this is the US, someone could look for people to sue.

The basic values of liability insurance for an org like ours are:

1. It would pay for our legal defense, which would otherwise simply be impossible. It would pay for the legal defense of directors and officers; same benefit.

2. It helps make clear to volunteers and especially directors/officers that we are trying to keep them covered. As the lead volunteer and an officer, this is probably important for me personally, even though I've resisted it for some time.

WS Member Portrait de WS Member
Do we need insurance: do you need a torch at night?

WS is an American org, but is operating internationally. The US is a signatory to international trading treaties, and therefore bound by law, to answer to international law. Even though no funds change hands, there is a multitude of potential risks, that perhaps not even the best of lawyers may be aware of.

I work as a manager in the not for profit industry, solid governance is essential practice. An uninsured risk, is just not worth taking. I wouldn't operate a tin can without insurance.

Also, when a Judge asks why you created something which led to a negative outcome, the reply, "but we're nice people doing a really nice thing for free", just wont cut it!

So, yes we can cycle at night without a torch, but if you get hit by a car, hell mend you? I recommend WS gets the insurance, and if later someone absolutely shows that we do not need it, cash it in then.

Russell.