4 Things Every Maine School Volunteer Should Know

Most schools couldn’t run without parents and grandparents who act as classroom helpers, dance chaperones, PTO officers, fund-raisers and field trip drivers. Volunteering is a great way to be involved in your children’s education, and to meet their classmates and their families. It can also expose you to liability. Does your insurance cover these activities?

Classroom Activities

School Volunteer
flickr photo by cambodia4kidsorg

  • While you’re volunteering in the classroom, the school’s insurance policy protects them against liability if someone gets hurt, provided you’re engaged in a school activity.
  • If you are sued individually, your homeowners or renter’s policy should pay to defend you against claims for bodily injury or property damage. Not every homeowners policy covers “Personal Injury” – such accusations as slander, libel, defamation of character or invasion of privacy. Make sure your policy has this coverage!

Outside the Classroom

Things are a little trickier here. Let’s say you’re a chaperone on a field trip to the county fair, and one of your students wanders away from the group and is hurt.

Students on a Field Trip
Flickr photo gingerbydesign
  • The school’s insurance policy will protect them against liability on a school-sanctioned event. Most policies will also protect volunteers, but you never know how much coverage the school district bought, or even if the premium has been paid to keep the policy in place.
  • Your homeowners liability coverage should again protect you if you’re sued for bodily injury or property damage (or personal injury if you took our advice above and bought that coverage). How much coverage do you need? We generally recommend a $500,000  liability limit, the most you can buy on most homeowners policies. You should also consider an umbrella liability policy to provide even broader asset protection.

What if you’re an officer in the PTO, or a fund-raiser? Some school policies will protect the PTO. Others do not. Before you join any non-profit board, you should find out whether your activities are covered. If not, your homeowners policy should protect you in the same way described above.

Two Big Holes

Your homeowners policy does not provide “errors and omissions” coverage (incorrect administration of the board) or “fiduciary” coverage (theft of money or property). All the more reason to make sure that the organization offers protection to you as a volunteer before you agree to serve.

Transporting Children

Child looking out a car window
flickr photo by woodleywonderworks

Most schools require proof of insurance before they’ll allow you to drive children to a school-sanctioned event. Their requirements may not be sufficient to protect you, though. It’s important to check on 3 coverages in your auto policy:

  • Liability – Too many people have liability coverage with “split limits” instead of “combined single limits”. A common split limit is $100,000 per person/$300,000 per occurrence for Bodily Injury, and $100,000 for Property Damage. Most people think that means they have  $300,000 of liability coverage if they’re at fault in an accident. Not really – unless 3 people are hurt, each with up to $100,000 of injuries. What they really have is $100,000 per person. By comparison, a $500,000 “combined single limit” policy has up to $500,000 to pay for Bodily Injury or Property Damage, no matter how it’s needed.
  • Uninsured Motorist – Although Maine mandates that drivers have liability insurance, many still don’t. And, the State minimum limits are a scrawny $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident. If someone who’s un- or under-insured hits you, your UM coverage protects you and people riding with you up to the limit you choose. Choose wisely!
  • Medical Payments – You don’t have to be in an accident for someone to be hurt in or around your car. It doesn’t even have to be your fault. A kid could slam someone’s finger in a door, or close a hatchback on someone’s head. Kids have even been known to engage in horseplay in the car – hard to imagine, isn’t it? Anyway, the kid’s family’s medical insurance should pay for those injuries, right? Yes – unless they’re one of the 45 million uninsured Americans. Then, they might sue you for their injuries. So, make sure you choose appropriate medical payments limits if you’re transporting other peoples’ kids – whether for school or not!

Should Maine Homeowners Escrow Their Home Insurance?

As a Maine insurance agency, our clients often ask whether they should have their bank or mortgage company pay their homeowners insurance, or whether they should pay it themselves.

Often, lenders give you no choice; they insist on escrowing property taxes and insurance – especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer, or your credit rating is close to their eligibility threshold. The “golden rule” applies: the one with the gold makes the rules. If you want to borrow from them, you’ll escrow.

 But if you’re an established homeowner, have a very good credit score, or are an especially desirable credit risk, you can ask to pay your own insurance or taxes.

How Escrow Works
Lenders collect some money at closing to seed your escrow account – commonly, 3-4 months of taxes and insurance. That way, they always have YOUR money to pay the bills when they arrive, instead of theirs. Part of your monthly mortgage payment goes to your escrow account. You pay 1/12 of your property taxes and homeowners insurance premium each month.  By Maine Law, your lender must pay you interest on the balance in your escrow account.

Escrowing Your Insurance is a Good Idea if:

  • You’re not good at budgeting money for big payments.
  • You’re not good at paying bills on time.
  • You want to spread your payments over 12 months, without billing charges.
  • You don’t mind the bank holding onto hundreds to thousands of your dollars.
  • You don’t make lots of changes to your homeowners policy.

Problems with Escrow
Escrow works pretty well, as long as things don’t change. The most common problems occur when:

  • Your bank sells your mortgage, and no one tells your insurance company.
  • Your bank changes its address, and your policy is not updated.
  • Your bank loses/never gets/doesn’t pay your insurance premium, and your policy cancels.

To be fair, the first two would be problems even if you didn’t escrow. The bank wouldn’t get their copy of your policy, and soon you’d get a nasty note, saying that they need a copy of your insurance policy. But at least your policy would still be in force. That’s not the case if #3 happens.

The Bottom Line
If you’re financially disciplined and business-savvy – or just a control freak (you know who you are), you probably want to pay your own insurance premiums – unless your bank forces you to escrow. After all, once you pay off your mortgage – and you will someday – you’ll pay the premiums and taxes yourself anyway. Why not get used to it now?

If you have questions about escrowing or buying home insurance in southern Maine, call Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541.

Local Fan, Cape Elizabeth Boosters Win Jackpot from Local Insurance Agency

Falmouth High basketball fan Adam and the Cape Elizabeth Boys’ Basketball Boosters split a $600.00 jackpot after Adam sank 3 consecutive shots in less than 30 seconds at halftime of Tuesday’s Falmouth / Cape contest Tuesday night. Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance has sponsored the contest for several seasons.

Adam collects his prize from Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance
Bob O’Brien and Dave McKenna of Noyes Hall & Allen present a check to Adam, who won the Cape Booster Shoot jackpot.

At halftime of every Cape Elizabeth Boys’ home game, the Boosters draw a 50-50 ticket. The winner gets 30 seconds to make a free throw, 3-point shot, and half-court shot. If they make all three shots, they split the jackpot with the Boosters. The jackpot starts at $200 and increases by $100 every game in which it is not won.

There have been a few winners over the years, but none has accomplished it in 3 shots before. Adam did it with “nothing but net”!

Noyes Hall & Allen is proud to sponsor the Cape Booster Shoot as a way to help local sports and extend its community involvement.

Congratulations to Adam – and to the Boosters!