What are the personal and organizational risks when Church members volunteer for community service projects? How can Church leaders help mitigate or minimize those risks?
Leaders and other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereinafter referred to as “the Church”) who plan, conduct, and supervise Church activities or events should plan carefully and take reasonable and appropriate steps during an activity for the safety of volunteers, participants, and others to avoid accidents or injuries. Activity training and safety orientation should be included as part of the instructions to event leaders and participants prior to and during the activity (see Handbook 2:Administering the Church (2010), 13.6.20, or visit safety.lds.org for more information, including the First Presidency letter titled “Safety in Church Activities”).
Injury to Activity Participants
The Church requests that participants in a Church-planned or Church-supervised activity utilize their own health or accident insurance in case of injury (see Handbook 2, 13.6.9). Participants injured during a Church event in the United States or Canada are eligible for limited Church Activity Medical Assistance (CAMA), as administered by Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators (DMBA). CAMA is a secondary plan for deductibles and certain medical expenses after payment by an individual’s personal insurance. The maximum assistance of $15,000 per person per accident is available for up to three years. The CAMA plan applies to those injured while participating in a scheduled, approved, or officially recognized Church-sponsored activity. However, it does not cover people involved in personal acts of service or provide wage-loss assistance. See the CAMA plan handbook for details and exclusions at dmba.com/churchactivity.
Members who travel in Church-sponsored groups should have the approval of the bishop or stake president. Long-distance travel is discouraged, but when Church groups do travel in private passenger vehicles, the Church expects that vehicles be operated safely and that each person use a seat belt. Further, Handbook 2, 13.6.24 states: “Each driver should be a licensed, responsible adult. All vehicles and drivers should be covered with reasonable amounts of automobile liability insurance.”
The Church recommends that members and leaders protect themselves from liability claims by carrying their own insurance. Handbook 2, 13.6.9 states: “Where possible, those who oversee activities should protect themselves by carrying reasonable amounts of liability insurance. Such insurance may be available through homeowners insurance or other policies.” Losses are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. To those who are held legally liable for their good-faith acts in the course of their Church callings, the Church gives assistance after all available insurance is exhausted.
Leaders should be prepared for emergencies that may occur during the activities that they oversee. Be sure to plan in advance for first aid and know how to contact emergency services or local law enforcement. In case of an injury or accident, notify local ecclesiastic leaders and preserve appropriate photos and records to document what occurred. In the United States and Canada, contact Risk Management (1-866-LDS-RISK [537-7475] or 801-240-1000, extension 2-4049) as soon as possible in the case of a fatality or a serious injury involving an overnight hospitalization (see Handbook 2, 13.6.20).