Yes, however certain conditions apply. School Districts are only allowed to rent their school buses to another government entity in Utah (state entity or any political subdivision of the state). Utah Code Ann. §41-12a-301 requires the government entity renting the bus to maintain liability insurance for its use. Further, the government entity will reimburse the School District for incidentals as set by the district. Incidental examples include, but are not limited to: fuel, depreciation, damage, destruction, etc.
In the event drivers other than those employed by the School District are used, the government entity must hire qualified individuals. Regardless who is driving the bus, including School District employees, the government entity must add them to their insurance as named insureds or permissive users. In the event of an accident, the government entity’s insurance is primary over the School Districts. In addition to these requirements, the bus cannot leave the State of Utah at any time during the rental period. School Districts looking to rent their buses should use the Bus Use Indemnity Agreement Form.
The State Risk Fund Liability Policy provides coverage to any “Employee” as defined in the Governmental Immunity Act of Utah (UGIA), provided the subject loss or claim occurred in the course and scope of the “Employee’s” employment. Most of the questions we receive pertain to the following roles, which are defined in Subsection 63G-7-102(3)(a):
A Government Entity’s Employees. Obviously, if a public entity hires an intern, that intern becomes an “Employee” with all associated protections under the GIAU and coverage under the State Risk Fund Liability Policy.
Student Teachers. Any student teacher who has a letter of authorization from the State Board of Education and who serves in one of our covered school districts or charter schools is also an “Employee” with all of the protections and coverage provided by the GIAU and the State Risk Fund Liability Policy.
Student Interns. The GIAU and the State Risk Fund Liability Policy provide protection and coverage to students of our covered institutions of higher education and public education, but only if they are providing services to members of the public in the course of an approved medical, nursing, or other professional health care clinical training program. All other student interns are NOT covered unless their respective educational institutions have opted for coverage through the Intern Policy procured by the State Risk Fund.
Per the Volunteer Government Workers Act, only “approved” volunteers are entitled to the liability protections and indemnification rights that are normally extended to paid government employees. Additionally, “approved” volunteers are eligible for workers’ compensation medical benefits as an exclusive remedy for their injuries and occupational diseases, which means that an “approved” volunteer who is injured in the course and scope of his or her volunteer services cannot sue your entity for other liabilities or damages. See UCA 67-20-3(1).
To qualify for coverage from the State Risk Fund, volunteers must be formally approved by the chief executive or authorized representative of a governmental entity and by the office of personnel having jurisdiction over that agency. See UCA 67-20-4. Additionally, these volunteers must donate their services without pay or other compensation, except for expenses actually and reasonably incurred as approved by the supervising agency. See UCA 67-20-2(3). The decision to “approve” a volunteer should be governed by the nature and duration of a volunteer’s services. More specifically, it may not be prudent to “approve” volunteers whose services are of a short duration and whose duties provide little to no risk of harm to the volunteer or others.
We strongly recommend that all covered entities exercise good judgment in the volunteer approval process and that they document each “approval.” Additionally, all volunteers, whether “approved” or not, should be properly trained about their duties, about the risks inherent in those duties, and about the measures they should employ to avoid liability before they commence their volunteer services.
Some Things You Should Know About Using Your Private Vehicle for State Business Travel
State employees sometimes use their private vehicles for state business travel, rather than using fleet vehicles or rental cars available through the State Travel Office (https://fleet.utah.gov/state-travel-a). There are some considerations you should be aware of with respect to this practice.
When you are using a state fleet vehicle, State Risk Management provides primary liability coverage for you as a state employee. If you are involved in an accident and cause injury or property damage to someone else, the State Risk Fund will pay for defense of any claim or lawsuit, will pay for any damages awarded against you up to the Fund’s liability limits, and will also cover necessary repairs to the vehicle you are driving at the time of the accident. Risk Management’s coverage applies anywhere you travel in a state vehicle, although the state may not have the benefit of the Utah statutory tort caps on damages if an accident occurs outside the state. Due to the probable loss of tort cap protection outside the state, State Risk Management strongly recommends that state employees traveling on business outside Utah use commercial carriers or rental vehicles provided through the State Travel Office (STO). Use of commercial carriers and/or STO-arranged rental vehicles benefits the state by transferring some or all of the liability risk associated with state business travel. The State Travel contract provides liability coverage that attaches automatically to each rental. This coverage is available both within and outside the state’s boarders. The State Risk Fund’s liability coverage is then secondary or “excess” to the coverage provided by the rental company. Commercial carriers also provide coverage for accidents which involve those using their vehicles. Please note that vehicles rented through STO must be driven only by state employees for business purposes to qualify for the primary insurance protection provided by the rental car company. Violation of this rule will void the rental car company’s coverage. Additionally, the auto liability policy imposes a $10,000 conditional deductible on claims related to rental cars not arranged through STO.
Under Utah law the owner of any motor vehicle must provide owner’s or operator’s security (liability insurance) for any vehicle operated within the state. (U.C.A. §41-12a-301). If a state employee is using his/her personal vehicle on state business, his/her required insurance is primary to any other coverage (in this case that provided by State Risk Management) that may apply. Each private insurance policy is different, but often insurers have clauses that reduce or “step down” liability coverage to the minimum liability limits required by state law ($25,000/$65,000/$15,000) when the vehicle is being used for business purposes. Some insurers define “business use” broadly to include traveling from point A to Point B for a business reason, while others provide reduced coverage only when the vehicle is used to transport goods or persons for hire. In any case, state law will generally require that a private insurer provide minimum liability coverage limits in the event of an accident. The bottom line is that any state employee using a personal vehicle for business purposes will look first to his/her own liability insurance policy for primary coverage, while State Risk Management will provide secondary liability coverage in such instances.
Importantly, an employee’s personal insurance policy may exclude coverage for damage to the employee’s vehicle when it is used for business purposes. Since the vehicle is not owned by the state, Risk Management will likewise not be in a position to cover any damage to the vehicle. This can create a situation where there may be no coverage for damage to the vehicle while it is being used for business purposes. It is strongly recommended that state employees who use their personal vehicles for business travel check with their agent to determine if their policy will cover damage to the vehicle while it is being used for a business purpose. Some insurers will automatically provide such coverage, while others may require the purchase of a coverage rider to cover vehicle damage while the vehicle is used for business purposes. Please consult with your personal insurance agent to determine what changes to current coverage, if any, are necessary to insure you are fully covered while using your personal vehicle for state business travel. Parenthetically, existing mileage reimbursement rates contemplate the cost of additional insurance for any business use of your personal vehicle.