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Liability and Automobile Insurance

Professional Liability Insurance

Malpractice insurance protects and covers individuals in cases of professional negligence or misconduct that results in mental or physical injury to clients. This insurance is limited to professional interactions.

Regular liability insurance covers individuals for personal negligence or misconduct that results in injury to another (e.g., business, fieldwork site). This insurance covers individuals or fieldwork sites for injuries that occur as a result of the failure to meet reasonable standards of care and conduct.

Social work interns are covered for malpractice under the University of Michigan policy, but there is no University general liability insurance policy that covers students placed at fieldwork sites to fulfill field instruction requirements. If the fieldwork site does not provide general liability insurance for student interns, it is the student's responsibility to obtain this insurance, if desired. The latter includes automobile liability insurance coverage for the use of the student's vehicle to transport clients.

Automobile Insurance

Students enrolled at the SSW who have automobiles should be aware of the following insurance matters:

  • Michigan is a no-fault insurance state.
  • Car insurance policies issued out of state may assume the principle use of the auto will be in the home state.
  • Some fieldwork site placements require that the student use their own car for fieldwork site business with reimbursement for mileage.
  • If a student should be required to use her/his own car for site business, it may be advisable to increase insurance coverage.
  • Students should be sure that their insurance coverage includes use of the car on fieldwork site business.
  • Students should check with their insurance carrier relative to these and other contingencies before using their automobile to carry out fieldwork site business.

Students with automobiles registered out of state should pay particular attention to the Michigan no-fault auto insurance laws. Simply stated, no-fault means that, with some exceptions, each person who is involved in an auto accident is responsible for his/her own property losses.

Before coming to the University, a student should be aware of the following:

  • The insurance rates in Michigan may be more reasonable than those of the student's home state, so if auto insurance is purchased through a national carrier, a student might be able to save on insurance premiums
  • If a student has student status, the home insurance policy will usually cover activities even though the student will be in Michigan for one or two years; however, the student should be sure that the insurance carrier follows this policy
  • Students should check with their insurance agent to find out what impact Michigan's no-fault auto insurance law has on their current insurance policy. The School of Social Work is not responsible for ensuring that students have adequate insurance coverage.

In fieldwork, students are sometimes asked to use their cars for fieldwork site business (e.g., transporting clients, making home visits, and attending case conferences, court hearings, or organizational meetings). Before responding to such requests, students should ask whether or not the fieldwork site has car insurance to cover these activities. If the answer is no, students should check with their insurance agent to determine whether their current insurance policy covers such endeavors. In no case should students undertake fieldwork site business in their personal vehicles without adequate insurance coverage. If the carrier recommends that students have additional insurance, the fieldwork site should reimburse the students for the amount of the additional coverage.

Michigan requires that all drivers carry liability insurance with a minimum coverage of $20,000 per person, $40,000 per accident. If students are transporting clients, students will want to carry substantially more than the minimum requirement. Each student should check with the insurance carrier as to the appropriate amount a student should carry given the use of the car on fieldwork site business.

Under the Michigan no-fault automobile insurance law, collision coverage takes on added meaning. If the automobile owner does not have collision insurance (insurance coverage on damages to the owner's car), the owner can only recover a maximum of $400 for property loss to the car even if the owner was not at fault in the accident. In other words, if a driver negligently causes damages to another car, perhaps to the extent that it is total loss, the owner of the damaged car is still limited to a recovery of $400 in any subsequent law suit, unless the owner has collision insurance. This limitation holds whether the owner is on personal or fieldwork site business.

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