What Insurance Applies When Volunteers Drive Their Own Cars?
Volunteer drivers, while using their own cars, are covered by their own personal auto insurance, within the limits of their liability. Personal auto insurance generally offers the same coverage when a volunteer is providing a ride as part of a volunteer transportation program as it does when the person is driving a friend, neighbor or relative. However, it is crucial for volunteer drivers to review their specific policy for details of coverage and to consult with their insurance agent to understand the details of their coverage when volunteering for a non-profit or informal volunteer transportation program.
Will personal automobile insurance premiums increase when a volunteer uses their own car to provide rides?
Current Maine law stipulates that an insurer cannot refuse to provide automobile insurance because the vehicle’s owner or someone who regularly drives the vehicle provides rides through a volunteer driver program. Insurers are also prohibited from raising the rate on an insurance policy, solely based on the owner (or frequent driver of a vehicle) volunteering to provide rides.
The Need for Excess Liability Coverage
There are times when a volunteer driver may be responsible for damage to a passenger, pedestrian, occupants of another car, property, etc. that exceeds the limits of a driver’s personal auto insurance policy. In that case, the volunteer transportation program’s excess liability coverage will apply. The coverage provided by CIMA though UMaine Center on Aging includes up to $500,000 excess liability insurance per incident.
How does compensating volunteers affect their status as volunteer drivers?
For the purposes of this law, volunteer drivers may transport both people and goods without receiving compensation that is greater than their expenses (e.g., gas or wear and tear on the vehicle that does not exceed the federal charitable organization mileage reimbursement rate). In some cases, volunteer transportation programs provide gas cards; others provide small stipends at the federal mileage reimbursement rate or below. As long as volunteers track and record their volunteer mileage, gas cards or a stipend to cover travel expenses should not be counted as income for Federal or State taxes.
Note: excess liability coverage only applies above the liability limits of the vehicle owner’s personal automobile policy. There is no coverage for damage to the volunteer driver’s vehicle. Coverage only includes the time when a person is volunteering to provide a ride through your program, not if they are driving a friend or neighbor but not as part of the volunteer driver program. It is crucial for volunteer transportation programs to review the coverage they purchase or access through the University of Maine so that coverage is clearly understood.
Volunteer transportation liability coverage applies if a volunteer driver or your volunteer program is sued for damages allegedly resulting from the negligence of the volunteer. The coverage provided by CIMA through the University of Maine provides volunteers with up to $1M coverage.
Please refer to the Maine State Statute, Title 14, Section 158-A, "Immunity for Charitable Directors, Officers and Volunteers" for any limits to liability for volunteers. The statute confirms that volunteer drivers are liable if they are operating a motor vehicle but provides some protection in the amount of damages that can be awarded. Please read the materials sent to you by the University of Maine describing the coverage and reach out with any questions. If you have purchased your own volunteer liability insurance, review the coverage so that you understand what is and is not covered.
Please note, nothing in this Fact Sheet should be taken as legal advice. Every situation and every program is unique. These are general guidelines. Please confirm with your insurance provider the details of your coverage.
Updated August 2023