Travel Policies and Liability
What policies govern travel?
UNCG travel policies and procedures address all aspects of travel including required prior authorization, expense reimbursement, use of state and personal vehicles, the American Express Corporate Card program, travel forms and travel tips. The travel policies and procedures are maintained by the Division of Business Affairs Office of Accounting Services and are available on-line at http://www.uncg.edu/baf/TRVL_TOC.html. (Hereafter, "travel policy".)
The purpose of this article is to address frequently asked legal issues associated with travel.
Who may drive State vehicles?
According to State law, State-owned vehicles shall be used only for official state (i.e., University) business. Only a State employee (a person paid on State payroll), may drive State vehicles. A student may drive State vehicles ONLY upon prior authorization and ONLY in the scope of student-employment responsibilities. A student who is not ALSO an employee may NEVER drive a State-owned vehicle.
Students and other persons who are not State employees may accompany State employees in State vehicles when they have a University-related business interest in the travel. Students may also be passengers in State vehicles to attend athletic events and other activities officially sanctioned by the University, provided the proper account is reimbursed at the standard mileage cost rate by the student activity fund involved. See travel policy 7.
Does UNCG have insurance?
The State has purchased motor vehicle liability insurance for all State-owned vehicles with limits of $1 million per person injured and an absolute limit of $10 million per accident. The State’s insurance is PRIMARY if the accident occurs while the employee is operating a State-owned vehicle on authorized State business. The driver’s personal auto liability insurance may be SECONDARY, depending on its terms and conditions. If the employee’s personal insurance does not apply, however, then the ONLY liability insurance available for the employee would be the State’s insurance.
Depending on its terms and conditions, an employee's PERSONAL automobile liability insurance may apply when an employee drives his/her PERSONAL VEHICLE on authorized State business. Under those circumstances, the employee’s personal auto liability insurance would be PRIMARY and the State’s insurance would be SECONDARY. Again, if the employee’s personal insurance does not apply, however, then the ONLY liability insurance available for the employee would be the State’s insurance.
Employees should be aware that liability verdicts may exceed the limits of the State’s insurance. All employees should CHECK WITH THEIR INSURANCE AGENTS AND CHECK THE TERMS OF THEIR PERSONAL AUTO LIABILITY POLICIES TO MAKE SURE THEY HAVE SUFFICIENT LIABILITY COVERAGE FOR THEIR JOB-RELATED DRIVING.
What if someone is injured?
An employee's personal injury during travel may be covered by workers' compensation depending on the circumstances. Employees should be aware that the State’s insurance policy does not have UNINSURED or UNDERINSURED (“UM”) insurance coverage. UM insurance is designed to compensate the injured party in an amount equal to what he/she might have recovered in tort damages in those circumstances where the driver who is at fault has no liability insurance or insufficient liability insurance limits. Employees who desire UM coverage when driving vehicles (both State-owned and employee-owned) should CHECK WITH THEIR INSURANCE AGENTS AND CHECK THE TERMS OF THEIR PERSONAL AUTO LIABILITY POLICIES.
All non-employee injury claims should be reported to the Office of University Counsel as potential tort claims.
What is an employee's personal liability?
Personal injury or property damage resulting from the negligence of an employee or agent of the University will be processed under and subject to the limits of the North Carolina Tort Claims Act, the State's Liability Insurance, and any applicable personal insurance (see above regarding insurance limits). The Office of the North Carolina Attorney General represents State employees for actions arising out of the employees' negligence in the course and scope of their employment responsibilities.
Note well, however, that an employee may be personally liable and not represented by the State for actions that are personal, intentional, grossly negligent or outside the course and scope of his/her employment responsibilities.
Who pays legal expenses?
The Department that employs the negligent employee is responsible to pay for any expenses in connection with the State's defense of an employee. If insurance applies, those expenses may be covered by the insurer. If the Attorney General decides that the employee is not entitled to defense at the State’s expense, the employee is responsible for retaining his/her own legal counsel and for any and all costs associated with his/her legal defense.
What if a State vehicle is not available?
There are a couple of alternative options if a State vehicle is not available including, whether to drive a personal vehicle or rent a vehicle from one of the companies with which the State has a contract, currently Triangle and Enterprise.
Can I use a 15 passenger van?
UNCG has a policy regarding 15 passenger vans which discourages their use due to safety concerns with the high occupancy vehicles. The policy requires completion of a training program through the UNCG Office of Safety, and inspection and administrative requirements. The HOV policy is available on-line.
What issues should I consider for a student off-campus trip?
Students are required to sign a Release Agreement for participation in voluntary trips. The release is intended to assist students to make an informed decision through identification of potential risks and awareness of student responsibilities. (Students should not be asked to sign a Release Agreement if the trip is required, such as for an academic class. However, students should be advised of any know dangers prior to the trip.) The release must contain several elements, including signature by a parent/legal guardian if a participant is a minor (less than age 18). A form agreement is available on-line. Please contact the Office of University Counsel if the form does not meet your needs or if you need assistance.
Students are not eligible to drive State vehicles. If UNCG does not provide the vehicle and driver (either an employee or independent contractor), the students should be asked to provide their own transportation. UNCG should never direct students to drive other students because this creates an agency relationship for which UNCG could be held liable.
Note that international trips are beyond the scope of this article. (Consult with the Office of International Programs and visit its website.)
Can I avoid all this red tape if I call it a non-University affiliated trip?
If, and only if, it truly is a not a University affiliated or sponsored trip, then you are not required to follow the University travel and HOV policies. However, State money cannot be used for a personal trip, there can be no reimbursement of any trip expenses out of State funds, and the organizers and participants are personally liable for any incidents that occur in connection with the trip. The University will not provide legal defense in such an event. You are on your own. Remember, the travel policies are intended to limit liability and protect the University and you.
Who should I contact with additional travel questions?
Please contact the University Counsel's office at 334-3067 or University_Counsel@uncg.edu with additional liability insurance/travel questions.