Texas school districts and immunity as outlined by the Texas Tort Claims Act.
In Texas, school districts enjoy immunity as outlined by the Texas Tort Claims Act. For automobile coverage, there is a cap on damages of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident whenever a school vehicle and driver are involved in an at-fault accident. In many instances, limits higher than the tort damage cap are acquired for out-of-state travel and peace of mind. Most automobile coverage provides protection whenever vehicles are used by any employee as well as any permissive driver, including volunteers.
The driving of any auto by a school employee protects this immunity for both the district and the employee. However, whenever a school vehicle is driven by a permissive user such as a volunteer, the district maintains immunity but the volunteer does not. Coverage under the school’s insurance policy remains intact with full limits available in the case of a loss, but the loss will increase the loss ratio for the school and could lead to future premium increases.
If a school is compelled to use non-employees to drive any of the school units, there are a few important things to consider:
- There are special license requirements in Texas for school bus drivers (see Transportation Code 521.022). If a volunteer is stopped and a ticket, fine, or revocation of license occurs because they do not have the proper license, this exposure is usually not covered. There is also the possibility that the unit (and its passengers) will not be allowed to continue until an approved driver is on site.
- The driving of a school bus is not as stable as a large tractor/trailer unit which has independent wheel bases.
- All volunteer drivers should have both a criminal background check as well as a driving record check performed prior to being allowed to drive.
- When a volunteer uses their personal vehicle to pull a school-owned trailer, most coverage will be excess over the personal auto coverage of the volunteer. This particular provision also applies to school employees who pull a school-owned trailer.
*See your coverage document for all applicable terms and conditions.