Field Trips: A Guide for Faculty

This page is designed to facilitate your communications with your students before a field trip and to give you tools to help you make your field trip safer for all participants. It is also designed to answer the most frequently asked questions regarding liability, insurance, and risk management issues around field trips or class trips.  

Please note: Instructors should give advance notice when a course has required events, such as field trips, evening exams, and film screenings, which occur outside the course's scheduled meeting time. If possible, notice should appear in the course description (e.g., “this course requires occasional attendance on Wednesday evenings”), but in any event should be announced on the first day of class. Instructors cannot require students to participate in a field trip that meets outside the course's scheduled meeting time if the trip conflicts with other classes, and participation cannot be required if the field trip has not been announced on the first day of class. Because students cannot change their first-year seminars, instructors of first-year seminars can recommend but not require participation in a field trip that meets outside the scheduled class time.

Please complete this form for modest requests for funding for field trips.

If you have any questions regarding this material or need any assistance or informed consent forms, please contact:

Stacie Kroll, Risk Manager - Five Colleges, Inc.
50 College Street
Mount Holyoke College
South Hadley, MA 01075-6404

A. Personal Liability Issues

Does my personal liability, in relation to the students, change because I am leading a field trip? No. While there is always a potential for you to be sued personally for the work you perform for the College, there is no increase or decrease in potential liability because you are off campus.

Will the college protect me if I am sued? The college carries insurance policies for its liability and its employees are also covered under these policies for their negligence. No one is ever insured for willful misconduct.

B. Auto Liability and Insurance

How am I covered when driving college-owned vehicles? The college insures all its vehicles for liability (injury to third parties and third party property damage) and physical damage (comprehensive/collision). If you are driving a college-owned vehicle with the permission of the College, then you are an insured driver under the college's policy. The same holds true for students or others driving college vehicles with permission.

What if I am driving a Rented Vehicle? If you rent a vehicle while working on behalf of the College (including unpaid or volunteer work), you should rent the vehicle in the name of the college and your own name. This means that you should sign both your name and "Amherst College" on the rental agreement. The college's Auto Policy will then respond as if the rented vehicle is an "owned" vehicle, so you should decline liability and collision insurance, unless your department has specifically decided to purchase the collision waiver. Never rent a vehicle valued in excess of $30,000.

It is important to inspect any rented vehicle before driving it. Make sure any dents, scratches or other damage to the vehicle are noted on the rental form. Otherwise, the College may have to pay for damages you did not cause.

Do I have coverage from the College if I have to drive my own car? Frequently you will be driving your own vehicle on college business. When you drive your own car on College business, your own insurance policy serves as a "primary" policy for third party liability and physical damage to your vehicle. This means that if a claim arising out of an accident exceeds your policy limits, then the College's policy will cover the accident in excess of your policy. For example, if you carry $20,000/$40,000 liability insurance, and injure a pedestrian severely, resulting in over $100,000 of medical bills, your policy would pay the first $20,000 of the claim, and the college policy would respond for the balance of the claim.

If your vehicle is damaged as a result of an accident, whether it is your fault or not, your comprehensive/collision coverage would respond. You are responsible for any deductible amounts under your policy. If you do not carry any collision insurance, then the entire amount of the damage is your responsibility. Neither the college nor the college's insurance will pay for any physical damage to your vehicle - you use it at your own risk.

Does it matter if I have to drive my own car as part of my condition of employment? No. Mileage reimbursements are designed to include an incremental cost for insurance and deductibles.

What do I do if I am in an auto accident, while on college business and driving a college-owned or rented vehicle?

At the scene of the Accident:

  • Do not admit any liability for the accident even if you think you are at fault.
  • Exchange driver/insurance information with the other party(ies).
  • Get written statements from any witnesses, or get their name, address and phone numbers for later contact.
  • If there was no other car or person involved in the accident, or if the vehicle is damaged while it was parked, follow the steps below.

Back on Campus: 

Immediately file an accident report with the Public Safety Office located on the first floor of the Physical Plant Building. File any mandated state accident reports to the proper authorities, and give a copy to the Public Safety Office.

If the vehicle is assigned to your department, and your department has a person who is responsible for coordinating the use of the vehicle, notify the department Vehicle Coordinator and give that person copies of all reports. The Department Vehicle Coordinator will coordinate with Risk Management and the Treasurer's Office on any insurance claims.

If you are the Department Vehicle Coordinator, or there is no Department Vehicle Coordinator, call Palmer and Goodell Insurance (413-750-4284) to report the claim. If not in regular business hours call: 1-800-688-7256. Send a copy of all reports to both:

Stacie Kroll
Risk Manager
50 College Street
Mount Holyoke College
So Hadley, MA 01075-6404
Barbara Poulin
Palmer and Goodell Insurance
2077 Roosevelt Avenue
P.O. Box 9040
Springfield, MA 01102-9040

Palmer and Goodell is the College's insurance agent, and will make arrangements to have the vehicle inspected for insured repairs. DO NOT HAVE THE VEHICLE REPAIRED BEFORE IT IS INSPECTED!

What do I do if I am in an auto accident, while on College business and driving my own vehicle? Follow the general instructions as above. If there is any injury to any third party, you must file a copy of the state Accident Report with a letter to the College stating that the accident occurred while you were on College business, and the nature of the business.

If you are aware of any serious injuries to any third parties, including any College employees or students, as a result of the accident, please include the particulars in your report. Also please indicate the limits of liability which you carry.

The reports should be sent to :

Stacie Kroll
Risk Manager
50 College Street
Mount Holyoke College
So Hadley, MA 01075-6404

File any claims with your insurance company as you would if the accident occurred when you were not working.

C.  Twelve-Passenger Van Available   

The college has leased a twelve-passenger van to support academic class travel.   This van may only be operated by faculty and staff members.  The van is available through the normal channels of email and/or by calling the pool vehicle line at X2675 and leaving a request.   In addition to normal credentialing, Department of Transportation regulations require that faculty/staff drivers also review and acknowledge an additional credentialing form.  This form can be found here and must be electronically “signed.”  A list of those who are credentialed will be maintained by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.

D.  Workers' Compensation Claims

Who pays any medical bills or lost wages if I am injured while I am working? If you are injured while you are working, your medical costs and lost wages are covered by Workers Compensation, in accordance with Massachusetts statutory benefits. The College self-insures its workers compensation costs, and pays benefits through a third-party claims administrator.

What do I do if I have an injury? IMMEDIATELY inform Human Resources. You will be directed to complete an accident report and accident investigation report which he/she will file with Human Resources. Cooperate fully with Human Resources in detailing how the loss or accident happened and identifying any way that the loss could have been avoided.

E. Personal Property

What if my personal property is lost or damaged while I am leading the trip? If your personal property is lost or damaged while you are on the trip, whether it is your fault or not, your own homeowners/tenants insurance coverage would respond. You are responsible for any deductible amounts under your policy. If you do not carry any homeowners/tenants insurance, then the entire amount of the damage is your responsibility. (Neither the College nor the College's Insurance will pay for any loss or damage to your own personal property—you use it at your own risk.)

F. Informed Consent Forms, Waivers & Releases

Generally, we do not ask our students to sign waivers or releases for programs/trips that support their academic work and which are sponsored by the College. It is, however, important that students be informed of the dangers they may face while participating on a field trip. It is strongly recommended that all students sign a field trip form before participating in the trip, to establish their voluntary participation and that they have been fully warned of the dangers, and are aware of their responsibility for their own safety. This form does not have the student waive his/her right to recover for losses caused by negligence of the College or its employees.  Field Trip FormField Trip Form

Informed Consent Forms must be specific to each trip; some classes may take frequent trips, such as a geology class. In such cases, an informed consent form about class activities may be appropriate in lieu of a form per trip. Contact Beth Carmichael, Five College Risk Manager, for assistance.Parents' signatures are not required for students under legal age because no legal rights are being waived.