Minimize Learning Pod Liabilities: What to Ask Your Insurer

September 15, 2020

When it comes to learning pod formations, there’s no right or wrong way to set up what you believe will be best for your child(ren). Some families are opting for single family pods while others are choosing to partner with three or four families to create a pod.  But whichever it is, it’s likely that learning pods require bringing in someone external to your household. If this is the case, you will want to understand any liabilities you may encounter during the duration of your learning pod.

If you plan on hosting a learning pod that includes individuals not considered part of your immediate family (e.g., the teacher, other families, and students participating in your pod), you may be concerned with the additional liability of having non-household members regularly visiting your home. And the concern is not without cause - hosting a learning pod will, on the margin, increase liability and risk of claims against your own household. Also, note that states may have specific regulations governing learning pods, especially if you intend to run it as a business entity. The information below is primarily for learning pods run by families and not as a business.

To understand how your liability and risk increase, you must understand the circumstances under which you may need personal liability coverage.

Personal Liability

Imagine you are hosting a learning pod in your home where the tutor of your learning pod is guiding five kids though an activity requiring physical activity. Suddenly one of the kids, running around, trips and falls getting injured. What to do now? Here’s where personal liability comes into play.

What is it?

Personal liability insurance offers financial protection against accidents “in or out of your home, that results in bodily injury or property damage that you are held legally responsible for.”

What it covers

Personal liability claims, according to Nationwide Insurance, could include “medical bills, legal fees, and more if a guest is injured on your property, as well as coverage for accidental damage you are legally responsible for on someone else’s property.” This could be a student or teacher tripping and falling downstairs, for example. 

There are many responsibilities and considerations when it comes to hosting a learning pod and choosing the families you wish to partner with. Personal liability coverage is likely the most important portion of your homeowners or renters insurance. The good news is, coverage is typically included as part of most “basic” homeowners or renters insurance policies.

Generally, personal liability is part of any liability insurance plan. Many homeowners (and renters) insurance policies should cover personal liability associated with hosting a learning pod. However, we strongly recommend that you contact your insurance company to confirm that your personal liability insurance covers the activities of your learning pod. 

Each learning pod is unique in terms of size, duration, and frequency of meetings, as well as types of activities. This is why it’s important that your insurance underwriter understands the specifics related to your learning pod. There is a risk that the format of your pod may exclude it from coverage.

Questions to Ask Your Insurer about Your Learning Pod

If you want to better understand your personal liability coverage and you don’t know where to begin, we’ve curated a list of questions to guide you through the process.

Question 1: Does my homeowners (or renters) insurance cover the activities of my learning pod?

This question will help you understand if the learning pod activities are covered by your policy. Describe the learning pod size, meeting frequency and duration.

For example, “I’m expecting to host group learning sessions at my home 3 days a week for 4 hours a day. There will be 4 children, 1 teacher, and we, the parents, will be home.”

For many insurers, the concept of a learning pod may be new, so it’s important to help them understand what it is and what it is not. Try describing your learning pod as something more immediately understandable or relatable, such as a study group that meets multiple days, for example. The more you can help your underwriter understand what the learning pod activities entail, the better they can assess the risk. This will add to your peace of mind -- especially if the underwriter approves and signs off on it.

Question 2: Is my existing coverage adequate for the activities of my learning pod?

This question will help you understand how much coverage you may need. Do you need additional personal liability coverage or additional coverage such as umbrella insurance?

Question 3: Does the personal liability insurance cover potential COVID-19 claims?

Understand what other claims (such as COVID-19) that your personal liability covers.

A potential scenario: learning pod student contracts COVID-19 and their guardians accuse you of negligence.

To start, it’s a question for your insurance company as policies may exclude communicable diseases from coverage. Regardless of the coverage, if a claim is brought against you, it will depend on the facts and circumstances of the specific claim. It would need to be defined as an “accident,” something some insurers will likely argue , given the many warnings about the need to take action to prevent exposure to COVID-19 (and any health and safety protocols your pod has established), that there is no such occurrence (per Willis Watson Towers).

To reduce the risk and severity of COVID-19 claims, document, implement, and enforce a health and safety protocol including clear procedures of how to respond to an outbreak among all your learning pod participants. The more you can do to prove that your learning pod has established and complies with a standard of care that is consistent with currently recognized best practices and CDC guidelines, the better. Of course, a well-documented health and safety protocol benefits all learning pod participants, and it also reduces the risk of being held liable for gross negligence or recklessness. Guidance for managing a safe learning environment may change frequently, so staying up to date and modifying your health and safety protocol is important as well.

Ultimately, COVID-19 health claims -- that a student contracted COVID-19 specifically from your learning pod or that your learning pod was the cause of infection -- may be hard to prove.

Question 4: What does my personal liability insurance not cover related to my learning pod or regular study group?

This question will help you uncover other potential risks that your learning pod may present. You should be aware of what other risks may exist so you can be prepared and implement ways to reduce risk (i.e., prevention is the best medicine!). Remember, just because there’s a risk doesn’t mean you need to purchase more coverage.

Question 5: Do I need a business or commercial insurance policy for my learning pod?

You should inquire what is the threshold for your learning pod to be considered a childcare or daycare in your state. Generally, if a parent of a student in the learning pod is always present, it likely will not be, but it's worth asking the question especially because each state has its own classification and definition of a childcare business. The business insurance policy will generally offer additional general liability, property insurance, and abuse and molestation liability coverage.

Other ways to reduce your liability exposure

There are also many ways you may be able to reduce the likelihood and severity of potential claims against you.

Look to expand claim limits if you have a basic insurance plan. You can expand your coverage for personal liability and beyond that, add or increase your limits on personal umbrella insurance.

Require liability waivers to be signed by all learning pod participants that include mutual harmless clauses among all parties. We will share a sample liability waiver that articulates specific language that may be helpful -- stay tuned.

Finally, you may also require and confirm that all pod participants have health insurance to reduce the size of the claim if there ever is one against you.

Are there other questions you've thought to ask your insurer? Please share with us!

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Note: Because there are facts and circumstances unique to each learning pod, confirm all details with your legal, tax, or insurance advisor/provider. The information provided, in this article and anywhere on our site, is for general informational purposes. It is not, and is not intended to be, legal, accounting, tax, or employment advice.

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