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Maine Alliance for Road Associations

Need for liability insurance since Legislature has provided immunity against lawsuits

  • 28 Jul 2009 2:35 PM
    Message # 200580
    Deleted user
    We currently have liability insurance for the possibility that someone may initiate a lawsuit against us for property damage and bodily injury occurring on our roads. In a recent article, "In Our Backyard", it was stated that the Legislature has provided immunity from lawsuits to association road commissioners and boards for organizational activities. Individual land owners have their own insurance on their properties, so if someone were to initiate a lawsuit for injury or property damage on the road, it would be against the road commissioner or the board. If they are immune from lawsuits by the legislature, it would appear that we do not need our liability insurance. Can you confirm this interpretation? We would appreciate any information you can offer on this. We pay $750 annually for this insurance. We have 1.5 miles of roads.
  • 28 Jul 2009 3:19 PM
    Reply # 200605 on 200580
    Deleted user
    Ah, if only it were so.  The immunity granted by the statute does not shield the association from lawsuits by persons suffering injury attributable to the road.  It only shields the road commissioner or board members from actions undertaken by owners and lessees of parcels belonging to the association for their official actions in determining the work needed, the money owed by each owner, the collection of said money, and the awarding of contracts. 

    In other words, your own members can't sue you for simply doing your job.  Well, they can sue you, but they won't win.


    Sadly, you are no more immune from liability for injuries than you have ever been.

    Last modified: 28 Jul 2009 3:19 PM | Deleted user
  • 29 Jul 2009 4:32 AM
    Reply # 200823 on 200580
    Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Todd Tolhurst is right. The immunity the legislature provided is only for officers and directors carrying out the organizational processes of the association. It is not for road work. The reason why this change was seen as needed was that in some instances people were threatening to sue association officers to prevent them from forming and operating a road association. The hope had been to obtain immunity similar to that of charitable organizations, as in volunteers, but that did not happen. There was opposition from the trial lawyers. The result is that 1) associations are still liable for injury due to faulty road work. This can be somewhat mitigated by making sure the association hires a contractor with insurance that will cover same. 2) Uninsured volunteers doing work for the association are best off confining their work to things that are highly unlikely to cause injury -- filling potholes, grading and so on.

    So the bottom line is, there is still a need for insurance. What you are paying sounds high and I hear you. You might already know this, but forming as a nonprofit confers a certain amount of limited liability to officers and directors. It is possble to form under both the private ways law and the nonrofit statute. Forming as a nonprofit means a simple annual renewal of the status withthe state, is not all that expensive, and is a cheap form of insurance.

    As for commercial insurance, it is a top priority of MARA, in partnership with COLA, to look into the insurance situation and find out whether road association insurance premiums reflect the actual risk to the insurer and not possible bogus cookie cutter formulation. We plan to get going on this in the upcoming legislative year.

    I wish we had more on this right now, but nonprofit me, it's a priority.

    Thanks for your question.
  • 29 Jul 2009 10:25 AM
    Reply # 200934 on 200823
    Deleted user
    Betsy Connor Bowen wrote:As for commercial insurance, it is a top priority of MARA, in partnership with COLA, to look into the insurance situation and find out whether road association insurance premiums reflect the actual risk to the insurer and not possible bogus cookie cutter formulation. We plan to get going on this in the upcoming legislative year.

    FYI - I just received a quote of $500/year for liability insurance for our approximately 1500-foot road serving 9 parcels.  Seems a bit high to me.

  • 29 Jul 2009 2:09 PM
    Reply # 201041 on 200580
    Deleted user
    We are paying about $525 for just under a mile of road-State Farm.
  • 21 Apr 2012 11:44 PM
    Reply # 896961 on 200580
    Deleted user
    So, if there is no road association, and someone is injured due to improper road construction etc., who then is liable?
  • 22 Apr 2012 1:01 AM
    Reply # 897005 on 200580
    Deleted user
    I imagine an attorney would pursue (a) the owner(s) of the road, (b) the people who performed the maintenance, and (c) the people who contracted for and paid for the maintenance.  So, the owners, the contractors and any other residents who pay for the road maintenance.
  • 22 Apr 2012 7:26 AM
    Reply # 897177 on 200580
    Deleted user
    This lively discussion has prompted me to ask for the help of the group.  I am the President of a Road Association which is a Non-Profit and oversees 22 miles of roads.  We have two bridges (one large railroad flatbed car type and one small).  The roads are best described as logging roads and the major concerns are wash-outs, culvert blockages, rock removal, gravel replacement etc.  
    We have 63 members and the roads connect lots ranging from 40 to 1200 acres.

    The inquiries I have made so far regarding insurance have met with either shrugged shoulders or referral to a Municipality type insurer.  

    We also have bylaws which date back to 1988 and they should be brought up to date.

    I suspect my best course of action is finding a lawyer who is experienced in Associations and camp roads.  Can anyone make a suggestion on who may be a good choice?  
    Thanks

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