Appendix A: Insurance Consideration for Field Work

The following is a brief outline of the types of insurance which should be considered when undertaking field activities. Included is a description of the various policies which the University maintains, as well as additional coverages which are available through separate placement as necessary. These descriptions are general and any specific questions should be directed to Risk Management and Insurance (local 6251).

Property Insurance

Direct physical loss or damage to University-owned equipment and materials are insured under a master policy which covers most situations of fortuitous property loss while located on University property. Coverage for the equipment when removed from University premises is available by contacting Risk Management and Insurance . This coverage can extend to non-owned equipment as well while in the field. Personal property of staff or students is not insured by the University. If desired, individuals should make separate arrangements under their home insurance in order to cover against loss.

Liability Insurance

The purpose of liability insurance is to protect against lawsuits arising from accidental or unintended occurrences to someone else's person or property. The University Comprehensive General Liability Policy covers all faculty, staff and students while they are performing any activity pertaining to their academic and/or employment duties, including field activities. This policy will defend and indemnify against losses which arise by reason of liability imposed by law.

This policy applies on a worldwide basis and insures specifically against bodily injury, personal injury, death or damage to the property of others. It includes the personal liability of an individual insofar as the conduct which caused the loss was part of the individual's employment or academic duties.

Automobile insurance

When using automobiles or other vehicles for field work purposes, special care must be taken to comply with local laws and regulations. The University is unable to provide insurance for short-term rentals or vehicles outside Canada and the United States, even if rented or purchased in the University's name. As a result, insurance coverage must be arranged locally to comply with jurisdictional requirements.

When renting vehicles on a short-term/worldwide basis in the name of McGill University, the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) may be declined where the corporate American Express card is used as payment. However, third party liability insurance is not considered optional coverage and should form part of the general rental costs. It would be prudent to confirm this fact, and ensure that all potential drivers are listed on the rental contract.

Ancillary Services should be consulted as this department has a list of preferred suppliers for short-term rentals.

Accidental insurance for visitors and students

Visitors to Canada should carry health insurance from their host institution. If this is unavailable to them, Blue Cross insurance must be purchased prior to their arrive in Canada. Students participating in study abroad programs are responsible to ensure that their provincial Medical Insurance cards remain valid, and that they have sufficient supplemental and emergency medical insurance, including emergency evacuation. This may originate from their parents’ policies or through the student fee structure. The emergency access number should be known by both the student and supervising faculty member, and include emergency evacuation.


Certain research situations require special insurance arrangements. The following is a listing of some of the special cases:

  1. Use of aircraft: When leasing or chartering aircraft, special liability policies need to be arranged (this does not apply to passage on commercial aircraft).
  2. War zones: Insurance policies generally have exclusions in some form regarding war risks, political insurrections, terrorism, etc., which require special policy placements, if available.
  3. Marine research: Trips involving ocean-going activities also necessitate special handling. When chartering vessels, Risk Management and Insurance must receive a copy of all contracts involving non-owned watercraft
  4. Cash: Whenever possible, it is recommended to use debit or credit cards or traveler cheques rather than carrying significant amounts of cash.

Operational by-laws on international research development contracts

The Board of Governors has approved operational by-laws on International Research Development Contracts.

Risk Management and Insurance should be contacted during the development stage of the project, and prior to the departure for the following reasons:

  1. To ensure that the scope of liability contractually acquired does not supersede the limits of existing insurance programs.
  2. To review and establish what forms of local (foreign) insurance are necessary where representatives of the University are established on a long-term or permanent basis in a host country.

In closing, although it is important to include insurance protection for all field situations, common sense and practical considerations for eliminating or reducing risks should always take precedence. While this document provides some general guidelines, please be aware that there are restrictions and exclusions in all insurance policies which may affect coverage. It is strongly recommended that all research supervisors refer specifically to Risk Management and Insurance for clarification of University insurance coverage, and any assistance in arranging whatever special additional coverage may be required.

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