Are Volunteers Covered Under Workers’ Compensation?

Tolbert Beadle

Volunteerism is an excellent way for you to serve others in need. Approximately one out of four Americans volunteer. Giving your time and energy towards a worthy cause helps make your community a better place to live. 

Unfortunately, accidents happen whenever people volunteer, and if you’ve been injured while helping your local nonprofit, you may be unable to work or pay your medical bills. While workers’ compensation is designed to aid paid employees, volunteers may have similar needs if they are injured while helping. Leadership and volunteers alike may wonder, “are volunteers covered under workers’ compensation?” 

Keep reading to learn more.

Workers’ Compensation for Volunteers

Workers’ compensation is designed for paid employees. However, there are some cases where it can cover volunteers. State law affects how organizations can compensate for injuries. 

Some states allow organizations to cover volunteers with workers’ compensation, others bar organizations from using workers’ compensation insurance to cover for their volunteers’ injuries.

If the state allows workers’ compensation insurance to cover volunteers, the organization’s policy must include its volunteers. Workers’ compensation is a costly endeavor for many nonprofits trying to operate on tight budgets. 

Missouri doesn’t require nonprofit organizations to carry workers compensation for volunteers, but these groups can cover volunteers with workers compensation insurance if they choose. 

Options for Volunteer Compensation

If the nonprofit you volunteer for doesn’t have workers’ compensation for their volunteers, there are a few options that may cover for the injury you sustained

General liability insurance: Nonprofits use general liability insurance to protect themselves from bodily injury claims or property damage. This type of insurance covers liability claims that come up during normal operations. It can help cover medical expenses, administrative costs for claims and any other legal costs or fees regarding a case or settlement. 

Auto insurance: Nonprofits who use automobiles to accomplish their tasks will have auto insurance covering employees and volunteers alike. If you are injured while driving a vehicle and are under the organization’s insurance policy, it should help you cover expenses concurrent with your injury.

What If I Signed a Waiver?

While waivers act as legal agreements between you and the organization you signed it with, it doesn’t mean that the organization has total immunity from your injury. Many waivers are too broad to cover for the harm that a volunteer could sustain.

How to Pursue Compensation as a Volunteer

While volunteering is a great way to help the community, you shouldn’t have to deal with an injury on your own just because the organization you are helping is negligent. If you’ve been injured, there are two routes you can take to seek compensation for your injury.

Filing a Claim with the Organization’s Insurance

If you are injured while volunteering, you should contact the director over volunteers to see if you are covered with workers’ compensation. If you are a long-term volunteer and your state allows it, the nonprofit may include you in their workers’ compensation due to the relationship being more like an employee-employer relationship. An experienced workers’ compensation and personal injury attorney can help you to sort out the difference.

Filing a Suit Against the Organization

If you are a short-term volunteer, you may want to start by contacting an experienced personal injury attorney. They can look at your case and advise what your best course of action is moving forward.

Don’t take on personal injury or workers’ compensation claims alone. Contact the lawyers at Tolbert Beadle today for a consultation.