Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Volunteers?

Volunteering can be extremely rewarding. It feels good to donate your time to help others in need. However, it doesn’t feel good when you have an accident in the course of your volunteer work. If you are injured while volunteering, you may wonder if you are eligible to receive workers’ compensation.

Generally speaking, the answer is no. Usually, workers’ comp benefits only extend to paid employees, not volunteers. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Under certain circumstances, you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits as a volunteer. Your eligibility depends on the following factors.

Where You Live

The laws of some states allow organizations to extend workers’ compensation benefits to volunteers. However, the laws of other states do not allow this at all. The laws of your state make a big difference, and you should find out specifically what they say before volunteering.

Bear in mind, as well, that the laws of your state may qualify you to receive workers’ compensation as a volunteer, but the organization must purchase insurance that specifically covers unpaid workers. This is something else that you should verify before volunteering.

The Work You Do

The laws of some states allow workers’ compensation for some volunteer positions but not for others. For example, many communities have volunteer firefighters, rather than professionals, employed by the municipal government. Needless to say, this is extremely dangerous work with a high potential for injury. In some states, volunteer firefighters may receive workers’ compensation, but volunteers in less hazardous positions may not.

Compensation for Your Work

Even though you do not get paid for your volunteer work, you may receive benefits or perks of some kind. For example, the organization may provide you with room and board or award you prizes. In some states, this may be considered a payment, and you may qualify for workers’ compensation even if you are not an employee.

Alternative Forms of Coverage

Even if you are not eligible to receive workers’ compensation as a volunteer, you may be covered under another type of insurance. The organization may have Volunteer Accident Medical Insurance, which is different from work comp but would cover you in the event of an accident resulting in an injury.

You may also be covered under the organization’s general liability insurance. If this is the case, you may be able to file a claim with the insurance company. Also, because you are not covered under workers’ compensation, you have the right to bring a lawsuit against the organization.

An injury from volunteering can be a confusing situation. A good workers’ comp lawyer, like Long Island work injury attorneys, could explain your legal options. Contact one for more information.

Thanks to Polsky, Shouldice & Rosen, P.C. for their insight into whether workers’ compensation covers volunteers.