Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Volunteers?
By volunteering for a cause you care about, you get to give something back to the community, make a difference, develop new skills, and build relationships. Most people find volunteering to be extremely rewarding and fulfilling—not to mention the impact had on a worthy cause!
However, it’s an unfortunate fact that accidents happen on the job—even to volunteers. If you are injured while working on a volunteer basis, do you know your rights? Are you covered by workers’ compensation? And if not, what are your options?
Today, we’re going to answer this important question. Keep reading to find out whether workers’ compensation covers volunteers and what you should do if you are injured while volunteering.
Workers’ Compensation & Volunteers
According to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, “Ohio’s workers’ compensation system helps injured workers and their employers cope with workplace injuries. BWC pays medical benefits and lost wages to employees who are injured or contract an occupational disease on the job.”
If you read closely, you’ll notice that—while the system is called “workers’ compensation”—the BWC specifically mentions that benefits are given to employees. This is key.
Workers’ compensation is generally only available to employees of a company, charity, government agency, etc. Contractors and volunteers are typically not eligible to apply for or receive workers’ compensation benefits.
For example, volunteers who perform non-emergency services for private employers or non-profit organizations (like churches, food banks, or wildlife rescues) are not covered by workers’ compensation.
However, there are a few exceptions.
Volunteers who provide emergency services are covered by workers’ compensation insurance. (Emergency services can include firefighters, auxiliary police officers, and emergency medical technicians.) This is true for both private employers and public employers (like cities, counties, townships, villages, etc.)
In addition, volunteers who provide non-emergency services for public employers may be covered by workers’ compensation. (Non-emergency services would include things like picking up litter in the local park or performing community service as part of your sentence.) This depends on the employer: public employers like state agencies, cities, counties, townships, and villages may choose to cover volunteers. Because this is optional, not all volunteers will be covered in all places.
What to Do If You Are Injured while Volunteering
If you were injured while volunteering, your next steps will depend on the type of work you performed and your unique case.
For example, if you were performing emergency services (like firefighting) at the time of your injuries, you are covered by workers’ compensation. (Remember, this is the case whether you were volunteering for a private or public employer.) You can (and should) notify the employer of your injuries, seek medical attention if necessary, and apply for workers’ compensation. (If you’re not sure how to apply for workers’ compensation, read our previous post. It has a lot of information you’ll need!)
On the other hand, if you were not performing emergency services, your options are different.
If you were volunteering for a public employer, you should notify the employer of your injuries and check to see if you are covered. As we said above, some public employers choose to cover their volunteers. Yours might be one of them. If you’re covered, great! You can continue on to apply for the workers’ compensation benefits you need. (See the link above.)
Finally, if you were performing non-emergency work for a private employer, you will not be able to apply for workers’ compensation. It’s unfortunate, as you might be facing significant medical bills, time off work, and lost wages.
Still, that doesn’t mean you’re out of options. Depending on your case, you might be able to bring a personal injury claim.
For example, a personal injury claim might be right if your situation involved:
- Negligence on the part of the employer for which you were volunteering (as in, the employer did something wrong, which caused your injuries)
- Intentional acts on the part of the employer (for example, if someone deliberately attacked you)
If you were needlessly injured because of the wrongdoing of others, you might consider a personal injury claim.
Bringing a personal injury claim will allow you to sue for compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, future wage loss, and even pain and suffering. A successful claim will help to compensate and restore you.
Contact Us Today
Whether you are looking for information about workers’ compensation or personal injury, we’re here to help. The dedicated workers’ compensation and personal injury attorneys at Casper & Casper have years of experience in these fields helping people like you.
If you’ve been injured on the job or as a volunteer and need help determining your options, contact us. We would be happy to listen to your case. Call us today.