Non-Profits thrive off of the hard work of volunteers; donations, tangible gifts, and the irreplaceable gift of time. While the question posed below specifically comes from a non-profit organization, there are issues to be considered when your employees do volunteer work on your behalf or when you yourself are the volunteer.
Our nonprofit organization depends heavily on the services provided by volunteers. Do any of our insurance policies cover medical expenses if a volunteer is injured on the job? Will our liability policies defend us if a volunteer sues the organization because of the injury? Is the organization covered if we get sued for an accident caused by the volunteer?
These are excellent questions. Board members and staff of nonprofit organizations are right to be concerned about taking care of their volunteers and protecting the organization from liability that might arise out of the services provided by the volunteers. We are privileged to serve several organizations such as yours and this question comes up frequently.
Injuries to Volunteers
If a volunteer is injured while providing services for your organization, the first thing you need to know is that your workers’ compensation policy won’t provide benefits. Texas law doesn’t permit workers’ comp coverage on volunteers, other than those who work for government and emergency service organizations.
If a volunteer is injured while providing services at your location, your commercial general liability policy provides some coverage for his or her medical bills. The limit of coverage is very small – typically only $5,000. If the volunteer believes the organization or one of its employees is legally responsible for the injury, your insurance company will investigate the accident and offer payment if it agrees, or defend you and pay any resulting judgment if the volunteer sues, subject to the liability coverage limit.
If a volunteer is injured in an automobile accident while using a vehicle owned or leased by your organization, your business auto policy provides some coverage for medical bills and other benefits if you have purchased Medical Payments, Personal Injury Protection and/or Uninsured Motorists coverages, up to the limits purchased for those coverages. If the volunteer believes the organization or one of its employees is legally responsible for the injury, your auto insurance company will investigate the accident and offer payment if it agrees, or defend you and pay any resulting judgment if the volunteer sues, subject to the liability coverage limit.
If a volunteer is injured in an automobile accident while using his or her own vehicle, your policies won’t provide any coverage for medical bills. It might be a good idea to inform your volunteers of this fact and encourage them to review their own auto insurance policies with their agents to be sure they are adequately covered.
As you see from the information provided so far, covering medical bills incurred by volunteers while working for your organization is a hit-or-miss proposition. The best way to provide medical and other benefits to your volunteers is to purchase a special policy known as “Volunteer Accident Insurance.” This type of policy typically provides a wide range of benefits, including accidental death, accidental dismemberment, accident medical expense and occupational disability payments. High limits of coverage are available from most insurance companies offering this type of policy. Ask your agent for more information and a proposal.
Injuries to Others Caused by Volunteers
Your general and automobile liability policies cover the organization if a volunteer injures someone or damages property of others while working for you. If the accident involves an automobile owned by the volunteer, special coverage is needed, so ask your agent to be sure you have the appropriate coverage.
Your policies may or may not provide the same liability protection for the volunteer should they be sued individually for injury or damage caused by the volunteer. These policies usually provide the coverage unless the accident involves the volunteer’s own vehicle. Of course the volunteer should be able to rely on his or her own auto liability policy for this protection. It might be a good idea to encourage volunteers to review their own auto insurance policies with their agents to be sure they are adequately covered, especially if they are using their vehicles to transport clients of your organization. Special coverage is available to cover volunteers on your auto liability policy – excess over their own policies or primary if their policies don’t provide coverage for some reason.