Can Volunteers Get Workers’ Compensation?

Can Volunteers Get Workers’ Compensation?

Throughout the Atlanta area, volunteers add to the vibrancy and success of organizations and businesses. They tutor kids, mentor refugees, deliver cheer to hospitals, care for parks and gardens, deliver meals to seniors, foster pets and serve the unhoused. But whether they’re spending time in an office offering bookkeeping services or doing something higher risk, like staffing a polling location or providing disaster relief, accidents sometimes occur.

Because volunteers aren’t paid employees, Georgia law rarely includes them in the workers’ comp system. What does this mean for volunteers who are hurt while helping out?

Are any volunteers covered by workers’ compensation? 

In Georgia, the workers’ comp system typically only covers paid employees (of companies with at least three full-time, part-time or seasonal workers). Georgia does make exceptions for volunteer firefighters, volunteer emergency responders and volunteer law enforcement, however, automatically extending workers’ comp protections to these high-risk community helpers.

If you’re volunteering in some other capacity than emergency responder, it’s smart to inquire first about the protections the organization offers. Some businesses or nonprofits will ensure their volunteers receive compensation for on-the-job injuries by extending their workers’ comp coverage. This is especially common for organizations that may work with many volunteers or maintain relationships with volunteer partners for years.

Other organizations will purchase volunteer accident medical insurance or even simply make sure that their general liability insurance covers personal injury lawsuits.

Organizations that choose to forgo any protections for their volunteers also open themselves up to added risk. Workers’ comp is a no-fault system, meaning injured employees can receive compensation regardless of the circumstances leading to the workplace accident. However, covered employees lose their right to sue their employer for negligence. But because volunteers aren’t employees, they are free to file personal injury or premises liability suits after an injury while volunteering.

What to do after you’re hurt while volunteering

While it’s smart to discuss accident coverage before beginning a volunteer position—especially one that is risky, involves driving or is long term—sometimes it’s not possible. If you’re hurt while volunteering, you’ll want to follow a path similar to that of an injured employee, even if you don’t think you’re covered.

  • Document your injury, noting where and when it occurred.
  • Take down witness names and statements.
  • Notify your supervisor or volunteer coordinator.
  • Seek medical attention and follow up with any specialists.

You’ll then want to speak to an Atlanta workers’ comp attorney. An expert in workers’ comp will consider details that could challenge your volunteer designation. If, for example, you’re compensated in some way—like a farm volunteer who receives free food and housing—you may be a volunteer in name only. If you qualify for workers’ comp, it’s the quickest path to receiving compensation for your medical bills and expenses. If you’re not covered, a workers’ compensation attorney may refer you to a trusted personal injury attorney.

Contact a workers’ compensation lawyer in Atlanta 

If you’ve been hurt while volunteering, you need to understand your options for recovery. A workers’ comp attorney will help you quickly determine if you qualify for workers’ comp or if you need to pursue other legal remedies. Contact the Law Offices of Laura Lanzisera today for a free consultation, or give us a call at 404-991-5097.

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