Many not-for-profit organizations have a plethora of services, programs and activities which rely heavily on volunteers for assistance. Whether it’s painting a residential facility, participating in a special event, or running a fundraising event, your organization must be firmly committed to the health and safety of every volunteer. But what if one of your volunteers is injured in the course of their duties? Who’d pay the medical bills when a volunteer suffers an injury? Also, what insurance protections could you or should you provide for that individual? There are different philosophies on whether this coverage should be purchased, as well as how exposure should be covered.

Some workers’ compensation insurance companies will permit volunteers to be covered under the organization’s existing workers’ compensation coverage. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t fully understand how this can negatively impact them in the long run. When an insurance company permits volunteer coverage for workers’ compensation, there can be a premium cost included. At the time of audit, it’s possible the insurance company will pick up the exposure and charge premium associated with the number of volunteer hours. In addition, claims incurred under the workers’ compensation policy will be part of the organization’s experience modification factor – and remain with the organization for three years. Lastly, it’s vitally important your workers’ compensation claims be managed effectively. This is done through direct contact with the injured party, as well as utilization of light duty and return to work programs. When an injured party is a volunteer, you lose much of your ability to appropriately manage the claim.

Many volunteers will have their own medical coverage in place. Other than potential out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, coinsurance), the volunteers aren’t typically looking to the organization for payment. One possible solution to covering these out-of-pocket expenses is through a volunteer accident policy. Not only could this provide coverage for out-of-pocket expenses, it can also be structured in a way that provides protection to those who wouldn’t have medical coverage.  This policy can also be used to protect your general liability and workers’ compensation polices from those claims. This coverage can provide the volunteers with the comfort of knowing their services are valued and appreciated.

So the next time a volunteer decides to donate their time, energy or expertise to paint a home, counsel individuals or lead a team to make the community stronger, think about the protection you can offer them, as well as your organization.

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