It depends. Workers Compensation laws vary by state, but many do not allow Workers Compensation insurance to extend to volunteers, only to paid employees. In some states, payment in kind, such as room and board, would require employers to cover volunteers. Its important to evaluate the laws of your state and the specific volunteer relationship to determine whether you are required to provide Workers Compensation coverage.
If a state does not permit workers comp insurance to cover volunteer workers, then you have some other options, such as Volunteer Accident Medical Insurance, Waivers or Hold Harmless Agreements, and in some cases, General Liability Insurance.
If a state does allow an endorsement to extend Workers Compensation coverage to volunteers, your insurance company will likely want the details on the duties performed, the hours worked, the age range of volunteers, etc. to underwrite the exposure to potential injury. The benefit of covering volunteers under Workers Compensation coverage is that the exclusive remedy doctrine prevents someone considered an employee from suing their employer, and injuries are subject to a schedule of benefits. However, think carefully before offering this coverage to volunteers; it may drive up your insurance costs for years. Consider whether the alternative solutions discussed may meet your needs without impacting your Workers Compensation Coverage.
Our Risk Alert, “Workers Compensation Coverage and Volunteers” provides additional information to consider as well as additional resources.
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