26 Jul Volunteering? What and Who is Covered
Today we’re going to talk about volunteering, and what we have to worry about with someone volunteers for a business or a nonprofit.
Welcome to insurance talk with Cheri Martinen and Rex Lesueur. We are the father daughter duo from Bancorp Insurance, located in beautiful Central Oregon. We are here to talk about some fun insurance stuff today, we love talking about insurance. We love it! If you want to talk about insurance, pick up the phone and call us. We’ll be happy to talk about it. (800) 452-6826 Oh, you’re local. That’s cool. (541) 536-1726.
So, today we’re going to talk about volunteering, and what we have to worry about with someone volunteers for a business or a nonprofit. So, right now it’s difficult to find employees and I am sure that there are businesses that have a situation where the dishwasher didn’t show up to for the shift and they have to ask a friend to help out for the evening. The same scenario can happen with contractors “Hey, your kid just got out of school, what’s he doing?” “Could he help clean up my job site?” What accident coverage is there for volunteers?
I was just talking to Rex about this. We had a recent situation where a resort had some friends come help clean up, because it was a rough winter and that individual’s husband had passed and they needed help. And, as good friends are, we said “We’re here for you to clean the gutters and sweep the front porches, whatever you need.”
Volunteering is something that we all do.
It feels good to volunteer, I volunteer for several different nonprofits and I feel it’s important. One of the things that we need to understand when we’re volunteering though, is that we volunteer in Oregon at our own risk. So, if you’re volunteering, giving your time to the chamber of commerce or the red cross or anything like that, you are volunteering at your own risk. That sounds dangerous right? Well, it is! There are some some real problems with this situation that a lot of people don’t recognize. Who’s going to get hurt volunteering for the Red Cross, you never know, but it does happen.
Also, there’s volunteering for a business. If you’re volunteering for a nonprofit that is one thing, a business is another. Businesses more than likely have workers’ comp. However, as a volunteer, are you covered by their workers’ comp? Well, there’s this kind of a fine line where maybe you are and you’re maybe no. If your offered any compensation, then more than likely you are probably covered. For example, if the employer or the person you’re volunteering for throws you a gift certificate or buys you dinner. Another example is “Hey, come over here and help me clean this lot. And I’ll give you a pizza.” These situations could be considered compensation and if you’re a compensated employee, then you’d be covered under the businesses workers compensation coverage even if you had not filled out paperwork to be an employee. More than likely the workers comp company is going to have to cover you, but that’s not a given. So you need to be aware that if you are volunteering to ask them about that and be aware that you may be putting your own financial situation at risk.
We had a case where someone was volunteering and the business did not have workers compensation coverage. In the end, the insurance company paid a very small limit under the medical payments part of their general liability policy. But, that isn’t always the case. An example, is a single person contractor that has never had any employees, but the one time they had somebody come help with a job they got injured. This would be covered by the general liability, but if there would have been workers comp insurance, the workers comp would have paid the entire bill for the medical plus disability and any death benefit that would happen. So, be aware that it’s not easy. Every situation is different and we can’t go through all the scenarios here on radio. But, if you’re volunteering for somebody, just know that you’re more than likely doing it at your own risk and be aware.
What about volunteering for jobs that you know are risky, such as firefighting?
Most volunteer fire departments have workers compensation insurance, but by the way it’s not the best product. The insurance company that runs the worker’s comp is working very, very hard to make the claim as small as possible. So we oftentimes see people who are volunteering for a fire department and get hurt. The workers’ comp company throws them a few bucks, but keeps them on disability for a week and then tells them to go back to work. Meanwhile, they’re still limping and you know, the blood hasn’t really even dried yet.
One of the things that we recommend if you’re a nonprofit entity and using volunteers all the time, that you buy accident coverage for volunteers. Accident policies can be very sophisticated or they can be very simple. The simple ones could pay up to say $25,000 or $30,000 of the medical expense for any individual that gets hurt while volunteering. And then there’s usually a small limit for life insurance, maybe $5,000 or $10,000. There are other policies for fire departments that can also include income and all kinds of different benefits that are specific to that kind of entity. But, like I said, if you are using volunteers a lot, I recommend that you call us and talk about getting an accident policy. They’re not very expensive, actually. They’re cheaper than you think. And, you can really help a volunteer out if they happen to get hurt.
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Disclaimer: This content is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be used in place of consultation with our agents.