Good Deed Gone Wrong – Injured While Volunteering

Most organizations need the help of volunteers to keep their business moving forward. But what happens if a volunteer is injured at work? Who is responsible? Is the company required to cover any medical expenses?

It can be a tricky and complex situation when volunteers come into play. Read on to learn what types of volunteers are covered under workers’ compensation and what to do if you are injured while volunteering.

Worker’s compensation doesn’t cover everyone

Many are under the impression that workers’ compensation will cover a volunteer if you are injured. That is not the case. Since volunteers are not paid employees, typically workers’ compensation does not cover you.

While this varies from state to state due to how specific the statute defines an employee, in Pennsylvania, there are only a few types of volunteers that are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

Volunteers covered in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, there are a few types of volunteers who are included as an employee under the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act. These volunteers include:

  • Volunteer firefighters
  • Volunteer ambulance corpsmen
  • Volunteer rescue and lifesaving squad members
  • Volunteers members of State Parks and Forest Program
  • Pennsylvania Deputy Game Protectors
  • Special waterways patrolman
  • Forest fighters
  • Volunteer members of hazardous materials response teams
  • Emergency management coordinators
  • Good Samaritans who, while in the course of employment, are injured as a direct result of attempting to prevent the commission of a crime, or rendering care, first aid, or rescue at the scene of an emergency
  • Auxiliary police
  • Special school police
  • Special fire police if nominated, confirmed and displaying a badge of authority

Under the current state law, the above volunteers are covered by workers’ compensation if you were injured while on a call but may also include additional essential duties.

The volunteer workers’ compensation coverage is not purchased by the employer but is provided by the law itself. Just like a paid employee, coverage includes medical expenses and wage loss calculated by Pennsylvania based on average weekly wages.

Filing for workers’ compensation as a volunteer

If you believe you are entitled to workers’ compensation if you’ve been injured while volunteering, you should take the same steps as any paid employee. These steps include:

  • Notifying your supervisor
  • Documenting the injury
  • Seeing a medical provider
  • Filing a claim within the statute of limitations

In Pennsylvania, qualified volunteers should report their injury to their supervisor or chief as soon as reasonably possible but must do so within 120 days. Once an injury is reported, assuming the organization you volunteered for has a panel physicians list, you will have 90 days to be treated by one of the medical providers on that list. The organization’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier should notify you if your injury has been accepted or denied within 21 days after the injury is reported.

Compensation for an Injured Volunteer

If your volunteer’s claim is accepted, you will receive benefits. An average weekly wage will be calculated to determine the amount of benefits received. Since volunteers do not earn a wage, the Workers’ Compensation Act provides a wage loss benefit that is equal to the Statewide Average Weekly Wage (SAWW). This is determined each year by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. If, however, your actual earnings from your employer a higher than the SAWW then those earnings will be used to calculate your average weekly wage and workers’ compensation payments.

Contact an experienced attorney at KBG today if you were injured while volunteering. We will help get the Results You Deserve®.