No. Volunteers are not covered under workers’ compensation insurance in Florida. Have it in mind that Florida Labor Statute 440.02 declares that only employees are eligible for worker’s compensation. Employees are “any person who receives remuneration from an employer for the performance of any work or service.”
The statute goes further to exclude volunteers especially since volunteers do not receive compensation for their work, and they cannot be defined as eligible for worker’s compensation. In the state of Florida, there are certain situations where a volunteer can be considered an employee – at least when it comes to workers’ compensation purposes.
Florida requires workers’ compensation benefits to be accorded to any individual volunteering for a government entity or an agency of the government. This includes volunteer firefighters, volunteer school crossing guards, volunteers in city-run after-care programs, or any other person that works for free for any government agency.
Although Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law doesn’t give room for a governmental volunteer to get workers’ compensation benefits, have it in mind that it permits them to receive indemnity benefits. The benefits these government volunteers receive include medical – which includes medical bills that relate directly to the injury.
These are paid by the employer as long as the volunteer can show proof that the injury was sustained while on or as a result of the job. In Florida, numerous “grey” areas would allow a volunteer to be eligible for worker’s compensation, such as in a public-private partnership.
Worker’s compensation is a very vital part of small business insurance as it caters to medical bills, recovery costs, and partial missed wages if an employee is injured at work. It can also cover funeral costs and benefits to an employee’s family in the event of a fatality on the job.
Things to Consider When Working With Volunteers in Florida
Volunteers are without a doubt a very vital asset to numerous organizations and businesses, from schools and non-profits to eldercare centers and hospitals. However, when working with volunteers in Florida, there are important factors to consider to ensure you are well-protected.
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Don’t Presume You Have Coverage Under Your Workers Compensation for Volunteers
Most often, when volunteers get hurt, owners and managers assume that their workers’ compensation insurance will cater to the medical expenses. However, you need to understand that since volunteers are not paid employees, they are not covered under workers’ compensation insurance in Florida.
Indeed a good number of modern companies prefer to inculcate a voluntary compensation endorsement into their policies, without noting that this only covers employees who are not covered by the workers’ compensation law.
Even with the confusing title, voluntary compensation endorsements do not in any way cater to volunteers, and most companies fail to realize this until an injury occurs. And at that point, it’s too late. You shouldn’t let that happen to you, and that is why it is beneficial to be proactive and ask your insurance broker about these workers’ comp. related questions:
- Do I have coverage under my workers’ compensation for volunteers?
- If they are covered, then to what extent? Where in the policy is coverage identified?
- If not, what are my options for adding coverage?
Understand What’s Contained in Your General Liability Insurance
According to experts, information in general liability policies tends to include volunteers under the definition of an insured. However, what this means is most often misunderstood. If the volunteer inflicts injury or property damage to a resident, patient, or visitor, the general liability policy would consider the volunteer as an insured and offer maximum protection for claims made against them by those third parties.
However, as an insured, the volunteer is not permitted to make a negligence claim against another insured (i.e., the company). The volunteer also is not allowed to receive benefits under the medical payments coverage available to third parties. Additionally, if you work with volunteers, you must ask these general liability insurance-related questions from your broker to be very certain:
- If a negligence claim is instituted against them by a third party, are my volunteers protected under my general liability policy?
- How will my volunteers’ medical expenses be catered for if they are injured while volunteering?
- What are my options for covering my volunteers’ medical expenses?
Consider Your Company’s Coverage Options
Businesses or establishments that work with volunteers regularly value their contributions and will seek ways to protect them.
However, since Florida does not permit workers comp insurance to cover volunteer workers, it is recommended you speak with your insurance broker to consider including a volunteer-accident medical insurance policy designed particularly to cater to the medical bills (or deductibles and co-pays if otherwise covered under another plan) if injured in their capacity as volunteers.
Another option to take into consideration is having volunteers sign waivers and hold-harmless agreements to ensure that they know that you won’t be offering coverage, and agree to take on the risks themselves by seeking their own or leveraging existing coverage.
Although this isn’t the approach most establishments want to take, it may be the most sensible and cost-effective. Volunteers are known to invest a whole lot of time, talent, efforts, and connections to a wide array of businesses and organizations. Owing to that, they are a crucial, special resource worth taking care of and safeguarding.
Check if Your Volunteers Have Coverage Elsewhere
A good number of Florida businesses work with unpaid student interns who are involved in a school-approved internship, but who may or may not be covered by the school. Owing to that, before you work with student interns, ask the educational institution if they provide coverage in case the intern gets hurt while volunteering — or causes someone else to get hurt.
If the school is offering coverage, don’t forget to request evidence in the form of a certificate of insurance. In addition, it is recommended you take your time to understand the legalities of working with unpaid interns, especially in the state of Florida. Things have changed over the years, and new rules apply.
Most often, the only coverage available to volunteer workers for accidents or injuries is the coverage their own insurance policies provide. This may be a personal auto policy or health insurance plan. Reach out to them about the situation and encourage them to consider what’s covered in their own plans in the event of an injury. This will go a long way in growing trust and showing your concern for their well-being.
Just as it was noted above, volunteers are excluded from Florida’s workers’ compensation statutes, although there are certain exceptions that workers and employers are expected to be aware of. Just because a person is a volunteer does not mean that they are not eligible from receiving worker’s compensation benefits.
Therefore, if you are a volunteer or run an organization that works with volunteers, make sure you understand the legal duties to coverage to ensure you are adequately protected.