What if your Klutzy Volunteer Breaks His Leg?

I’m a total klutz.

If I decide to volunteer for your organization, make sure I sign a release because I’ll find something to trip over.

Let’s say I did, say, accidentally gash my hand while cutting veggies for your charitable dinner. What kind of insurance might help pay for my medical bills?

photo: Cécile Graat, from http://www.gracedesign.nl

photo: Cécile Graat, from http://www.gracedesign.nl

Workers Compensation

Workers compensation is governed very specifically by state code. I would recommend you discuss this option with your agent.

As a rule, though, I believe that you want to shield your workers comp policy as much as possible. The workers comp market is volatile and a bad claim record can have horrible repercussions on your premium costs.

General Liability Coverage A (Coverage A – The Main Piece of the GL Pie)

The example above is a simple accident, but what if negligence is involved?

Your typical, standard general liability policy will defend your organization if you are handed a claim of negligence by a volunteer.

If you hand my daughter a chainsaw to cut down a tree and a bloody accident results, I will probably sue you. She is six years-old for goodness sake. You had no business giving her a chainsaw!

I use a ridiculous example to simply point out that if your organization is negligent, your GL policy should defend the organization. As we say in the insurance biz, there’s no exclusion for ‘Dumb’ as far as the organization is concerned.

Individual volunteers or employees who cause injury to another volunteer wouldn’t be covered. Just the organization.

Medical Expenses for Volunteer Injuries (Coverage C)

Technically, your General Liability policy provides medical expense payments if your volunteer gets hurt. You don’t have to be negligent. The line item in the GL policy  usually has a limit of $5,000 up to $20,000 and is available to any person (besides employees) who accidentally gets hurt on your premises or due to your operations.

My personal, humble opinion, is that this coverage is NOT the best way to handle a volunteer injury, especially if you have a lot of volunteer labor. To me, your General Liability policy should be reserved to pay for claims brought by third parties: clients, visitors to your facilities, vendors who come by, etc.

So what works better?

The Volunteer Accident Policy

The Volunteer Accident Policy is a great solution to handle volunteer injuries. It is designed specifically to provide no fault coverage to volunteers who get hurt while helping you fulfill your organization’s mission.

Key provisions of these are (with a wide variety of options in the market place):

  1. Accidental death
  2. Accidental dismemberment
  3. Accidental medical expense (common limits from $10,000 to $100,000)
  4. Disability due to accidental injuries
  5. Accidental dental

Another key benefit of a Volunteer Accident Policy is that it protects your General Liability policy.  It’s almost like insurance from having to use your insurance.

If I volunteer and get hurt, and you have an accident policy, then you don’t have to tap your General Liability. Since the accident policy is typically a much smaller expense, any claim history will have a less drastic effect on your overall premium costs down the line.

What Solution Is Right for Your Organization?

If you have a volunteer labor force, I’d definitely recommend discussing a volunteer accident policy with your agent. Some states might allow for volunteers to be covered under workers compensation and as mentioned, the general liability policy has some coverage. Still, you want to shield those policies as much as possible from volunteer claims.

If you have no volunteer force, then perhaps it’s not necessary.

Your situation is unique and all the variables should be discussed with a licensed professional.

  • Have you had a volunteer injury claim paid? With what policy?
  • How was your claims experience if you’ve had both a GL and an Accident Policy claim?
  • If you’re a nonprofit manager, what would you recommend?


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