Organizations that rely on volunteers to do some of their work should carry adequate insurance to cover the possibility that a volunteer is injured on the job. But volunteers who suffer injuries while helping out causes they care about can be surprised to discover that the organization’s insurance program doesn’t cover them. That is in part because employers are not required to provide workers’ compensation coverage for most types of volunteers. And when they do, the unsalaried nature of a volunteer position can raise questions about the scope of benefits the injured worker should receive.
Volunteers are not necessarily covered by workers’ comp
Nevada law provides that “employees” must be covered by an employer’s workers’ compensation plan. Independent contractors, subcontractors, and their employees can fall within the scope of mandatory coverage as well. In general, because volunteers are not employees the organizations for which they work are not required to give them workers’ compensation benefits. There are a number of exceptions to this general rule: volunteer firefighters and volunteer health practitioners are two examples of volunteers who receive benefits.
One of the reasons an organization that relies upon volunteers might seek workers’ compensation coverage for them is to avoid facing expensive personal injury litigation in the event a volunteer is hurt. Once a person is covered by workers’ compensation insurance it becomes his or her sole remedy as a matter of law, except in rare cases of intentional injury. A volunteer who isn’t covered by workers’ comp benefits may be placed in the difficult position of needing to file a personal injury lawsuit against the organization they support.
Calculating a volunteer’s benefits
A volunteer who is fortunate enough to be covered by workers’ compensation benefits should have medical expenses taken care of. One of the key questions in these cases is how to calculate the volunteer’s lost wages in the event the volunteer must take time off from a regular job. Because the volunteer work isn’t compensated, there isn’t a clear measure against which to calculate lost wages with respect to the volunteer work. And what about lost wages from the regular job?
The Nevada Supreme Court recently examined this question in Felton v. Douglas County, No. 70497 (Nev. Feb. 15, 2018). In a nutshell, the Felton case held that an injured volunteer’s “deemed wage” benefits should be calculated taking into account all of the worker’s concurrent employment. In other words, an organization’s workers’ compensation coverage should provide lost wages benefits that are calculated according to a volunteer’s full employment picture, not just the volunteer work itself.
For over 45 years the attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have represented clients in the Las Vegas area in personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. If you have been injured while volunteering and have questions about how to resolve your situation, we may be able to help. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or request a call through our website.