Typically, my client simply asks, “Are my volunteers covered?”
Normally the answer is “Yes” … and “No.”
The appropriate follow up question to “Are my volunteers covered?” is simply this: “Are you concerned about coverage for injuries to volunteers or coverage on behalf of volunteers if they are negligent while doing work for you?”
In other words, there are two concerns with volunteers:
- Volunteer Injury: Will you have some financial coverage to pay for a volunteer’s trip to the ER (or worse).
- Volunteer Negligence: Will you and/or your volunteer have liability coverage and defense if he is named in a lawsuit against your nonprofit?
Volunteer InjuryGeneral liability policies aren’t intended to address volunteers’ injuries, especially when those injuries are purely accidental. Sometimes there is coverage for accidental, no-fault injury to a volunteer under the ‘Medical Payments’ line item on the General Liability policy. That said, volunteer injury is many times excluded.
Often, injury to volunteers is the situation my clients are most concerned about when they ask, “Are volunteers covered?” So it’s important to ask your insurance agent if coverage is excluded or not. A great protection, regardless, is an accident policy.
In those cases where a volunteer injury is accidental, the only coverage (unless a workers comp policy is forced to pay) would be a volunteer accident policy.
Volunteer accident insurance policies are usually inexpensive and provide funds for minor injuries volunteers. These policies vary and can include accidental death and dismemberment, short term disability, or other bells and whistles.
Beyond these accident policies, it’s good to have a workers compensation policy in place just in case. Workers comp, again, isn't intended to address volunteer injuries - but it’s not outside the realm of possibility for a judge and jury put the onus on the comp carrier to help out.
Finally, make sure to have your general liability paid up. In the case of gross negligence, this policy might be brought into the game.
These three policies will help tighten the potential gaps in coverage when addressing volunteer injuries.
Volunteer NegligenceEven if my client is more concerned about injuries to volunteers when she calls me, this question will eventually come up. “Am I covered if a volunteer does something negligent?” (or dumb or accidental or what have you)
The wonderful thing about the current insurance market for nonprofits is that volunteers are often included in the definition of “Who is an Insured?” Even if they aren’t, the companies I represent will normally add volunteers as additional insureds on the general, professional, and abuse liability policies.
Further, auto policies will follow the vehicles owned by the nonprofit. And hired/nonowned auto policies will allow for excess coverage for the organization even if it’s a volunteer running errands in his own vehicle.
So, make sure to ask your insurance agent if your general and other liability policies specifically give coverage for volunteers. You want to make sure that your organization will be protected just in case that high school volunteer accidentally puts a sledge hammer through somebody’s car window while horseplaying with the rest of the youth group that blessed you with their services one Saturday.
Final ThoughtsIf you’re a nonprofit leader, consider the following when talking to your agent about volunteer coverage:
- In my current insurance program, are injuries to volunteers addressed and how?
- In my current insurance program, do I have coverage if a volunteer is negligent when working with my organization?
- In my current insurance program, does my volunteer have coverage or defense if she is accused or liable for some negligent act?