Usually, a company does not need to include volunteers in its workers’ compensation program. Because there is no such requirement at the federal or state level in California, many companies elect not to cover their volunteers. This absence of insurance can lead to an uncomfortable and potentially expensive situation if a volunteer is injured while performing their duties. If you are a volunteer at a company or non-profit and suffer an injury while on duty, you may be forced to pay for your medical bills yourself. In other cases, you could have been told you would have coverage, but when you suffered an injury, you never received benefits. Whatever the situation, contact KJT Law Group at (818) 507-8525. A workers’ compensation lawyer at our firm can help you.
Can Workers’ Compensation Coverage Extend to Volunteers?
While businesses and non-profits don’t have to offer their volunteers workers’ compensation coverage, they do have the option to provide it. Under California Labor Code § 3363.5, workers’ compensation is not mandatory for volunteers, but it can be extended to them if the business wants to grant it.
California offers the most employment in the United States. Because there are so many employment opportunities and businesses, the state offers the most internships, both paid and unpaid.
If you are injured while working an unpaid internship, you may believe you are treated differently than a volunteer. Unfortunately, that is not necessarily the case. While paid interns are often covered by workers’ compensation, unpaid interns are often not unless the company that brought them in elects to offer them coverage.
In summary, while unpaid interns are not classified as volunteers, they are treated very similarly when it comes to workers’ compensation.
Finding Out If You Qualify for Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Like with any job, certain volunteering opportunities offer a greater risk of injury than others. If you want to volunteer at one of these types of workplaces, you may be concerned about whether you have access to workers’ compensation benefits should you sustain an injury.
Ask the Company You’re Volunteering for About Your Options
The simplest way to find out if you qualify for workers’ compensation is to simply ask before you show up to volunteer. If the company cannot give you a confident answer, you should wait to show up for your duties until you receive one.If you are told that you are eligible for workers’ compensation, ensure that you receive that information in writing. This documentation will help you should you need legal assistance after a claim is denied.
Who Pays Medical Bills?
When you’re an employee, your employer’s insurance provider would pay your medical bills if you are injured at work. One of the great things about workers’ compensation for employees is that benefits may begin paying out immediately after an injury.As a volunteer who does not qualify for workers’ compensation, you will receive no such benefits. If you are injured and need to seek medical attention, then you will be the one responsible for paying your medical bills as soon as they start to accrue. However, just because you initially pay your bills does not mean you have no options for recovering these damages in the future.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit as a Volunteer
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. This means that if you are injured while at work, you do not need to prove that the injury was your employer’s fault. Your employer will need to provide you with benefits immediately after your injury.However, if workers’ compensation doesn’t cover your damages, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the company that you were volunteering for. In general, you have two years to take action, according to CCP § 335.1.There are exceptions to this time frame, but they’re rare. In any event, if you’re too late to file, you may no longer have any options for compensation. That’s why it’s best to get started on your case right away.
Seek Legal Representation
As you recover from your injuries and watch your medical bills pile up, you may feel stressed about your situation. Do not attempt to face your circumstances alone. Instead, hire an attorney who has experience in managing personal injury lawsuits. They will be able to work on your behalf and seek the damages you are entitled to recover.
A key difference between workers’ compensation and a lawsuit is that in a lawsuit, you must prove fault or negligence to receive an award. For example, the company might have administered improper training or allowed bad working conditions.Your attorney can gather evidence, such as the incident report, relevant photos, video surveillance, and video surveillance, to prove the company’s failure to maintain a safe working environment.
Learn More About Volunteers’ Eligibility for Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Just because you are a volunteer does not mean that you are without options for recovering financial compensation in the event of an injury. While many companies do not provide their volunteers with workers’ compensation coverage, there are alternative means to recover compensation, such as filing a lawsuit.If you are unsure of whether you have coverage, the best thing to do is ask the company you volunteered for. If you believe that you should have received benefits or if negligence was the reason for your injury, we encourage you to reach out to our firm. At KJT Law Group, our workers’ compensation attorneys are ready to assist you when you need us most.If you are a volunteer who needs help after you suffered an injury while on duty, contact us at (818) 507-8525. We offer complimentary case reviews and only receive payment if and when we recover damages for you.