What you should know about volunteer laws in Arizona
Workers’ compensation was established to compensate individuals who might suffer job-related injuries or illnesses. The insurance is provided by employers to cover their paid employees only.
In the majority of cases, volunteers are not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they get hurt while volunteering in Arizona. However, there are certain exceptions and allowances under specific circumstances.
Dangers of volunteer work
There are many risky jobs that pose a health risk to volunteer workers. A volunteer might be bitten or otherwise injured when working in an animal shelter. Exposure to toxic chemicals and working with powerful machinery are risks of working in agriculture. Mentally unstable older adults might cause physical harm to someone volunteering in a nursing home. Or an accident might happen while a volunteer is going to or from a work location.
Generally speaking, these volunteers are not covered while volunteering in Arizona.
However, not covering volunteers under workers’ compensation can be a risk for employers. Injured volunteers may ultimately decide to sue an organization for negligence in order to receive payment to cover their medical expenses. For this reason, companies in Arizona are advised to stay informed of compensation coverage laws concerning volunteer workers. Businesses might also consider paying volunteers a small wage (and therefore bringing them under the workers’ compensation system) to prevent a potentially expensive lawsuit.
States offering workers’ compensation for volunteers
A select number of states cover volunteers under workers’ compensation laws. In these states, companies and organizations are more likely to seek volunteers when needed. Oregon is one such state. California insures people who volunteer for the state’s park system.
In addition to persons defined as employees under section 23-901, volunteer workers of a county, city, town, or other political subdivision of the state may be deemed to be employees and entitled to the benefits provided by this chapter upon the passage of a resolution or ordinance by the political subdivision defining the nature and type of volunteer work and workers to be entitled to such benefits. The basis for computing compensation benefits and premium payments shall be four hundred dollars per month.
Under that same law, volunteer firefighters — as well as volunteer workers of a licensed health care institution and volunteers who participate in emergency management training — are covered by Arizona’s workers’ compensation insurance just like any other public employee.
However, volunteers working at non-profits or similar independent organizations are often not covered by worker’s compensation. Potential volunteers should check with an organization before accepting a volunteer position.
Questions and answers about compensation for a job-related accident, injury or illness in Arizona
Volunteer workers’ compensation for special circumstances
In some states, any form of compensation for volunteer services rendered might be considered an established working relationship. Volunteers who receive food, clothing, shelter, awards or other items in these instances are considered to be paid. Therefore, these volunteers may qualify for workers’ compensation.
Interns or practicum students are other examples. Although they perform the same type of work as paid employees, the interns or students are awarded college credit and experience. So, they may be covered by workers’ compensation if they get hurt while working. Students might also be covered by the university or college they are attending if hurt on campus.
What to do if you’re injured as a volunteer in Arizona
When a volunteer covered by workers’ compensation is injured, they must follow the same procedures as if they were a paid employee.
The first step involves notifying the supervisor of the incident and the injury. The volunteer may need statements from witnesses at the time of the event. Then, they should seek medical care from a healthcare provider associated with the business or entity. Conversely, they may be able to see a health care provider of their choosing. The physician who is providing care must provide a detailed account of the injury, the care provided and any need for future treatment.
In states where workers’ compensation is available for all volunteers, benefits are awarded in accordance with the payments that might be received by paid employees working the same type of job and the same hours. These benefits include compensation for medical expenses and lost wages.
Consult an Arizona workers’ compensation attorney
Anyone who suffers an injury while working or volunteering for a business, organization or government agency should consider consulting with a local attorney to determine if they are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits and help guide volunteers through the process of filing a claim.
Even though a volunteer typically doesn’t qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in Arizona, they might be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. Someone who is injured while volunteering might be a victim of employer negligence. In any event, a qualified attorney will have experience with work-related injuries to determine if you are eligible for compensation.