Tampa Workers Compensation: Are Volunteers Eligible?

One would think that volunteers would be protected if they got hurt while performing their volunteer duties. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Our Tampa workers compensation lawyers can explain why volunteers aren’t covered by workers compensation. 

Volunteers Are a Lot Different Than Paid Employees

Obviously, volunteers are different from employees in several ways. First, volunteers aren’t paid. They offer their time for free. Second, volunteers aren’t required to abide by a particular schedule.

Unfortunately, one of the other major differences is that employees are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Volunteers, for the most part, are not. Because they don’t qualify as employees, they aren’t eligible for workers compensation.

Clearly, Volunteers Aren’t Paid for Their Services

One of the reasons we look so admirably at volunteers is that they offer their time without expecting anything in return. They donate their time, resources, and even materials to help others in need.

Sometimes, volunteers help an organization for a few hours. Other times, they do so for days or weeks. For example, hospital volunteers often dedicate one or two days a week to helping others. This may continue for years. 

Some Volunteers Work as Many Hours as Actual Employees

There are other times when a person volunteers as many hours a week as full-time employees. As long as they do this without the expectation of any recompense, they will be considered a true volunteer.

If, however, the volunteer is compensated for their time and efforts, they may not be a volunteer for purposes of workers compensation. For example, according to Florida Workers Compensation Law §440.02-(15)(d)(6), volunteers don’t receive any payment from the organization they work with. 

If you receive free or reduced rent in exchange for your efforts, you may very well qualify as an employee.

Volunteers in Tampa Are Not Considered Employees for Workers Compensation Purposes

The courts in Florida have made it very clear that volunteers aren’t entitled to workers compensation benefits. In 2007, in the case Osceola Co. School Board v. Boos, the courts held that, as long as a worker meets the criteria for a volunteer, they cannot receive workers comp benefits. 

It will be difficult for your Tampa workers compensation lawyer to convince the insurance company that you are an employee. This is a big obstacle to overcome. It will come down to the details of your case and the circumstances of your position of volunteer.

Florida Workers Compensation Act Section §440.02-(15)(d)(6) is Very Clear

Florida law is very clear in its definition of an employee. A volunteer is someone who is not compensated for their duties. According to Florida Workers Compensation Law §440.02-(15)(d)(6), unless there is “substantial evidence” that there was valuable consideration paid to the workers, they are a volunteer.

The other important element of being a volunteer is that both the volunteer and the organization understand the relationship to be of a voluntary nature. For example, if a volunteer only works because the organization promises them a job or compensation down the road, they may be considered an employee.

Tampa workers compensation

Your Tampa Workers Compensation Lawyer Knows There Are Exceptions to This Rule

When you first meet with your Tampa workers compensation attorney, they’ll ask you what your employment status is. Since there are a few exceptions to the definition of volunteer, it’s important that you’re detailed about your position.

One of the big exceptions is if you volunteer for a government office or agency. The other exception would be someone who is called a volunteer but demonstrates all the characteristics of an employee. 

Your Tampa Workers Comp Attorney Can Argue That You Are an Employee

One way to help you get workers compensation benefits is if your Tampa workers compensation lawyer can prove that you are an employee. Some of the following factors will be considered when making this determination:

  • Are you paid anything at all for your services?
  • Are you promised free rent, free food, or any other free benefit in exchange for your volunteering services?
  • Do you have independent control of your schedule and duties? Or are these things controlled by the company?
  • Are you paid more for things like mileage, tolls, and other expenses than regular employees?

These are the things your Tampa workers compensation attorney will consider when they first review your case.  

Can Your Tampa Workers Compensation Lawyer Prove That You Were Paid?

In order to help you qualify for workers compensation benefits, your Tampa workers compensation lawyer may try to prove that you were paid for your services. For example, did you receive a portion of money raised through your volunteering?

Another situation where it may appear that you’re a paid employee is if you’re given a car to use for both business and personal use. If a vehicle is titled in your name and the company pays for it, your Tampa workers compensation attorney will argue you’re an employee.

Volunteers Are Never Entitled to Weekly Benefits

Florida workers compensation law is very clear about volunteers. Volunteers in Florida are never entitled to workers compensation benefits. Unless you meet one of the exceptions, you will be denied benefits.

In very unique situations, there are companies who may pay for insurance in case a volunteer gets hurt. For example, some companies in Florida purchase voluntary accident insurance. This way, if a volunteer gets hurt, at least their medical bills will be covered.

Reach Out to One of Our Tampa Workers Compensation Lawyer for Help

If you suffered a serious injury while volunteering, you’ll find yourself in a quandary. You won’t be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. At the same time, you shouldn’t be left responsible for the medical bills related to your injury.

All you can do is hope that the organization you volunteer with carries voluntary accident insurance. If they do, your medical care should be covered in full.

Our Firm Does Offer New Clients a Free, Initial Consultation

We do offer new clients a free, initial consultation so this meeting will be free of charge. We believe it’s important that both you and our firm have the chance to meet before any decisions are made.

If, after your free consultation, you wish to retain our services, we will get started right away. The good news is that you don’t have to pay our firm anything until we settle your case.

The Company You Volunteered for Will Have a Team of Lawyers Working for Them

Volunteering is something you do out of the goodness of your heart. This is why it can be so disheartening to learn that you’re on your own if you get hurt while volunteering. Our Tampa workers compensation lawyers have helped many people in your position before.

We suggest that you contact our office as soon as possible after your injury. This way, you can sit down with a seasoned Tampa workers comp attorney and find out what your options are.

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