Volunteering and Workers’ Compensation: Can You Obtain Benefits?
People who volunteer do so in an effort to give back to their community which is undoubtedly an admirable undertaking. Volunteering can encompass a range of activities, and especially here in Florida, many volunteer opportunities have a very physical aspect as our weather is so compatible with outdoor activities. A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that over a million people volunteered nationwide during a one year period.
It is not uncommon here for volunteers to do everything from build houses to pass out a hot meal to the homeless in one of the various parks throughout the greater Miami area. While the commitments of time, effort, and physical labor required in these circumstances are clearly noble and example-worthy, the downside of this is that a person can, unfortunately, become injured while volunteering just as in any other location.
So is an individual who is injured while volunteering in Florida entitled to workers’ compensation benefits?
What is the Law in Florida?
Workers’ compensation is intended to provide benefits for workers who are injured while performing their work duties. By the nature of the term, a volunteer is clearly not a traditional worker or employee. Instead, a volunteer provides a benefit to the employer without the expectation of compensation or any other enrichment in return.
Under Florida law, anyone who did not obtain monetary compensation is automatically considered to be a volunteer. This means that generally speaking, anyone who is performing a service without obtaining payment for it would not legally be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits if injured during the course of performing these services.
Are There Exceptions?
Yes. As with many other areas of workers’ compensation law, Florida’s Workers Compensation Act does not contain an absolute exclusion for volunteers. Instead, it is carefully worded to include a few exceptions such as:
- Volunteering as a worker for the state or a county, municipality, or other governmental entity at the time of your injuries means that you fall outside of the definition of a volunteer stipulated in the statute and may be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.
- The statute also suggests that a person who did not obtain monetary compensation for a provided service may not be excluded under it when there is substantial evidence that a valuable consideration was intended by both employer and employee.
Do Volunteers Have Any Other Recourse For Recovering For Their Injuries?
Yes. If you are unable to qualify for traditional workers’ compensation benefits because you were legally considered a volunteer, you may still be able to recover for medical benefits for your injuries. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can examine the facts of the situation you were engaged in when you incurred your injuries and determine the best route for you to take to maximize the compensation you are entitled to.
Have You Been Injured While Volunteering?
Even if you were not volunteering as a worker for the state or a county, municipality, or other governmental entity at the time of your injuries, you may still be able to obtain compensation. The Miami workers’ compensation attorneys at Payer & Associates have significant experience helping people who are pursuing complicated workers’ compensation claims and can help you obtain the compensation you are entitled to. Begin by contacting us today to schedule a consultation.