Volunteers are an incredible asset for businesses and non profits. Apart from from the sense of satisfaction one feels from pitching in to help local businesses or serving your local community. Serving as a volunteer is a great way to gain valuable skills and experience that may payoff for improved job prospects in the future.

But on occasions you can become injured while serving as a volunteer. As such the question arises: are volunteers covered under workers compensation in California? Under California law, workers’ compensation does not cover volunteers because they are not regarded as employees.

However, the California labor code does allow non profits to include volunteers under its workers compensation insurance. But, in order for a non profit to include volunteers under its workers compensation insurance they must adopt a resolution by its board of directors that volunteers are covered my workers compensation in the event they become injured while working for the non profit.. Here is everything you should know if the event that you should become injured while working as a volunteer.

Who pays for the medical bills if a volunteer gets hurt?

Many people assume that volunteers are covered under general insurance or workers’ compensation insurance, but this is not always the case. In fact it is rarely the case! Unfortunately, unless you are working for a non profit as discussed above that has taken steps to include volunteers under its workers compensation insurance you will need to pay for your medical treatment should you become injured while working as a volunteer. The Workers Compensation Act offers an insurance scheme for workers who get injured when performing their normal duties. Volunteers are not recognized as employees even if they are provided meals and lodging in some cases.

How you can qualify for the compensation benefits

According to the California Department of Human Resources, there are many ways an employer can ensure its volunteers are covered by its workers compensation insurance.

For example, an organization can procure accident and liability policies to cover injuries to volunteers. A non profit can also declare in writing that the volunteer is an employee for compensation reasons. The employer can contact its workers compensation carrier and take steps to cover volunteers under its workers compensation insurance.

Unfortunately, most business and non profits that use volunteers do not cover volunteers because of the cost. Additionally some business and non profits have their volunteers sign a liability waiver. In this case should you become injured you clearly would not be covered by workers compensation.

Additionally, in the event a business would like to cover your injuries under their workers compensation insurance, the business or nonprofit must have acquired taken steps to have you covered before the injury. This would be true for a worker or volunteer, you’ll not be compensated.

What are your rights?

As a volunteer, you should know whether you’re covered if you get injured in a job. Should a non profit or business require you sign a liability waiver, it’s a sign that a company doesn’t provide volunteers workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers compensation is a `no-fault system’

In the event the organization you are volunteering for has taken steps to provide workers compensation benefits for its volunteers and you should become injured there is no need to prove fault. Workers compensation is a no fault system. That means that for the injured volunteer to receive the benefits, the employer doesn’t have to be negligent or at fault. .

If a volunteer should become injured while working on behalf of an organization but is not covered by workers’ compensation, he or she should take legal action against the nonprofit or business in the event that the injury was the result of negligence of the organization. In that event the claim would be made against the organizations general liability insurance. Additionally, if your injury was caused by a third party, that could be another avenue to sue. If you should become injured while working as a volunteer you should seek the advice of a Riverside workers compensation attorney.

Should volunteers be covered under liability policy or workers’ compensation?

If a volunteer is injured as the result of the organizations negligence they could be sued under their general liability insurance. If you were to be injured because it was your fault or for no fault at all then your only avenue for compensation would be workers compensation and that would only be if the organization took steps to insure that its volunteers were covered under its workers compensation insurance.

What happens if a volunteer is provided long term housing and meals?

Under the circumstance that an employee provides his services in exchange for long term housing or regular meals, this could be construed as compensation and the volunteer may be considered an employee under these circumstances and in that case would be covered under workers compensation insurance. Under that type of circumstance whether or not you are an employee is an issue of fact that a workers compensation judge would need to determine When it comes to the applicable standard of proof, the evidence provided must be convincing.

For purposes of California employment law, any worker who renders gratuitous services is not considered an employee.
This is where Workers Compensation Appeals Board comes in. It will determine whether a worker is an employee or not. And after careful consideration, the matter can be tendered to the liability carrier for the coverage to take effect.

The WCAB must declare that the worker is rendering services and being paid for them. As a volunteer, you should evaluate whether you’ll be covered under workers’ compensation or not. If you don’t have the title of an employee, you should ensure you have insurance coverage in place.


For a volunteer to assume the term employee, he must provide services for a monetary gain. But there are some exclusions – this doesn’t apply to any person in a non-profit organization and private
or public agency. Other exclusions include those who receive no remuneration for services other than lodging, transportation, meals, and incidental expenses.

If you’re a volunteer and you become injured at work, you should get in touch with an injury lawyer right away. The Morris Law Group has experienced workers compensation attorneys with years of experience speaking for employees. The competent team will help you understand your rights and fight for compensation you deserve after an injury. They are dedicated to handling worker’s compensation claims and give clients the best representation possible.