Volunteer Liability

February 7, 2017

Over-Looked Liability: Association Volunteers

Many community associations have volunteer committees and volunteer homeowners offering their time to serve their communities. From landscaping to libraries, volunteers increase community connectivity, and their involvement contributes to making the association a place everyone is proud to call home. A question that often arises is whether there is coverage for a homeowner volunteer in the event the homeowner is injured while volunteering. There are many types of coverage that can be considered for homeowner volunteers. 

Worker's Compensation
While most associations have a workers' compensation policy, workers’ compensation will not cover association volunteers. In Minnesota, an injury is not covered by workers’ compensation unless an employer/employee relationship exists.

General Liability
If the association is negligent, the homeowner can sue under the association’s general liability. An example would be if the association provides a ladder that is defective and the volunteer is injured. Many injuries do not involve negligence though. 

There is also a section within the general liability policy called Medical Payments. This section often provides some bodily injury coverage for association volunteer workers, regardless of fault. Typically, medical payment limits for associations average between five and ten thousand dollars.

Personal General Liability 
A homeowner’s personal liability would not provide coverage for the homeowner volunteer because the volunteer, as named insured, is excluded under their personal liability.

Association Volunteer Stand-Alone Policies 
Some associations choose to purchase stand-alone volunteer policies that are designed to bridge the gap.  Volunteer policies vary in cost and coverages. Premiums start around $500 and increase based on the number of volunteers, the volunteer activities performed, and the coverages and limits desired. Available coverages include medical and dental, accidental death and dismemberment, sickness, catastrophic injury, and temporary disability.

Before volunteering, association homeowners should know what coverage, if any, is provided by the association under Medical Payments or on a stand-alone volunteer policy. In many instances, there is little or no association policy coverage for injuries sustained while volunteering. Homeowners should consider this and their own personal medical and disability insurance coverage(s) prior to volunteering.  

An alternative for the association to consider is controlling the volunteer exposure by transferring the risk to independent contractors and vendors. This strategy is especially important to consider with volunteer activities that have high risk of bodily injury.