What Does an Injured Volunteer Mean for Your Nonprofit?

Tax Professionals' Resource
June 4, 2014 — 5,841 views  
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What Does an Injured Volunteer Mean for Your Nonprofit?

The Impact of an Injury on Your Nonprofit Organization

Those who operate or own a nonprofit organization should consider whether the organization has protections in place in the event of an on-site injury. Under negligence and premises liability principles, individuals serving on the board of directors for a nonprofit could be liable for payment of a judgment.

The major factor that will determine whether the board of directors will be personally liable for a judgment is whether the nonprofit organization is incorporated. If the nonprofit organization becomes incorporated, then the board of directors will not be personally liable for a judgment that arises after a negligence action. Instead, the judgment will become a debt of the nonprofit organization.

Common Injuries Associated with Volunteer Work

Individuals who volunteer for a nonprofit organization may be at risk for involvement in many types of accidents. They may be involved in accidents like:

• Slip and fall accidents
• Auto accidents
• Dog bite accidents
• Premises liability accidents
• Worksite injury accidents

These types of accidents can cause a variety of injuries. Volunteers may suffer from a broken bone, concussion, lacerations, bruising, permanent disabilities or even death due to these accidents. If a nonprofit organization does not protect itself through incorporation or the creation of signed waiver, it could be subject to liability for millions of dollars. An injured volunteer may also sue the directors of the nonprofit organization. They may be personally liable for any costs associated with injuries that the volunteer suffers. Directors of nonprofit organizations may wish to further discuss the ramifications of volunteer liability with an attorney who works for the organization.

Nonprofit organizations need to be aware of the risks that volunteers may face on a worksite. They may want to create waiver agreements that volunteers must sign before contributing their time or energy to an on-site task. A waiver may provide that a nonprofit volunteer may not sue the organization in the event of a slip and fall or other type of accident. The waiver may also state that a volunteer assumes all risks and responsibility for his or her own well-being in performing tasks for a nonprofit organization.

The Volunteer Protection Act

The Volunteer Protection Act is aimed at eliminating the liability of a nonprofit organization for a volunteer’s negligent conduct. If the actions of a volunteer cause injury to another person, the VPA provides that the nonprofit organization may not be liable. The volunteer may still be personally liable for any injury that his or her conduct causes to another person. Even well-intentioned volunteers may run the risk of being personally liable for negligent conduct under the Act. The Act does not provide immunity in the event that the volunteer engages in misconduct like intoxicated driving, violations of Civil Rights, hate crimes or sexual offenses.

Nonprofit organizations must be cognizant of the liability and risks that they face in using volunteers. If a nonprofit organization does not take steps to protect itself, it may be subject to paying a significant judgment for the injuries of another.

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