If you are a volunteer worker, are you eligible for workers compensation if you are injured while working?
As a business owner, once you hire employees, things cannot only get complicated, they can get expensive. In the state of Missouri, if you have more than five people working for you, then you are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
If you are in the construction industry, then you only need to have one person working for you to be required to carry workers’ compensation due to the risky nature of the industry.
But, what if you have a not-for-profit business where everyone that you “employ” is a volunteer and not on the payroll? If you have volunteers working for you, are you required to carry workers’ compensation?
Who Are Excluded from Workers Compensation?
In Missouri, some industries and types of workers’ situations do not require that a business have workers’ compensation insurance. Seasonal workers, independent contractors, and child care workers are often excluded from workers’ compensation.
So, if you employ people in those industries or under those conditions, then you may not be required to carry workers compensation.
If you have volunteers “working” for you, then you are not required by the law to carry workers’ compensation insurance to keep them safe. Unless they are an employee, meaning that you are paying them and they receive a W2 tax form from you, then you do not have to cover them by taking out a workers’ compensation policy.
Why that Opens You Up to Liability?
When a business owner has workers’ compensation insurance and an employee is hurt while on the job, the employee is not eligible to initiate a lawsuit against their employer. If an employee is injured while at work, they are not allowed to sue unless they can prove that there was negligence or malicious intent.
If you have people working for you, but you don’t pay them, then you are not required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Choosing not to have workers’ compensation insurance might save you money, but it opens you up for the potential to be sued for personal injury. Since you are not covered against litigation due to worker’s compensation laws, you may be leaving yourself vulnerable.
If someone is volunteering for you and they are hurt, if they can prove that you were negligent in any way, then they may be able to sue you for personal injury. They would have to show that your negligent actions directly led to their injuries, or that it was your failure to act that directly led to their injury. If they can, then you may be held financially responsible not just for their economic damages, but also for their non-economic damages.