Throughout Chester, South Carolina, and all over the state, we have volunteers working in dangerous jobs without the benefit of the same workers’ compensation insurance benefits as those who are actually paid to do those jobs. These include volunteer fire fighters, volunteer reserve deputies, and more. These volunteers typically have other paying jobs that provide for their families, yet they also face the hazards of their volunteer work. While they may have workers’ compensation coverage at their paying jobs, that doesn’t help if they are injured while completing volunteer work tasks. They are eligible for a form of insurance through their volunteer work, but it may not be enough.
If you imagine the hazards faced by a volunteer fire fighter or deputy, you can see how likely and how common it is for these most noble of volunteers and their families to end up living in poverty after a volunteer work related injury or fatality occurs. This is especially disturbing to think about when you consider the fact that without these volunteers, many areas would not have any fire department at all, and the police would be frequently shorthanded.
What Kind of Workers’ Compensation Coverage Do Volunteers Have in Chester, South Carolina?
While volunteers in many industries may not be entitled to workers’ compensation at all, those who work as volunteer fire fighters and reserve deputies are covered by a form of workers’ compensation. The issue is in the disparity between the coverage of a volunteer and the coverage of an employee. To illustrate, let’s look at the coverage that is available to employees in Chester, South Carolina.
When an employee is injured and out of work for at least seven days, they can start receiving wage benefits at 2/3 of their former average weekly wages. There is a cap on how much the injured worker can receive, however, which is currently $806.92 per week. Meanwhile, a volunteer who is covered by workers’ compensation coverage as a result of their ‘authorized status’ (firefighters, reserve deputies, etc.) is capped for wage benefits at less than 40% of that cap.
They also don’t have the benefit of other types of volunteers who might be able to successfully sue the entity where they volunteered. Because volunteers are usually not covered by workers’ compensation, they retain the right to file a personal injury lawsuit. Authorized status volunteers, however, are covered by workers’ compensation, making it very difficult for them to file and win a personal injury lawsuit. Yet, they are also ineligible for the full wage benefits of those with employee status.
Why Do People Volunteer for Dangerous Jobs Without Adequate Coverage in Chester, South Carolina?
For many volunteer fire fighters and deputies, volunteering is something that’s been handed down through the generations. Their parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents were volunteers. They do it because they care about their communities and they want to be the reason that someone’s child, parent, or pet survives the worst days of their lives.
The act of volunteering is selfless in nature, so the fact that there is minimal coverage available in case of an injury or death is something that many volunteers and their families are willing to face to provide the most necessary of services to their communities. They will literally walk into the fire to save your life, and they might come out with a lifetime of hardship for their efforts. Yet, they are completely aware of the dangers they face and how serious the consequences of their selflessness could be.
As their families grow, volunteers start to worry about what their children will do without their income if something terrible should happen to them. They become concerned about their families having to take care of them, physically and financially, should they suffer from a serious injury. And for this reason, many volunteers will ultimately decide to walk away from their important community roles. Still others will continue to face the danger, regardless of the potential harm it may cause.
An Example of the Limitations of Workers’ Compensation for Volunteers in South Carolina
A prime example of the limitations of workers’ compensation for volunteers in South Carolina can be seen in the 2014 case of a reserve deputy in Anderson County. This example involved an auto accident in which the volunteer reserve deputy required surgery and was unable to return to his full time job. In this case, the volunteer was covered by a minimum amount of workers’ compensation, received medical benefits and very limited wage benefits that did little to address his losses. With his former income being $60K per year, he and his family were left with little help to manage their financial struggles.
Other Options for Volunteer Injury Coverage in Chester, South Carolina
There are personal injury insurance options for entities that have multiple regular volunteers who may need coverage in case an injury occurs. These are not workers’ compensation policies, but policies that provide similar coverage. They frequently provide better coverage than the volunteers with authorized status would get with workers’ compensation insurance. It is up to the entity with the volunteers to take the necessary steps to obtain this coverage, and those who are volunteers in dangerous occupations would be wise to investigate what forms of coverage they have and fight for the coverage they deserve.
Were You Injured as an Authorized Status Volunteer in Chester, South Carolina?
If you were injured as an authorized status volunteer in Chester, South Carolina, you need to learn more about your rights and options. Call the determined work injury lawyers in Chester, South Carolina, at the Elrod Pope Law Firm to schedule a free consultation, and learn more about how we can help you seek the compensation that you need and deserve. Whether you have workers’ compensation coverage or another form of injury coverage for your volunteer work, we’ll help you to file any necessary insurance claims and fight for your right to medical and wage benefits.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.