DEFINITION of 'Volunteer Protection Laws'

Federal and state legislation that shields individuals, nonprofit organizations and government entities engaged in volunteer service against liability for harm caused by acts or omissions. Volunteer protection laws were enacted to protect volunteers from being sued, thereby encouraging volunteerism. The laws also protect volunteers from being forced to pay punitive damages. They are covered under the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997.

BREAKING DOWN 'Volunteer Protection Laws'

The laws do not protect volunteers who willfully cause harm. They also do not protect volunteers who act outside of their assigned duties, who provide services for which they are not qualified or who cause harm while operating a motor vehicle. Moreover, volunteer protection laws do not protect a nonprofit organization's directors, officers or employees since as these individuals are paid, the law does not consider them volunteers. Nonprofit organizations can compensate for the gaps in these laws by purchasing insurance.

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