What Are 'Volunteer Protection Laws'

Volunteer protection laws are federal and state legislation that shields individuals, non-profit organizations and government entities engaged in volunteer service against liability for harm caused by acts or omissions. These protections are in place as long as the volunteer acted within their scope of responsibilities, was properly qualified and did not intend to cause harm.

Volunteer protection laws were enacted to protect volunteers from being sued, and therefore encourage 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 volunteer protection laws do not protect volunteers who willfully cause harm. They also do not protect volunteers who act outside of their assigned duties, provide services for which they are not qualified or cause harm while operating a motor vehicle.

Under these laws, volunteers would pay punitive damages only if they willfully caused harm. Volunteer organizations can gain additional protection by purchasing general liability insurance. It does not require an emergency declaration to be in place for protection to apply.

Volunteer protection laws also do not protect a non-profit organization's directors, officers or employees since the law does not consider them volunteers, as these individuals are paid. Non-profit organizations can compensate for the gaps in these laws by purchasing insurance.

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