Volunteers Law and Legal Definition
A volunteer in legal terms is a person performing services for a nonprofit organization, a nonprofit corporation, a hospital, or a governmental entity without compensation, other than reimbursement for actual expenses incurred. The term includes a volunteer serving as a director, officer, trustee, or direct service volunteer.
The willingness of volunteers to offer their services has been increasingly deterred by a perception that they put personal assets at risk in the event of tort actions seeking damages arising from their activities as volunteers. Some states have enacted laws granting immunity from lawsuits to volunteers, which are intended to encourage volunteers to contribute their services for the good of their communities, and also provide a reasonable basis for compensation for claims which may arise relating to those services.
The following is an example of an excerpt from a state statute governing volunteers:
"(d) Any volunteer shall be immune from civil liability in any action on the basis of any act or omission of a volunteer resulting in damage or injury if:
- The volunteer was acting in good faith and within the scope of such volunteer's official functions and duties for a nonprofit organization, a nonprofit corporation, hospital, or a governmental entity; and
- The damage or injury was not caused by willful or wanton misconduct by such volunteer.
(e) In any suit against a nonprofit organization, nonprofit corporation, or a hospital for civil damages based upon the negligent act or omission of a volunteer, proof of such act or omission shall be sufficient to establish the responsibility of the organization therefor under the doctrine of "respondeat superior," notwithstanding the immunity granted to the volunteer with respect to any act or omission included under subsection (d)."