Alabama Volunteers and the Right to Workers Compensation Benefits
Volunteers in Alabama who provide free or charitable services for organizations are generally not covered by the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. The idea being that someone who agrees to provide services without pay could not reasonably expect to lose wages as a result of an "on-the-job" injury. Basically, if you do not get paid to begin with, you cannot lose wages.
As with most rules, however, there is an exception. The Act allows for "voluntary coverage" for certified volunteer fire departments and some certified rescue squads. This means that volunteer fire departments and rescue squads have the option to purchase workers’ compensation insurance for their volunteers, but under no circumstances are they required to do so. This being said, it is important to keep the Exclusivity Doctrine in mind. In Alabama, if an employee’s on the job injury is subject to the Workers’ Compensation Act, the employee’s only recovery is through the benefits provided for in the Act. The employee cannot recover civil damages from the employer. In Thompson v. Town of Killen, 583 So.2d 1336 (Ala. 1991), the Alabama Supreme Court dealt with a volunteer fire fighter workers’ compensation claim. In that case, the Town of Killen had opted to purchase workers’ compensation insurance that included coverage for the town’s volunteer fire fighters. One of the volunteers was subsequently injured and attempted to sue the City for negligence. The Court dismissed the lawsuit because the employee had received workers’ compensation benefits as a result of his injuries.