Hurt while volunteering...

by Tom
(North Carolina)

My church rents office space to an organization that offers spiritual direction/guidance (the Center). I have done a variety of volunteer work for the center over the last 1½ years. Mostly painting, moving furniture type of things.

I was painting in one of the offices on a Saturday morning in September 2014 and was using a 5 gallon bucket as a step stool. I fell off the bucket and broke my wrist, and needed surgery. I was by myself in the basement office, and went up stairs.

There were other people at the church that morning but no one from the Center. Several of the others administered first aid (ice/splint) and then drove me to the emergency room.

The director of the center was notified by church members about my accident. I’ve been told that the spirituality Center's liability insurance should cover the medical expenses. Is this correct? Should I be filing a claim directly with their insurance company?

I’ve been asked by the center's director to write a full account of what happened, along with the extent of the injuries, the medical prognosis, and the unreimbursed medical expenses. I’ve been asked to provide this info and return it to the Center’s director.

Should I be dealing with her directly? Shouldn’t I be in contact with the Center's liability insurance carrier? How do I know that the info I provided will make it to the insurance carrier? Thank you for any direction you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Hurt while volunteering...":

Tom (North Carolina) :

There is nothing wrong with dealing with the center's director. From the facts you present, we all would like to presume the director of a spiritual center has only the best of intentions.

Legally you do not have a right to deal with the center's liability insurance company. If the director wants to intercede, you have no choice but to let her. It's likely the center director is dealing directly with the insurance company.

There will likely come a time when you receive an offer of settlement, either from the director, or more likely from the insurance company. If at that time, you aren't satisfied with the amount, you can either make a counter-offer or entirely reject the offer.

If you feel you aren't being treated fairly, you can retain a personal injury attorney and let her do the negotiating for you. Personal injury attorneys do not charge a fee until and unless they settle a client's injury claim.

There is a caveat...

From your facts, it appears you may have been contributorily negligent. Standing on a 5 gallon paint can to help reach a higher place on the wall was certainly not appropriate.

With that said, you are fortunate the director has agreed to pay your medical bills. The center could simply say your injuries were caused by your own negligence. If so, you would have no choice but to walk away or retain an attorney.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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