Workers Compensation- Work Injury Volunteer Question

Date: September 7, 2012

Jed enjoyed attending the annual county fair. Jed was told by his nephew, Jethro, that he could avoid paying the $5.00 admission fee to the fair if he volunteered to help out at the fair. Jed signed up as a volunteer and was asked to perform the task of greeting fairgoers at the main gate. The weather was very hot and humid. Jed succumbed to the elements and passed out. When he feel to the ground, he suffered a large gash in his head. Jethro’s sister, Ellie May, told Jed that he should file a claim for workers compensation benefits against the fair as he was employed by the fair when he fell.

Question: Will Jed be considered an employee of the fair under Pennsylvania worker compensation law?

Answer: Probably not. In Pennsylvania, to qualify for workers compensation benefits, the injured party must establish an employer/employee relationship in existence at the time of the injury. This requires evidence that the injured party was performing services for another for a “valuable consideration”. Volunteers, such as Jed, are generally excluded. While “valuable consideration” does not necessarily require payment of wages or exchange of money, it does require something more than a nominal gratuity which the free admission to the fair will likely be deemed.

There are, however, certain classes of volunteers who ar considered “employees” under the Pa. Workers Compensation Act. These include fisrt responder, volunteer firefighters and volunteer police officers.

If you’ve suffered a work injury and have questions about your claim, contact me at or call (570) 347-1011 for a free consultation.



Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive.  Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column.



Tom Cummings
Thomas P. Cummings has been a Partner with Dougherty Leventhal & Price, LLP since 1996 and has been with the firm since 1991. He focuses his practice on workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability and personal injury cases.