Community Association Directors – Are Your Volunteers a Liability For Injury Claims?

If you direct or sit on the board of a condo or homeowner’s association, there are some legal rumblings you might want to tune into. A North Carolina lawyer recently wrote a brief recommending that Homeowners’ Associations and Community Associations in that state should have worker’s compensation insurance, even if the board’s only ‘employees’ were executive-level volunteers. The concern is that an executive board member who had a slip and fall or other workplace accident could become a liability to the Association.

Since most boards don’t carry this sort of insurance, the suggestion set off a minor firestorm. People were surprised because the North Carolina statute hasn’t generally been interpreted to include board members or volunteers as ‘employees,’ but it’s apparently more ambiguous than most realized.

A similarly cautious sentiment came last Spring from a Florida-based lawyer, who pointed out that executive slip-and-falls aren’t the only concern. If your association members volunteer to do work for the association – for anything from gardening to repairs to hosting bingo – they can represent a liability to the association.

It’s tempting to dismiss this kind of thinking as paranoid. You might think of volunteers or board members suing your condo or homeowner’s association as a betrayal, and certainly, none of your members and colleagues would do that, right? But worker’s comp insurance in this case serves to protect the entire Association and all of its members, not just the board or the director. If our experts determine that you really might need it (and circumstances vary, so do call us for a consultation), you could be giving every member of your Association a big gift of security.

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