Things to Know Before Volunteering: Liability and Insurance Protections

The Texas Hospital Association encourages health care professionals to volunteer in Harvey relief efforts and make informed decisions in doing so. The following information below is not legal advice. The Texas Hospital Association is providing this information with the express understanding that 1) no attorney-client relationship exists; 2) neither THA nor its attorneys are providing legal advice; and, 3) that the information is of a general character. You should contact your own attorney for legal advice and representation.

Liability Protections for Volunteers
Volunteer health care providers who serve as direct service volunteers of charitable organizations or governmental entities are generally immune from civil liability based on a number of state and federal statutes (absent, willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, or reckless misconduct) as long as they are acting in the scope of their responsibilities and are properly licensed.

The Texas Department of State Health Services published a liability summary that outlines the various statutes protecting volunteers from liability.

Additional information is available from the following statues: 42 U.S.C. §§ 14501-14505 (Volunteer Protection Act); Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code, Chapter 84 (Texas Charitable Immunity Act); Id. §§ 74.151-152 (Texas Good Samaritan Law).

Insurance Protections for Volunteers
Despite these protections, it is advisable to obtain professional liability insurance. Many policies, including those of the Texas Medical Liability Trust, will extend coverage to physicians performing emergency relief work. Other insurance companies are authorized by Texas law to offer similar coverage.

First, physicians should inquire with the organizations for which they intend to volunteer to see if their insurance could apply to the physician.

Second, physicians should check the language of their own professional liability insurance policies to see if there is a coverage option.

Finally, the Texas Medical Liability Insurance Underwriting Association, also known as Joint Underwriting Association, offers professional liability insurance to volunteer health care providers. Because eligibility generally requires rejection from other insurers, physicians should view this option as a last resort.