Volunteers are a necessity in a successful hospice program. With this realization, Federal regulations actually require a specific level of volunteer activity at each hospice receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding. Although these dedicated and caring volunteers are important assets to a successful hospice program, they provide a unique area of risk management.
In addition to the liability for the acts and omissions of employees, hospices are also liable for acts and omissions of its volunteers. Not only does this liability affect the willingness of hospices to use volunteers, but also volunteers might be reluctant to assume liability. Fortunately, the Federal Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 promoted the idea of volunteer participation by attempting to immunize volunteers at charitable and nonprofit organizations from liability for their acts and omissions if performed within their volunteer duties. The requirements of the act are:
- If appropriate or required, the volunteer must have been properly licensed, certified, or authorized by the appropriate authorities in the state in which the harm occurred.
- The harm was not caused by the volunteer operating a motor vehicle for which the state requires the operator to possess an operator's license or maintain insurance.
- The harm was not caused by willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or a conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the individual harmed by the volunteer.
- The volunteer must have been acting within the scope of his or her responsibilities when the act or omission occurred.
However, the statute does not apply to misconduct which: