What happens if an unpaid intern gets injured while working?
If the intern was paid minimum wage he or she would be an employee and would have workers comp insurance. Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance providing wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course of employment in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of the employee’s right to sue his or her employer for the tort of negligence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workers’_compensation).
But if an unpaid intern performs work for an employer and they get injured they are left with only one option, sue to have the employer cover the costs of medical care required to recover from the injury they sustained while performing a benefit for the business (A huge waste of time that could have been avoided).
Recently an intern for a radio station was performing a “human hockey puck” stunt during an on-ice promotion during a Nashville Predators NHL hockey game. Instead of hiting the bowling pins, he hit the side of the rink hard, fracturing his right ankle and requiring surgery. If the employees that helped him do the stunt got injured, their medical costs would have been covered, but not the interns. So now he is suing. This could have been avoided if he was an employee of the radio station. The intern, in the eyes of the law, is seen as no different than a random fan from the stands. The radio station and hockey team know not to put a random fan in potentially dangerous situations since they could get hurt. But did they think twice about shooting an intern towards bowling pins? Nope.
Check out the article (which includes a video of the actual stunt where he got injured) at Predators sued after Nashville radio’s Intern Adam breaks ankle in on-ice stunt (VIDEO)