Around 7:30 pm, wearing only his underwear, Raymond Bishop is high on mushrooms and out of control at his family home. Raymond’s parents call the police and go through the house collecting car keys; however, there is still a set of keys in his mother’s Jeep. Raymond runs outside and past the responding police officer, Andrew Force.
Raymond enters the unlocked Jeep through the front passenger door, crawls over to the driver’s seat, and starts the engine. He puts the car in reverse and accelerates down the driveway, catching Officer Force with the opened passenger door. The force of the impact pins Officer Force’s right shoulder in between the door and the side of a trailer on the Bishops’ property. Raymond backs out of the driveway, across the road, and into the woods, dislodging large rocks and ripping out several tree stumps along the way. The Jeep finally comes to rest atop a stone wall. Raymond is arrested and later found guilty of reckless operation, operating under the influence, and resisting arrest.
As for Officer Force, along with a traumatic hematoma to his right forearm, he sustains a right shoulder labrum tear, which requires surgical repair, physical therapy, and steroid injections. In all, Officer Force’s injuries keep him out of work for nine months.
We submitted a claim for Officer Force’s damages against Raymond with the Bishop’s auto insurer, which, in turn, denied the claim. The insurer’s investigation revealed that Raymond’s parents verbally forbid him from driving. Therefore, the denial was based on Raymond’s non-permissive use of his parents’ Jeep. If Officer Force had not purchased the appropriate coverage on his personal automobile insurance, this might have been the end of the story.
Under the terms of Officer Force’s personal automobile insurance policy, the Bishops’ auto was considered “uninsured” due to Raymond’s non-permissive use of his parents’ Jeep. Thus, we pursued a claim against Officer Force’s personal automobile insurance policy under his Part 3 coverage for “Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Auto”. Fortunately, Officer Force had increased his Part 3 Uninsured Auto limits prior to the incident. For about $5.00, Officer Force had increased the minimum $20,000 limit to $100,000 of coverage in the event of an injury caused by an “uninsured” auto. We subsequently obtained a $100,000 policy limit settlement with Officer Force’s auto insurer. Officer Force’s premiums did not go up for making this claim as he was not at fault for the incident. In addition, his employing Town had no rights to be reimbursed for monies it expended for injury on duty wages and medical expenses because the Town has no legal right to recover money collected from a claim against Officer Force’s own insurance policy.
This case is an excellent example of why anyone, including public safety officers, should purchase increased limits under Part 3 Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Auto and Part 12 Bodily Injury Caused by an Underinsured Auto. Increases to these coverages are very affordable compared to other auto insurance coverages. These coverages found in your personal auto insurance policies can protect you as a pedestrian, when traveling in someone else’s vehicle, or even while in a police cruiser. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE.
– Jared Ballin, Esq.
In order to protect the privacy of the injured police officer and witnesses, all names have been changed. Any resemblance to names of real persons, past or present, is merely coincidental and not intended. The injured officer agreed to have this article published in order that public safety officers around the Commonwealth be better educated about their legal rights to compensation when injured on duty.