A simple fact: many officers are still unaware that their personal auto insurance provides coverage for on-the-job injuries caused by cars in a wide array of ways, such as pursuits, crashes during emergency responses, pedestrian strikes on a road detail, and during traffic stops, as you will see here. This coverage was especially important to Officer Rose who suffered a serious injury apprehending the driver of a suspicious vehicle, which turned out to be uninsured. Fortunately, Officer Rose’s personal auto insurance policy included coverage up to $100,000 for injuries caused by uninsured autos, which we utilized for his recovery.
Upon investigating the ID provided to him by the operator, Officer Rose realized it was fake. Rose returned to the driver’s side door and ordered the driver out. Instead, the driver revved the engine to take off. Rose reached inside the car to disengage it, but the driver hit the gas. With his arm vulnerably extended within the cab, Rose’s body was twisted into the A-frame as it sped forward. The operator was later apprehended and arrested.
As it turned out, the defendant operator was driving his stepfather’s car, which the stepfather forbade him from driving because the defendant’s license was revoked. The defendant’s unauthorized use resulted in the stepfather’s insurer denying coverage for Officer Rose’s injury. The denial, though, was a blessing in disguise, as it opened the door for Officer Rose to make an “uninsured motorist” claim on Officer Rose’s own automobile insurance policy. We successfully secured a settlement in the amount of $100,000, which was Officer Rose’s policy limit for injuries caused by an uninsured auto.
The uninsured claim netted Officer Rose more than his claim against the stepfather’s insurance would have because Rose’s employer had no lien or right to any of the proceeds of that claim. That is because the law only provides the employer a right to recover money collected from a third party (i.e. the negligent driver). On the other hand, an uninsured claim is made against one’s own insurance company and is therefore considered a “first party” claim. Plus, there is no impact on Officer Rose’s premiums and the money collected comes in tax free. Finally, had we not been able to amicably resolve the matter with Rose’s insurer, we could have demanded arbitration, which would have been a cheaper and faster process than a lawsuit against the responsible “third party” driver.
With all that said, it is important to keep in mind we could have recovered even more for Officer Rose had he carried the higher $250,000.00 per person limit we recommend everyone purchase for Part 3 (uninsured motorist), Part 5 (bodily injury to others), and Part 12 (underinsured motorist) on their personal auto insurance policies. This recommendation is particularly important for officers, given how much time they spend on the road driving and standing on detail assignments. Remember, your own personal auto insurance may provide valuable coverage for injuries involving vehicles whether you are off-duty driving your own car, a passenger in someone else’s, out for a walk, driving a cruiser in a chase, directing traffic on a detail, or almost anything else involving a vehicle. Of course, there are some exclusions, so we always urge you to contact us quickly to review any injuries on or off duty which involved a vehicle. An added advantage of these claims against your own auto insurance policies is we can often go back and successfully make a claim for incidents which happened more than three years ago. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have regarding your own insurance coverage or a new or old incident. To see an example of a “full coverage” personal auto insurance policy and can compare it with your own, click here.
– Zachary Ballin, Esq.
The names of the those involved in this matter have been changed for privacy reasons. 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 police officers around the Commonwealth be better educated about their legal rights to compensation when injured-on-duty.