A few summers ago, Firefighter Pat Sullivan and his crew were finishing up with their response to a tractor trailer fire on the highway. The northbound side was closed to traffic and Firefighter Sullivan was standing near the median by State Police cruisers. Without warning, a vehicle operated by Laura Badde at high-speed rear ends one of the cruisers. The cruiser thrust forward and struck Firefighter Sullivan. The force of the impact launched Firefighter Sullivan about 20 feet from where he was standing, and he landed on his right side.
Firefighter Sullivan sustained a significant right ankle sprain, right knee injury, and lower back injury. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital initially and later began treatment with an orthopedic specialist and physical therapy. In addition to crutches provided at the hospital, Firefighter Sullivan’s doctor fitted him with a hinged knee brace and later a tall CAM boot. A knee MRI confirmed a partial MCL tear. The ankle injury, though, was of particular concern with persistent pain and swelling, that latter of which eventually caused fractures in his foot. Firefighter Sullivan was kept out of work for about 6.5 weeks and his medical treatment spanned about seven months.
The responsible party, Ms. Badde, had only $20,000 of liability coverage for injuries she caused to others through her auto insurance policy. I recovered Ms. Badde’s policy limit with relative ease. If Firefighter Sullivan had not purchased higher coverage through his personal auto insurer, this would have been the end of the story. Fortunately, Firefighter Sullivan was covered up to $100,000 for injuries caused by Underinsured Motorists. Given the $20,000 settlement with Ms. Badde’s insurer, there was an additional $80,000 of Underinsured coverage through Firefighter Sullivan’s auto policy. I demanded the balance of Firefighter Sullivan’s Underinsured coverage.
Initial offers from Firefighter Sullivan’s insurer were, in my opinion, low, ranging from $25,000 to $35,000. I felt strongly that the insurer was not applying an appropriate valuation to Firefighter Sullivan’s ongoing right foot and ankle injury. Over a year since last seeing his orthopedic doctor, Firefighter Sullivan returned to his doctor. After ordering a repeat MRI, Firefighter Sullivan’s doctor prescribed medication for pain control as well as orthotic inserts. Furthermore, Firefighter Sullivan’s doctor opined that the radiating pains and swelling were likely caused by his work-related injury. I supplemented Firefighter Sullivan’s settlement demand with this new information.
Seemingly undeterred, Firefighter Sullivan’s insurer continued to make modest increases to the offer. The insurer even intimated that the best offer would be in the $50,000 range and that we would have to submit Firefighter Sullivan’s claim to arbitration if we wanted a chance for a greater recovery. Calling the insurer’s bluff, I declined to reduce the demand. About a month later, and without incurring the costs (and risks) of arbitration, we reached a final settlement amount of $70,000 with Firefighter Sullivan’s insurer. Given the initial settlement with Ms. Badde’s insurer, Firefighter Sullivan’s total recovery amounted to $90,000.
In order to protect the privacy of the injured person 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 firefighter agreed to have this article published in order that firefighters around the Commonwealth be better educated about their legal rights to compensation when injured-on-duty.
Ballin & Associates, LLC specializes in representing injured firefighters and police officers and their families. For over 34 years, Ballin & Associates’ attorneys have practiced in the field of personal injury law and successfully represented injured public safety officers in over 200 departments throughout Massachusetts. Cases are handled on a contingent fee basis meaning no legal fee is due unless and until money is successfully collected on the case. Consultations are free and confidential. If you were injured in your capacity as a public safety officer or for more information, please call 508-543-3700 or visit www.ballinlaw.com.