Around 3:45 a.m., Gerald Stamby is high on mushrooms. He wanders a busy local road on foot, trying to get into vehicles passing by. Calls pour in to the police and Officer George Velmos responds. Officer Velmos gets out of the cruiser and calls Stamby over to talk. Stamby audaciously (or deliriously, for that matter) opens the driver’s door and enters the cruiser. Officer Velmos forcibly removes Stamby from the cruiser and a struggle ensues. Standing over six feet tall and weighing about 250 pounds and under the influence of drugs, Stamby powers his way back into the cruiser. Officer Velmos deploys his taser, but this has no effect on Stamby. Officer Velmos grabs hold of Stamby through the open driver door window. Nonetheless, Stamby puts the cruiser in gear and drives off. With Officer Velmos still hanging on, Stamby does not get far before he crashes into a telephone pole. The force of the crash leaves Officer Velmos trapped in the wreckage. His left leg and head are pinned in the door jamb. First responders use a saw to free Officer Velmos from the mangled door. Stamby was arrested and later indicted on charges including assault and battery, robbery, and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs.
Due to the crash, Officer Velmos sustained a left ankle fracture as well as lacerations to his forehead, cheek, both ears, and left elbow. Each of these lacerations required stitches. The laceration to his left ear required plastic surgery. The ankle fracture meant Officer Velmos would need a walking boot and crutches for some time after the incident. More troublesome, though, was a crushing injury to a different part of the ankle. The crushing injury resulted in persistent pain, swelling, and diminished leg sensation. Officer Velmos sought treatment with an orthopedic specialist and neither physical therapy nor a cortisone injection resolved these symptoms.
Officer Velmos was unable to work for about three months. Due to his ongoing impairment, even after his return to work, he was unable to take nearly as many detail and overtime shifts as he had before this incident. Like many of our police clients, Officer Velmos and his family rely on income from details and overtime.
The unusual circumstances of this incident meant there was no insurance coverage for any claim against the carjacking Mr. Stamby. Instead, we pursued a claim against Officer Velmos’ own auto insurance policy under his coverage for injuries caused by an uninsured auto. We ultimately reached a settlement with Officer Velmos’ insurance company for $90,000. We also collected an additional $14,000 under Officer Velmos’ Medical Payments coverage. This case-study serves as an important reminder for public safety officers to carry at least $100,000 of coverage (like Officer Velmos; however, we strongly recommend $250,000) under their personal auto insurance policies for injuries caused by operators of uninsured vehicles. Want to learn more about what Ballin & Associates considers to be “full coverage”? Click here.
– Jared 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.