I have represented police officers against those who have caused their injuries for most of my 40-year career. I’ve spoken at countless departments across the Commonwealth and lectured for several of the most prominent Massachusetts police organizations and unions. At BallinLaw we’ve represented police officers in the majority of our cities and towns. And I’ve successfully resolved thousands of police injury cases through settlement, arbitration, mediation, and verdicts. Nevertheless, I continually find that many police officers are surprised to learn that they have the same legal rights as everyone else to seek compensation for their pain and suffering and lost detail/overtime income. Maybe it’s my refusal to use conventional advertising. Perhaps it’s because this information is not taught in the Academy. Or maybe the taboo of making personal injury claims is to blame. Whatever the reasons might be, there are three important facts. FIRST, injuries to Massachusetts police officers hurt just as bad as to anyone else. SECOND, injury on duty benefits don’t come close to compensating injured officers for their resulting financial and personal losses. FINALLY, and most significant, Massachusetts law does not discriminate against police and other public safety officers from seeking compensation for their injuries.
POLICE OFFICERS HAVE THE SAME RIGHTS TO MAKE PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS AS EVERYBODY ELSE
In fact, Massachusetts General Law Ch. 41, §111F specifically carves out municipal police officers’ rights to pursue third party claims for personal injuries sustained while on duty:
For those police officers covered by the workers compensation system such as campus police officers, M.G.L. Ch. 152, §15 provides the same rights. The same goes for State Police pursuant to their own Rules and Regulations.
THE COMMUNITY THE POLICE OFFICER WAS WORKING TO PROTECT IN THE FIRST PLACE BENEFITS FROM THE OFFICER’S INJURY CLAIM
If simply possessing the same legal rights as any other citizen is not enough reason for the officer to pursue those responsible for their work-related injury, consider this. As a threshold matter, it is not the officer’s job to get hurt. Rather, the job is to protect and serve the community – the same taxpaying community, which pays for the injured officers’ M.G.L. Ch. 41, §100 medical bills and §111F indemnity wages. And the community has a right to recover a portion of the Ch. 41 payments from any money received from the negligent third party. So, the same community the officer was protecting in the first place when injured has no chance of recouping any of its Ch. 41 payments to the injured officer unless compensation is claimed from the responsible third party.
There are also practical considerations. Regardless of whether the injured officer pursues an injury claim, the responsible party’s insurance company (auto, commercial, home, etc.) sets aside money for future payment for the claim it must assume the injured officer will make. If the injured officer fails to make a claim within the applicable statute of limitations, the insurer takes this “reserve” money, which has been accruing interest for years, and considers it profit. So, if you are just ‘not the type of person to make an insurance claim’, you might also be the type that needlessly contributes to the insurer’s profit line. Plus, the responsible third party will be surcharged by their automobile insurer, in the case of a motor vehicle incident, despite the injured officer’s choice whether to make a claim.
DID YOU KNOW OFFICERS INJURED ON DUTY ARE AUTHORIZED BY STATUTE TO SEEK COMPENSATION BEYOND THE BASE WAGES AND MEDICAL EXPENSES PAID BY THE DEPARTMENT?
I have found the primary factor for injured officers foregoing their rights to seek compensation for their injuries from the responsible third parties, is simply they are unaware they can do this. Another common factor is they mistakenly believe or have been told it will be a waste of time. Decades of success on these cases across the Commonwealth has proven otherwise. Our attorneys at BallinLaw specialize in representing injured officers on all types of third party claims. From injuries resulting from struggles with subjects, foot pursuits, and shootings to injuries from crashes in poorly planned work zones where the injured officer worked a road detail. As discussed above, the entire community benefits whenever a negligent person or entity is held financially accountable for an officer’s injury. And although individual officers may not be aware of their legal rights to make injury claims, our firm is a household name amongst most departments and Massachusetts police organizations. I have lectured for the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association and represented many officers in leadership positions, including police chiefs.
MASSACHUSETTS POLICE OFFICERS ARE NOT SECOND-CLASS CITIZENS IN THE EYES OF THE LAW
I recently published a webinar to my firm’s website, which reviews police officers’ rights. This webinar provides officers with the laws that were written for their benefit, debunks the myths, and reviews best practices of how officers may protect themselves and their families before and after an injury-on-duty. Please consider sharing this article and the webinar link with your fellow officers. Officers injured on or off duty should consult with us early on, so we can determine whether an injured officer has a viable case. Early review of a police injury case enables us to get ahead of the curve. Many police injury cases require quick investigation and background work, which later becomes critical to the successful outcome of the case. Consultations are free and confidential. And the ultimate decision whether to proceed with a claim always belong to the injured officer, not us. We work on a contingent fee basis, which means the injured officer pays nothing up front, nor while the case is pending. The injured officer need only pay for our legal services and expenses at the end of the case. That is, provided we successfully collect money on their claim. We typically will receive one-third of the money collected. In the off chance we are unable to collect money for the injured officer, the officer owes nothing for our time or expenses. I’m proud to report we have a success rate of over 99% on the police injury cases we take on.
The author, Steven Ballin, is an attorney and founder of the law firm, Ballin & Associates, LLC, which specializes in representing injured officers and their families. Attorney Ballin has practiced in the field of personal injury law for over 35 years and along with other attorneys in his firm, has successfully represented injured police officers in over 200 departments throughout Massachusetts. Attorney Ballin is available for free and confidential consultation and case review. He can be reached by telephone at 508-543-3700, or by e-mail at SBallin@PoliceInjury.com.