According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, one law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty every 60 hours. In 2014, 18 officers died as the result of being shot, while 48 officers died because of a car or motorcycle crash or being struck by a vehicle outside their squad cars.
Unfortunately, police officers, deputy sheriffs, and state troopers are at an increased risk of being involved in motor vehicle collisions. Because police officers, deputy sheriffs, and state troopers have an increased risk, law enforcement officers should ensure they have adequate insurance coverage if tragedy should strike.
If an officer’s patrol car is struck by a civilian vehicle, the injured officer has a variety of legal claims and options for recovery. First, if the accident occurs while the Minnesota officer is on duty, the officer has a workers’ compensation claim. Work comp is the primary payor and is responsible for all reasonable and necessary medical treatment designed to cure or relieve the effects of the officer’s injury. Work comp covers certain wage loss benefits, but does not cover all the injured officer’s monetary losses nor does it provide for pain and suffering.
The next payor is the defendant driver’s liability insurance. Unfortunately, since some drivers only carry the bare minimum insurance coverage, the available insurance may not cover all of the injured officer’s losses. Minnesotans are required to carry coverage of at least $30,000 for injuries per person. If a police officer, deputy sheriff, or state trooper is hurt, $30,000 will not come close to compensating an injured law enforcement officer.
Additionally, work comp gets partially paid back from the defendant driver’s liability insurance carrier. The amount that the Minnesota workers’ compensation carrier has paid is run through a formula, so that while work comp may have paid more than the available defendant driver liability insurance coverage, the injured worker still partially recovers from the available liability coverage. The theory under the law is that the work comp insurance carrier should not be responsible for paying for the injured officer’s losses when a third-party caused the damage. The general rule is that work comp is an exclusive remedy and it is rare that an injured worker can bring an additional claim outside the work comp system.
After the injured officer collects all the liability coverage available, the underinsured or uninsured coverage provided by the officer’s city or county on the squad car is the next responsible source. The underinsured and uninsured coverage vary from public employer to public employer. Unfortunately, some counties carry notoriously low coverage for their deputy sheriffs, as little as $25,000. While some cities carry $200,000. A police officer could even be competing for the amount of available insurance if his or her partner was also injured in the collision.
The next payor is the injured officer’s personal underinsured or uninsured insurance coverage. Not including the defendant driver’s liability insurance, the injured officer can recover up to the amount of his or her underinsured or uninsured insurance coverage, between his or her personal policy and the county or city’s policy on the squad car. It is important that a police officer, deputy sheriff, or a state trooper carry enough personal underinsured or uninsured insurance coverage.
In addition to Minnesota workers’ compensation, liability coverage, employer underinsured or uninsured coverage, and person underinsured or uninsured coverage, an officer injured on duty may also be entitled to PERA Duty Disability benefits under the Police and Fire Plan. If awarded, a police officer or deputy sheriff may receive 60% of his or her monthly income non-taxable until age 55 and health insurance until age 65. State troopers fall under the MSRS disability plan.
At Meuser Law Office, P.A. we excel at coordinating all of these benefits and clams available to police officers injured in the line of duty. We ensure the injured police officers, deputy sheriffs, and state troopers have exhausted all possible sources of recovery. Our ability to maximize our client’s recovery from a variety of sources is what sets Meuser Law Office, P.A. apart from other personal injury and workers’ compensation firms in Minnesota. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced attorneys will help you navigate the process and make sure you know what to expect each step of the way.