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Cohen, Feeley, Altemose & Rambo personal injury workers' compensation

POLICE OFFICERS INJURED IN AUTO ACCIDENTS

ARE THE PROTECTORS PROTECTED?

You are out on patrol and doing your job. You take pride in being a trained professional who is prepared and ready for anything, when suddenly another car runs a red light and hits you hard in the side. As the dust clears, you realize you are hurt. You are thankful it is not more serious, and take comfort in knowing that you are covered. Your agency will make sure you still have an income while you recover. Will it be enough? What if you suffer permanent injuries and cannot return to work? You will still owe your mortgage, car payments, kid's college tuition and all of your other financial obligations.

It may surprise you that in Pennsylvania, your employer is not required to insure you for these losses or to provide you any compensation for your physical injuries. It may further surprise you that, even if you have excellent personal car insurance, there is a "regularly used, non-owned vehicle exclusion" that exists in almost all auto policies that will prevent you from making any recovery. All of your training hasn't prepared you for this. You could face a reduction in income, a loss in the quality of your life, the inability to participate in the activities that you enjoy and the possibility of never returning to work again. Chances are that you are not financially prepared for this scenario, yet it remains a real possibility. Much like preparing yourself to survive on the street, the time to prepare for an accident is well before you are involved.

Most municipalities and state agencies are self-insured and carry the required liability coverage for their fleet of vehicles, but that insurance provides no benefit for you, the injured officer. You might have comfort in knowing that your municipality will cover your medical expenses and you might even be paid your base salary, or a reduced amount, through Worker's Compensation or Heart and Lung. Will that be enough to provide for your family? What if you are not able to return to work for an extended period of time? What about income from any additional employment that you are not able to perform due to your injury? These questions, and more, need to be addressed well before an accident occurs. We have the knowledge to give you the tools to help you prepare and protect yourself before an accident happens, and the experience to represent you, if you are injured.

As anyone in law enforcement knows, many people in our society do not have auto insurance or have inadequate insurance. If you are injured in a crash, you are only going to be compensated from liability insurance of the other at fault vehicle, or from coverage you purchase called uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. What most people don't know is that almost all auto policies have an exclusion in them called the "regularly used, non-owned vehicle exclusion". This means that if you are driving any vehicle that is available to you for regular use but not owned by you, i.e. a police car, you are not covered. That is the bad news.

The good news is that you can purchase a rider to your own auto policy that will allow you be compensated for injuries sustained in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist. Most of these riders are not too expensive for the coverage that is available. Contact our office to speak with an experienced attorney who can help you ensure that you have the insurance coverage you need to protect yourself.

Jason Schiffer is an attorney with the law firm of Cohen, Feeley, Altemose & Rambo, P.C. located in Bethlehem, PA. He served as a police officer in the City of Bethlehem for twenty years, retiring in 2013 as the Chief of Police. The law firm specializes in personal injury law and medical malpractice. After transitioning from police officer to attorney, Jason learned about many areas where officers are not adequately protected for line-of-duty injuries and liability. In addition to the litigation practice, Cohen & Feeley provides consulting services to municipalities, police officers and corporations in the areas of personal liability protection, personal injury protection, municipal liability and corporate security matters.

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