Police officers are often in danger while protecting and serving the community. When officers are involved in on-duty accidents, they have a legal right to pursue compensation for their injuries.
This compensation may come from a workers' compensation (or similar) program, or from a settlement that results from a personal injury lawsuit.
After sustaining an injury in the line of duty, a police officer has every right to hire a lawyer to look out for his or her best interests. Also, despite fears to the contrary, departments can't penalize or fire injured police officers specifically for obtaining legal counsel after an accident.
If you're a police officer who's considering taking legal action after being injured on the job, here's what you need to know.
The Importance of Hiring a Lawyer
When police officers are injured while on duty, they often assume they can work with their department to handle their injury claim. However, in many cases, this turns out to be a grave mistake. Decisions regarding workers' compensation benefits or personal injury settlement matters are rarely, if ever, made by people the injured officer knows and interacts with on a daily basis. Instead, such matters are decided by insurance adjusters who care more about the department's bottom line than they do about the injured officer's well-being.
Going head-to-head with a savvy insurance adjuster or the department's legal counsel can be intimidating. However, hiring a reputable personal injury lawyer with experience handling first responder injury cases can help level the playing field. A personal injury lawyer works for you—not the department or the insurance company—and is tasked with protecting your interests and ensuring you receive a settlement offer that's fair.
Workers' Compensation vs. Personal Injury Lawsuit
Workers' compensation benefits may be available for some officers, thanks to the Indiana Workers' Compensation Act. This compensation may include payments that cover on-the-job, accident-related medical expenses and partially reimburse injured officers for time missed from work while recovering.
Officers not covered by the act—such as officers who work for municipal police departments or are members of a police or firefighters' pension fund—may be eligible for similar benefits under Indiana Code §36-8-4-5.
However, it's important to note that the benefits offered under both the Indiana Workers' Compensation Act and Indiana Code §36-8-4-5 are rather limited in scope, and may not be sufficient to meet an injured police officer's needs.
This is another reason why having knowledgeable legal representation can be absolutely invaluable. A personal injury lawyer will review your case to determine what, if any, other avenues of compensation may be available to you. For example, if your injuries were caused by negligence—which could include anything from inadequate training to a motorist who injures a police officer who's responding to a separate accident—you may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party and pursue compensation for a greater range of damages.
Common Police Officer Accidents
Assaults and gun violence are some of the first things that come to mind when most people think about the threats facing on-duty police officers. However, while both can be dangerous or deadly for officers, the leading cause of death for on-duty police officers is actually car and truck accidents, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.
Other common on-the-job accidents involving police officers include:
- Exposure to chemicals or toxins
- Exposure to mental or emotional trauma
- Exposure to equipment-related radiation
- Overexertion accidents
A Personal Injury Lawyer You Can Trust
Sevenish Law's Randy Sevenish has spent years protecting and serving the community: first as a decorated police captain, police academy instructor, and SWAT team commander; and now as a personal injury lawyer. Let Sevenish Law help you fight for the compensation you deserve.
Contact Sevenish Law today to schedule an appointment for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case.