While on patrol Officer Blue heard a radio call to look out for a vehicle fleeing a violent crime scene. Soon after, Officer Blue noticed the vehicle and began his pursuit. The vehicle driven by a Mr. Hutch refused to stop. During the pursuit through numerous busy intersections and residential neighborhoods, Officer Blue finally passed and got ahead of Hutch in order to slow Hutch down. Hutch rammed Officer Blue’s cruiser from the rear in an attempt to get away. This caused Officer Blue’s cruiser to veer off the road and into a parked car. Hutch also lost control of his vehicle and crashed. Both vehicles were badly damaged and Hutch was arrested. Officer Blue suffered multiple injuries in the crash. Fortunately there were no civilian injuries due to Officer Blue’s heroic maneuvering of his cruiser which finally stopped Hutch, before Hutch injured or killed someone with his reckless driving.
Officer Blue required surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left arm and damage in his left shoulder. It was almost four months before Officer Blue was able to return to work. All of Officer Blue’s $30,000.00 in medical bills were paid by his Town, as were his injury on duty wages while he was out of work for four months. However, Officer Blue lost almost $15,000.00 of pay from working extra hours doing details and overtime that he relied upon to support his family.
We filed a claim against ACME insurance which insured the vehicle Hutch operated However ACME insurance company refused to pay Officer Blue’s claim, as Hutch was allegedly using the car without authority and therefor the crash was not covered by the owner’s policy. We confirmed that Hutch was using the vehicle without authority, leaving Hutch with no insurance coverage for this crash. This is considered an “uninsured auto” in Part 3 of a Massachusetts personal automobile insurance policy. Fortunately, Officer Blue, following my talk during a meeting at his department, increased his personal automobile insurance coverage under Part 3 for “Bodily Injury Caused by An Uninsured Auto” from the minimum compulsory limits of only $20,000.00 per person to $250,000.00 per person at an approximate cost of $6.00. Following my advice, he also purchased Part 6 “Medical Payments”, which is an optional coverage. Before Officer Blue heard me talk, he had no Part 6 coverage. After my talk, at the cost of $31.00, Officer Blue purchased $25,000.00 of Part 6 medical payments coverage. Our claim eventually included Officer Blue’s lost detail income, pain and suffering, the surgery he endured and his surgical scarring.
Even though his Town had paid for his $30,000.00 in medical bills pursuant to Chapter 41, we were able to legally submit the same medical bills to Officer Blue’s insurer. We collected Officer Blue’s full $25,000.00 in optional Part 6 “Medical Payments” coverage. We also were able to collect $8,000.00 under another automobile insurance coverage for part of Officer Blue’s lost detail income.
In addition to the $33,000.00 collected, Attorney Zachary Ballin pursued Officer Blue’s claim against his own insurance policy for Officer Blue’s bodily injury caused by an uninsured auto from this collision. After negotiations, that claim eventually resolved by way of settlement for $90,000.00, bringing Officer Blue’s total recovery to $123,000.00. If Officer Blue had not made the insurance changes I advised, he would have only collected $28,000.00 following this incident. Because Officer Blue did not cause the crash, there was no increase in his own automobile insurance premiums for making these claims. In addition the recovery by Officer Blue was not taxable as income.
Lessons to be learned from Officer Blue’s case:
- Invite me to speak for 20 minutes at one of your local meetings about uninsured and underinsured auto insurance injury coverages found on your personal automobile policies, as well as optional medical payments coverage
- Review your personal automobile insurance policies and make suggested changes. You should be able to find a summary of these changes on the MPA’s new website.
- Contact me immediately by telephone or email to review any potential claims you may have. These reviews are confidential and free.
– Steven M. Ballin, Esq.
(In order to protect the privacy of the injured officer and witnesses, all names have been changed. 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).