4 Situations - Off-Duty Officers Need Workers’ Compensation
Law enforcement agencies usually understand the need for workers’ compensation, but all too often we find that there are some problematic misconceptions revolving around an officer’s coverage while working off-duty. Ideally, a private company is required to provide some version of a Certificate of Insurance, or COI, prior to a job being issued, but unfortunately this is not always the case. For many law enforcement officers, off-duty is where your protections end and problems begin.
Proper workers’ compensation will address issues, such as medical treatment, and ensure that officers won’t have to pay out of pocket for the treatment of an accidental injury. Lack of workers’ comp is such a hot button issue, even Brian Manley former Austin PD Chief, recognized it as a “blind spot”. Off-duty workers’ comp is essential to ensure that you can safely conduct an off-duty job without the headaches and fear that your general wellness is at jeopardy.
Which is why we want to showcase in this blog four pivotal situations an off-duty officer may find themselves stuck in, with hopes that it will beg the question, are you actually covered by your agency in the event of an accident or similar off-duty issue?
1. Medical Treatment
While it may be an unfortunate truth, many off-duty assignments have just as many hazards as on-duty, possibly more. For example, one of the most common off-duty assignments is traffic control. Though it may feel routine, officers are nonetheless struck by vehicles every day. Officers may believe that their employment health insurance/liability coverage will cover the cost of medical treatment for an injury obtained off-duty, but the reality is rarely that simple. If you were to work off-duty patrolling a construction area at night and accidentally trip and break your ankle it is entirely possible that you will be forced to pay the necessary medical bills out of pocket. Without coverage, these costs can skyrocket. Surgery for a fractured ankle could cost up to $20,000, and a fractured ankle is a tiny example of the threats officers face daily.
2. Lost Wages
Building off the last example, let’s say your newly broken ankle is causing you to miss on-duty hours. Hopefully just because you’re temporarily unable to work on-duty doesn’t mean your medical expenses would have an impact, because you’re covered right? On the contrary. If that injury takes place off-duty and isn’t covered, now you’re not only stuck with the hospital bill but the drained on-duty hours as well. All the sudden you’re stuck between a financial rock and a hard place.
To make matters worse, the vast majority of officers have families they need to take care of, and even if you don’t, should you fall victim to an injury, chances are the medical bills you accrue are going to offset some, if not all, of your paid leave. This issue can get out of hand quick, which is why workers’ compensation becomes such a necessity.
3. Disability Benefits
At first glance disability benefits may appear to be covered under Lost Wages. While they are similar, the differences are distinct and can define the difference between comfort and financial hardship. Lost Wages only cover income losses if you cannot work at all. But what if an officer is dealing with a long-term health condition that doesn’t necessarily disqualify you for duty, but still demands attention?
This is where disability benefits come in to play. Disability insurance will cover injuries and illnesses that limit your ability to complete a job as required. Remember, disabilities can be both physical and psychological. From orthopedic braces and prosthetics to required medication. Neither of which can be ignored or left on the backburner.
4. Funeral Costs
Finally, funeral costs are another area that liability coverage and standard agency policies rarely help. In 2021, the average funeral cost reached around $8,000, with some states costing as high as $14,000. That is far more than the average American has in savings, let alone set aside for an accident. An officer death during an off-duty detail is as heartbreaking as any, and yet, rarely do existing agency or vendor policies cover funeral costs. Many families are forced to raise money for funeral and memorial service costs on popular crowd-funding sites. While these are worthy causes, one can’t help but consider what precautions could be implemented to prevent crowdfunding from being a necessity.
Workers’ compensation benefits may not always fit the above examples exactly and are primarily dependent on state statutes, but one thing is abundantly clear. Officers need workers’ compensation to ensure they are fully protected against excessive medical bills and family hardship. Those agencies not receiving workers compensation as a part of Off Duty Management’s free services are urged to explore their options so they can best protect their officers.
If you’d like to learn more about how our company covers those men and women serving off-duty, check out this blog discussing our full state statutory worker’s compensation , you can also reach out to us on LinkedIn or by calling 877-636-8300.