Is your agency feeling a liability strain?
A major issue that affects an officer’s workers’ compensation eligibility is the location of the incident that results in the officer’s injuries. If the incident occurs outside of the municipality’s jurisdiction, chances are the officer forfeits workers’ compensation coverage. Many officers believe worker’s compensation applies whenever they wear their agency’s uniform. Unfortunately, this common misconception leaves off-duty officers at risk in the case of an injury while working their off-duty jobs. Officers need workers’ compensation to cover medical bills and missed work.
Problems Resulting from Lack of Coverage
Recently, a Texas LEO attended an off-duty job at a high school football game in a neighboring town outside of his home agency’s jurisdiction. An attendee accidentally ran over the LEO, causing significant injuries, including a broken leg. His home agency denied workers’ compensation benefits, stating the incident occurred outside of its jurisdiction and color of law did not apply. The LEO followed state protocol and applied to the state for workers’ compensation benefits, as well. The state also denied the claim, as he was not acting under the color of law when the incident occurred.
In another instance, an officer became paralyzed from an off-duty job, resulting in a lifetime of medical care. He received no medical coverage or workers’ compensation from either his municipality or the vendor who employed him, forcing him to declare bankruptcy. In some cases, an officer may get injured working an off-duty job with an injury not directly related to law enforcement actions, such as a fall. Subsequently, the vendor can argue the officer works as an independent contractor and, therefore, is ineligible for the vendor’s insurance coverage. Additionally, many vendors have inadequate or no insurance coverage to protect against these issues. They may have some type of liability coverage; however, the policy may not include workers’ compensation for 1099 or municipal-paid employees.
Geographical Location of the Injury
Another issue that affects whether an officer is covered by workers’ compensation concerns the geographical location of the incident. If the injury occurs outside of the municipality’s jurisdiction, chances are the officer may not receive worker’s compensation benefits.
One example includes a Texas LEO working a high school football game in a neighboring town. The small town resides outside his home agency’s jurisdiction. The LEO became a victim of an accident, run over by an attendee. He sustained significant injuries, including a broken leg. The LEO received a denial for workers’ compensation benefits from his home agency. The incident occurred outside of the proper jurisdiction making the officer ineligible for coverage under the color of law. The LEO followed state protocol by applying to the state for workers’ compensation benefits, also resulting in a denial. The state used the reasoning he did not act under the color of law at the time of the incident for their denial.
Off-duty work is necessary for officers and their communities. Unfortunately, this secondary work can have catastrophic consequences for an officer and his/her family. If the officer suffers injury or death without coverage, the officer and their family can incur severe debt. Too many LEO’s and municipalities, however, operate with misconceptions about insurance coverage. Also, the definition of the color of law and eligible circumstances vary greatly, impacting workers’ compensation cases in unpredictable ways. LEO’s believe that they are covered when in uniform by the municipality or the off-duty vendor. Unfortunately, this is not the case in most instances.
THE REAL TRUTH
The real truth includes 3 options, and one of them should be implemented immediately if not already in place. To protect your officers, municipality, and community against unnecessary litigation and costs, consider the following possibilities.
Have a 3rd party service provider help administer your off-duty program. Your agency maintains complete control of the program, with the provider implementing your rules and regulations at your agency’s direction. The 3rd party pays the officers directly and, subsequently, provides all the needed insurance coverage, including full statutory workers’ compensation. ODM offers this level of service at no cost to the agency or officer. All parties, including the off-duty vendor, receive the benefit of the A+ rated liability coverage.
An agency can have a 3rd party off-duty service provider administer the program, which can reduce much of the risk and liability with their off-duty program. With this option, the agency pays the officers directly, which ensures the officers stay protected under the agency’s workers’ compensation coverage. The 3rd party provider executes all billing and invoicing and pays the municipality weekly. This strategy eliminates the financial burden and risk for the agency.
The entire program is administered internally, with the agency assuming all costs, risks, and liabilities for the off-duty program. This is a very expensive and unnecessary option. The significant manpower and taxpayer funds needed to execute this option could be better utilized. Agency funds become free to apply to more pressing law enforcement issues.
Eliminate all off-duty work for your agencies and LEOs. This is the least favorable option and negatively impacts the community and officers.
Bottom line: Action must be taken to protect our officers, agencies, and communities.
The ability to maintain the status quo, hoping these situations will not impact your agency or municipality, is gone. Unfortunately, these issues continue to impact agencies across the nation at an alarming rate. Officers get caught in the middle with life-altering consequences.
There are solutions, as mentioned above, to remedy the off-duty problem. You can guarantee communities and officers have the benefit of off-duty policing and, most importantly, that officers are PROTECTED!
Off Duty Management was created By Officers for Officers to address the protection of officers and agencies. We also handle many other issues related to running an efficient and effective off-duty program. In situations like the ones presented above, ODM makes sure officers have proper coverage for medical bills and missed work. They also receive workers’ compensation if covered by ODM. Recently, an officer covered by our insurance suffered a gunshot at an off-duty job in another state. The bullet ricocheted off his body armor and pierced his arm. Our insurer fully covered his medical costs and related workers’ compensation. ODM takes the protection of officers, their workers’ compensation, and liability issues seriously. Therefore, ODM provides comprehensive insurance coverage at NO COST to the agencies or officers.
Please call us at 877-636-8300 or visit www.offdutymanagement.com and request more information.