Is Your Agency Feeling A Liability Strain?

IS YOUR AGENCY FEELING A LIABILITY STRAIN?

Far too often, law enforcement officers and agencies are not prepared for the liability and associated costs that accompany off-duty work. Many agencies aren’t even aware that workers’ compensation and liability insurance coverage will not extend to their officers in most off-duty job-related accidents. The risk from off-duty incidents goes both ways as officers’ misconduct can reflect negatively on an agency’s reputation and can strain its financial position through excessive lawsuits. However, some options can be implemented immediately to protect your officers, municipality, and community against unnecessary litigation and costs.

Did you know the majority of LEO’s working off-duty jobs in Texas and across the country are not protected against job accidents and litigation? There continues to be a significant misconception that any uniformed LEO working an off-duty job is always under the color of law or covered by vendors employing them. Unfortunately, this is not true. Texas Municipal League and several other risk associations across the country have provided factual details and case studies about the risks, liabilities, and unnecessary costs incurred by municipalities that do not understand the truths and how to take immediate action.

In one instance, an officer was paralyzed from an off-duty job and needed a lifetime of medical care. He received no medical coverage or workers’ compensation from either his municipality or the vendor who employed him and was forced to declare bankruptcy. In some cases, if an officer is injured working an off-duty job and the injury is not directly related to law enforcement actions, such as a fall, the vendor can argue that the officer is an independent contractor and therefore not covered by 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 but the policy will not include workers’ compensation that covers 1099 or municipal paid employees.

Another issue that affects whether an officer will be covered by workers’ compensation 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 will not be covered by workers’ compensation.

Recently, a Texas LEO was working a high school football game in a neighboring town, which was outside of his home agency’s jurisdiction. The LEO was accidentally run over by an attendee and sustained significant injuries, including a broken leg. He was denied workers’ compensation benefits from his home agency because the incident occurred outside of its jurisdiction and he was not acting under the color of law. The LEO followed state protocol and applied to the state for workers’ compensation benefits and was also denied because he was not acting under the color of law at the time of the incident.

Off-duty work is necessary for the officers and their communities. Unfortunately, this secondary work can have catastrophic consequences for an officer and his/her family if they are injured or killed and not covered by insurance. Too many LEO’s and municipalities are operating with misconceptions of what is covered and what is not. There will never be a clear definition of the color of law as circumstances vary greatly and will impact that determination. LEO’s believe that they are covered when in uniform by the municipality or the off-duty vendor. But this is not the case in most instances.

THE REAL TRUTH is there are 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.

Best option: 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 orders 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.

2nd option: An agency can have a 3rd party off-duty service provider administer the program which will reduce much of the risk and liability with their off-duty program. But in this option, the agency pays the officers directly, which will ensure the officers are protected under the agency’s workers' compensation coverage. The 3rd party provider would execute all billing and invoicing while paying the municipality weekly, eliminating the financial burden and risk for the agency.

sub-option: The entire program is administered internally and the agency assumes all the 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 on much more pressing law enforcement issues.

3rd option: Eliminate all off-duty work for your agencies LEO’s. This is the least favorable option that would impact the community and officers.

Bottom line: Action must be taken to protect our officers, agencies, and communities.

The ability to maintain the status quo and hope that these situations will not impact your agency or municipality is gone. Unfortunately, these issues are impacting agencies across the nation at an alarming rate, and officers are getting caught in the middle with life-altering consequences.

There are solutions as mentioned above to guarantee the community and officers can 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 and many other issues related to running an efficient and effective off-duty program. In the examples presented above, these officers would have been covered on medical costs and provided workers’ compensation if covered by ODM. Recently, an officer, covered by our insurance, was shot 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 and 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.