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No City Double Dipping

Massachusetts Police Injury Attorneys
Legal Article - No City Double Dipping


Injured officers and their attorneys should oppose attempts by a City or Town to collect from the injured officer’s financial recovery from a responsible third party amounts which the City or Town has already been reimbursed by its own insurance company. Injured officers and their attorneys should insist on full disclosure of the existence of such insurance policies as well as all related payments made. Otherwise, the City or Town will end up profiting at the injured officer’s expense by collecting twice or double dipping.
The Cities and Towns, pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 41, Section 100, must pay for an injured police officer’s medical expenses for the treatment of injuries suffered on duty. Similarly, pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 41, Section 111F, the Cities and Towns must pay the base wages of an officer injured on duty. To offset these so-called “injury on duty” expenditures, many Cities and Towns have purchased valuable insurance policies which provide for reimbursement of all or part of payments made to and on behalf of police officers injured on duty. Both sections of Chapter 41 also grant the Cities and Towns a lien against any eventual financial recovery which the injured officer may collect from the third party who caused the injury. It is this lien, pursuant to the statute, which some Cities and Towns use to collect twice. For example, take the case of an injured officer who is in a cruiser accident when his cruiser is struck in the rear while waiting at a red light. In this fictional case, the injured officer has collected $30,000.00 from the responsible third party, the Town has paid $10,000.00 in medical expense and wage benefits stemming from the injury on duty and there is a one third attorneys fee equaling $10,000.00 (1/3 of $30,000.00). The Town, in this case, has a right to collect $10,000.00 pursuant to the Chapter 41 lien, leaving the injured officer with just ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00) after the lien ($10,000.00) and attorneys fees ($10,000.00) are deducted. However, if the Town was reimbursed $10,000.00 for the injury on duty benefits paid out by its own insurance company, the Town would, in effect, be collecting twice: once from its own insurance company and a second time from the injured officer. Such a practice by a City or Town is double dipping and is contrary to the authority granted it by Chapter 41. By refusing to grant the lien which was already reimbursed by insurance, the injured officer prevents the practice of double dipping by the Town and doubles his own financial recovery from $10,000.00 to $20,000.00.
Where a City or Town has been reimbursed for all or part of the injury on duty expenses (wages and/or medical bills), the injured officer must insist the Chapter 41 lien be reduced by all amounts paid by the City’s or Town’s insurance company. By insisting on the reduction the injured officer can often increase his recovery by thousands and, in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars. The insurance payments may at times be made directly by the insurance company to the injured officer’s medical providers or in the form of wage checks issued directly to the injured officer. Other times the insurance company issues checks directly to the City or Town as reimbursement for amounts the City or Town has already expended for the injured officer.
In 1998, this issue was addressed by Judge Gershengorn of the Massachusetts Superior Court in the case of Wulleman v. Town of North Reading. The Officer was injured in an automobile accident on duty and was able to recover $32,000.00 from the responsible third party. Pursuant to Chapter 41, the Town of North Reading was claiming a lien of $22,106.43 against the Officer’s recovery of $32,000.00 for amounts the Town paid in injury on duty wages and related medical expenses. As it turned out, the Town was reimbursed for all but $4,128.43 from two different insurance companies. The Superior Court ruled as excessive the Town’s claim for reimbursement from the Officer for the same amounts it was already reimbursed by the two insurance companies. The Court stated: “The Town may not manipulate insurance policies as a means to profit from an injured police officer or firefighter’s independent recovery against a tortfeasor.” The Town then argued it should at least be allowed to recover the cost of the insurance premiums from the Officer’s third party recovery. Again the Court held such attempt as excessive and barred by the statute. The Court replied the insurance premium was paid for the entire police force and that it would be a violation of the statute to permit the Town to collect from one police officer the full insurance premiums paid for the entire force. As a result, the Town was only permitted to present a lien for $4,128.43 which resulted in a substantial savings to the Officer of $17,968.00.
Many police injury cases involve sophisticated legal issues, problems of proof, technical insurance policy coverage disputes, and issues that arise under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 41, Section 100 and Section 111F. I handle these cases on a contingent-fee basis. If I successfully collect money on the claim, the injured officer need only pay for legal services, where the fee is typically one-third of the money collected, plus out-of-pocket expenses, if any. If I fail to collect money for the injured officer, the officer will owe nothing for legal services, except, in some cases, for out-of- pocket expenses.

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