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Injured Wrist


The following case synopsis holds several important lessons for police officers. First, whenever an injury occurs, document it somewhere, or at the very least report it to a superior. Although most injuries resolve quickly with the passage of time, you never know which injury will linger, requiring significant treatment and a period of disability from work. Second, an injured officer need not suffer the financial losses of an injury on duty, which can be substantial, despite the fact that the City or Town is paying the officer’s base wages while the officer is out on injury-on-duty status. Third, an injured officer should never accept that getting injured is just part of the job when the injury could be long lasting or require substantial treatment, and is due to a defendant who refuses to act civilly while in police custody. If the tables were turned, it wouldn’t be a shock to see an injured defendant bring a claim against the arresting officer for what he considered unprofessional conduct by the officer during the arrest. Finally, an injured officer should always consider consulting with me or other competent counsel to find out what his or her rights are before making the decision to forego seeking compensation for physical injuries, financial losses, and at times, scarring.

In this case, Officer Robert Brown¹and another officer were dispatched to the local mall on a call involving a domestic assault. Upon arrival, they found the defendant George Green sequestered by the private security officer hired by the mall. They learned that Green had physically assaulted his girlfriend, Mary White, who refused to leave the mall with him. He had kicked her and wrestled with her prior to the arrival of the private security officer. After Officer Brown arrived, he and his fellow officer kept Green and White separate while they questioned them to learn what had happened. After the interview, Officer Brown determined that Green would be arrested for domestic assault and battery, as well as assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. The defendant Green was, of course, infuriated that his girlfriend had agreed to press charges in connection with the incident, but initially submitted peacefully to being handcuffed. As Officer Brown was escorting Green out of the mall, Green suddenly and unexpectedly lunged at his girlfriend, Mary White, yelling obscenities. Fortunately, Officer Brown had a firm grip on Green’s arm and Green was not able to break free. However, due to the unexpected lunging by Green, Officer Brown’s right wrist was jerked hard resulting in an immediate onset of pain to Officer Brown. As they reached the exit doors to the mall, Green continued to be belligerent and struck his head against the doorjamb, suffering an injury to his head. He would later unsuccessfully claim that this injury was due to Officer Brown shoving him against the doorjamb, as opposed to his continued obstinate behavior.

Once Officer Brown had completed the booking of Green, he again noticed the pain in his right wrist. He reported the pain immediately to his supervisor. However, as with other injuries, Officer Brown expected it to subside and continued on with his shift without seeking medical attention. As the night wore on, the pain became worse over the outer aspect of the back of his wrist, and Officer Brown finally went to the local emergency room to have his wrist checked out. While in the emergency room, Officer Brown was examined and x-rayed. The x-ray did not reveal any fractures or dislocations in the bones of the right wrist. Officer Brown was discharged with a diagnosis of a sprained right wrist. A splint was applied to stabilize it, and he was instructed to take ibuprofen and to apply ice intermittently for pain. He was told to not use the right hand or wrist and was advised to return to the hospital clinic for further evaluation if the pain did not subside in the next week.

The next week Officer Brown followed up as advised. The attending doctor examined him and, although Officer Brown continued to have pain with use of the wrist, the doctor cleared him to return to work. Again, Officer Brown was diagnosed with a sprained wrist and he was advised to continue with ibuprofen as needed for discomfort.

Since Officer Brown continued to have pain in his right wrist over the next two months, he again returned to the same clinic at the hospital for further evaluation. He reported persistent pain in his right wrist with any movement at all, and felt that he had made no improvement since the time of the injury. The attending physician now suspecting a ligament or fibrocartilage tear in his wrist and ordered an MRI to further evaluate the injury. The MRI confirmed swelling of the wrist, suggestive of a tear of the triangular fibrocartilage in the wrist where it attached to the ulnar bone. Officer Brown was finally referred to a hand surgeon. He was given a cortisone injection into the joint and placed in a cast. After two months, the pain had not subsided and the decision was made to have Officer Brown undergo arthroscopy of his right wrist under general anesthesia at the local hospital. The surgeon was able to visualize the tear which was causing the pain and debrided it. As a result of the surgery, Officer Brown was left with two small surgical scars measuring less than a half inch. Within three months of the procedure, Officer Brown’s pain had improved, and he had strengthened the wrist through a home exercise program. Anxious to return to work and given Officer Brown felt he was then strong enough to defend himself, the surgeon agreed to release Officer Brown to full duty. Officer Brown has continued to work without any problems to his wrist, resuming his usual regimen of taking on additional overtime shifts and details.

Officer Brown was out of work for six months, during which time the Town paid his injury-on-duty wages pursuant to Chapter 41, Section 111F and also paid his medical bills which exceeded $9,000. However, due to his inability to return to work during the six months, given his past earning history within the department, Officer Brown lost approximately $8,000 which he otherwise would have expected to earn taking on overtime shifts and details.

We pursued a claim against Defendant Green for his negligent failure to come along peacefully which resulted in the wrist injury to Officer Brown. Defendant Green’s insurance company initially refused to cover the claim arguing it would not insure Green for his harmful conduct which caused Officer Brown’s injury. After months of work done to educate the insurer on the law and protracted negotiations, Green’s insurance company finally agreed to offer $100,000 to settle the matter which amount Officer Brown accepted. This settlement occurred just fourteen months after the initial incident without the need to file a lawsuit in court. Although no amount of money can remove the pain and suffering involved, a financial recovery is supposed to serve the purpose of making the injured officer whole and leaving him or her with a sense that some measure of justice has been done. In this case, Officer Brown was able to pay off his debt, a large part of which he incurred while unable to work overtime and details.

An injured officer should always consider seeking a free consultation to determine his or her rights, benefits, and the probability of making a successful claim. I am always available by telephone, email or a personal meeting. Once I evaluate the case and the officer’s chances of success, the decision whether to go forward rests with the officer. The decision when to return to work rests, as it should, with the officer and his or her doctor.

As with all claims involving an officer's injury on duty, there are no guarantees. Many police injury cases involve sophisticated legal issues, problems of proof, technical insurance policy coverage disputes, and issues that arise under Massachusetts General Laws c. 41, §100 and §111F and or related laws.
When we work on these cases, we work on a contingent fee basis. That means the injured officer pays nothing up front and while the case is pending. He or she only need pay for legal services and expenses at the end of the case if we successfully collect money on the claim. We typically will receive one-third of the money collected. In the off-chance we are unable to collect money for the injured officer, the officer owes nothing for our legal services. ¹ The officer’s name has been changed to protect his privacy. He has consented to having the facts of his case written about to help educate other officers about their rights. The name of the Defendant has also been changed. The similarity between the officer’s and or the defendant’s names with real persons living or deceased is merely coincidental and not


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