Reporting Injuries in Law Enforcement

Due to the recent attacks on police, there has been a great deal of attention paid to the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty – 83 so far this year. What is often overlooked is the staggering number injured. Statistically, an officer’s chances of being injured are far greater and a single officer could be injured multiple times in a career or even a single year. When this happens, it is vital the officer knows what to do in order to protect their self and their family from further injury, loss of income and even permanent disability.

Each year approximately 58,000 officers are assaulted, resulting in almost 16,000 injuries. Of course this number does not include non-assault injuries due to vehicle accidents, slip and falls or simple twisted ankles due to stepping off a curb while chasing a suspect. Many officers have contemplated what will happen if they are killed in the line of duty – how will their family be cared for, who will look after their children etc., but few have any idea what they will face when injured. They simply figure the department will take care of everything. Unfortunately, it may not be that easy.

Over the course of my career, I have found myself part of the injury statistics far more times than I care to remember. Broken bones, dislocations and a host of bumps and bruises have accompanied me on my journey through the ranks. For better or for worse, I have learned that getting hurt is a part of the job and I have also learned how important it is to understand your rights and responsibilities when that happens.

injuryFirst, do not assume that the department will take care of everything. While it is nice if your department simply allows you to stay home and recover, don’t count on it. Most departments are part of a much larger government organization and your injury claim will not be viewed as special just because you are an LEO. Depending on where you work, you may be forced to rely on workers’ compensation or even private insurance and leave to cover your expenses and time away from work.

Second, report every injury. Because insurance companies are involved, you can expect someone to question every claim – even more so if the claim is made weeks or even months after the injury occurred. My department has a policy of reporting every injury, no matter how small, regardless of whether treatment is needed at the time. While I used to think this was a waste of time, it only took one “minor injury” which turned out to be much more serious down the road to realize how important this is. Nothing goes unreported now.

Third, make every doctor’s appointment and do everything he/she instructs you to. Most injuries will be minor and recovery will be nothing more than a matter of time. Others will require multiple doctor visits, physical therapy and continued follow up. Resist the urge to simply return to work, or pressure the doctor into allowing you to do so, just because you miss the street or feel macho. Doing so not only risks furthering your injury, but also gives a claims adjuster a perfect reason to delay or deny your claim.

Finally, keep copies of everything. It is nearly impossible to remember everything that happened months or years ago when an injury flares up and became a disability. Just as you would not rely on memory when dealing with an old case, do not do so when dealing with your health and livelihood. Keep copies of all reports, forms and documents.

Hopefully you will never find yourself being a statistic but, if you do, hopefully these tips can help you navigate the process a little better.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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