Police Vehicle T-boned , Officer Opts for Non-Worker’s Compensation Claim

In March 2017, Elliot J. Sokoloff, Esq. was able to settle an automobile accident case/personal injury claim arising from a 2016 crash where a vehicle hit his client’s patrol car side-impacted/T-boned our client’s vehicle with such force as to as to cause significant property damage and corresponding resultant bodily injury to the Client.

The Florida Traffic Crash Report reflected not only liability, but gross negligence/recklessness in not only colliding into a law enforcement vehicle, the at-fault driver, was according to the crash and arrest reports suspected to be impaired with drugs and/or alcohol while he ran the intersection with a steady red light. That driver was arrested at the scene of the crash.

Our client had since sought medical treatment at the scene and was later transported to a local ER of a hospital. His radiological results were positive. An MRI performed due to the ongoing left wrist pain precipitated by this collision. The attending radiologist opined that there was a partial-thickness tear seen involving the proximal radial aspect of the triangular fibrocartilage….with an impression of triangular fibrocartilage partial-thickness tear…

The orthopedist, according to the Worker’s Compensation Uniform Medical Treatment/Status Reporting Form confirmed that he was wearing a ‘wrist control brace’ with various affiliated diagnosis codes. The orthopedist further recommended surgical intervention and/or injections and he had to remain in a brace for his left wrist.

After preparing lengthy reserves/demand packages with attachments addressed to the BI Insurance Company, the at-fault BI carrier tendered $10,000.00 (total BI) for our client’s claim payment issued on January 2017.

Per Florida Statue §626.727(6)(a), once written confirmation of the BI tender was received, counsel advised the UM/UIM Claims Specialist, of the BI single policy limit of $10,000.00 and requested the UIM carrier’s written response within 30 days regarding whether they would consider authorization of the BI settlement by waiving its subrogation rights or whether they would elect to retain subrogation rights.

Thereafter, the UM/UIM Claims Adjuster advised that they would be waiving subrogation rights under Florida Statue §627.727 and, authorized us to accept the bodily injury limits of the BI carrier and would not be pursuing subrogation against them. This authorization by UIM carrier allowed us to process the underlying bodily injury claim without prejudice to a pending present and/or future UIM claim against them.

In March 2017, the UIM carrier on behalf of its insured, our Client, the insured, in the amount of $50,000.00, his non-stacked single UM/UIM policy limit for his claim.

Thus the total settlement was the combined policy limits equal to $60,000.00.

Note: typically, when someone is physically hurt on the job, Florida Statute 440 usually dictates that going through worker’s compensation should be the first line of recovery. However, sometimes, as the case was here, employees worried of losing their job should they file a comp claim sometimes look for other avenues to recover from when a 3rd party is involved.
By filing a comp case, the client may be risking his job with his employer since many of these matters are settled with that either being a condition of settlement or because Florida remains an employment at will state, just something that happens. When that came up, our client told us that he was not interested in pursuing a plaintiff’s worker’s comp claim and would rather explore a 3rd party claim only if possible.
While the client can continue treating through worker’s compensation coverage provided by the employer, and choose not pursue a legal case against the carrier and the employer, under Florida Statute, worker’s compensation would then have essentially have a ‘super-lien’ against any monies that the client recovers from a 3rd party and, if still treating, worker’s comp would continue to have a right of reimbursement so long as his comp matter would remain open.

There are ways to reduce that worker’s comp lien, albeit, if a reduction is accepted, the worker’s comp carrier does get an offset on future benefits to be paid. The carrier can set off the recovery obtained by an injured employee from a third party tortfeasor (the guy that hit you) against compensation benefits due the injured employee. FS 440.39(1). Such limits the amount of the compensation carrier’s set-off to its pro rata share of the compensation and medical benefits paid or to be paid, less its pro-rata share, court, costs, and reasonable attorney fees expended by the claimant in the claim against the third party. The carrier can subtract its future payments by a ratio of net recovery to the full value of the third-party claim…(sometimes referred to as the Manfredo formula.)

In this case, a $13,000.00 comp lien was reduced to about $1,300.00, however allowing the employer’s comp carrier a future percentage offset (which was a non-issue since treatment had already concluded), through counsel’s efforts, allowing the client to put the significant difference in pocket.