By Mark Peacock, Esq. and Megan Bartlett, Esq.
Governor’s Order to Release Inmates + Economic Impact of COVID-19 = Increase in Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers on the Road
Governor Newsom’s recent order expediting the release of 8,000+ inmates throughout California effectively means that the number of people on probation or parole on the streets is going to skyrocket. This is going to impact the workload for peace officers as well as increase the potential danger to them as they patrol the streets of the communities they serve.
While these unprecedented times are certainly challenging, we want to make sure that peace officers are doing everything you can to protect yourself and your family members. With over 8,000 additional former inmates loose on the streets there will undoubtedly be more people driving around with either no auto insurance or the bare minimum insurance coverage. In addition there will be large numbers of the general public who can no longer afford auto insurance (or can only afford minimum levels of insurance) due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. While this is an unfortunate reality – there are steps peace officers can and should take to ensure that they are taking care of themselves and their family should something happen to them while they are working. The most important thing you can do is to make sure you have high limits of Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage on your personal automobile insurance policy. Here’s why:
On-Duty Accidents: Civil Case in Addition to Workers’ Compensation Claim
Imagine you are on-duty working your last shift of the week before finally getting some much needed and deserved time off. On your way back to the station you go through an intersection and out of nowhere a vehicle broadsides you. The other driver ran a red light and now you’re seriously injured and are forced to be off work for an extended period of time. Instead of a relaxing couple days off, now you’re in pain and must start the long, frustrating journey through the workers’ comp system.
Most officers know that if they are injured on-duty they have a workers’ comp claim. What many officers don’t know is that they also could have a civil claim against the driver that hit them. Workers comp will only cover you to a certain extent – there’s a lot that comp does NOT cover: any loss of overtime or “extra” pay, pain & suffering, time lost/burned and punitive damages (among other things).
If the injuries sustained in the accident are severe you might be forced to retire early on a disability retirement – which means less retirement income than you originally planned. That loss of income is only recoverable in a civil claim against the other driver.
Protect Yourself/Family: Increase Your Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Policy on Your Personal Auto Insurance Policy
BUT what if the other driver doesn’t have any insurance? Or minimum insurance coverage? Your personal auto insurance policy can apply to provide additional coverage above and beyond what workers’ compensation provides. YES – even if you are in a county vehicle your personal insurance applies. NO – it does not increase your rates/insurance premiums.
This is called Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) insurance. It’s a voluntary benefit that you can get on your auto policy that is relatively cheap but can have a huge impact should you be involved in an auto accident with an uninsured or minimally insured driver. Another benefit of UM/UIM coverage – it can cover your family members as well if they are involved in an accident.
As more and more inmates are released and the number of uninsured or minimally insured drivers on the roads goes up, it is vitally important that you take a look at your auto insurance policy to make sure that you have the maximum coverage to protect yourself and your family during these crazy times. If you have any questions on your auto insurance policy or would like us to review your policy, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.