May 2018 Legal Report

By: Milan Rada, Esq. with John Hewson, Esq.

You may have heard rumors that the Police Department has begun to schedule “207-c” hearings. The rumors are true. So, what is a “207-c” hearing and why is it important to you?

 

“207-c” hearings are held pursuant to NYS General Municipal Law (GML) Section 207-c, which provides that a Nassau County police officer (among other law enforcement throughout NYS) will be paid full tax free wages when injured in the performance of duty. In order to protect this benefit,  there are some critical steps you must follow.

It all begins with the line of duty injury.  Art. 7, Rule 7 of the Nassau County Police Department Manual states as follows: “When injured while acting within the scope of official duties:

  1. Full pay will be granted to Members of the Force for injuries received while acting within the scope of official duties when such injury has been reported to the member’s Commanding Officer within seven (7) days after the injury was sustained and it can be conclusively shown that the disability was actually received while the member was performing police duty and that no negligence on the member’s part contributed thereto. This time limit may not be extended except by approval of the Commissioner of Police.”

Notification of the injury to the police department will be done by completing an aided packet; it is our preference that you complete a full aided packet as opposed to a non-recordable report for the key reason that a full aided packet will result in the Police Department filing a Workers’ Compensation form C-2, while a non-recordable will not. Your accident report should be accurate and thorough enough so that the mechanism of your injury (i.e., how you were injured) is unambiguous and clear. If some sort of defect, like a collapsing step, caused your injury be sure to include this fact in your accident description. (See prior editions of the Legal Report for discussions on the important difference between an “accident” and an “incident.”) Make sure to include ALL the body parts that you injured. If your neck hurts very badly but you also “bumped” or “tweaked” or “poked” your back, you must include your back as an injured body part also, because if you do not and you later seek to make your injured back a part of your case, the Police Department will  push back hard against your attempt to add a further injury to your accident report and will not grant you an I-number for the injury reported subsequently. With no I-number you do not get the full salary that comes along with GML Sect. 207-c benefits and you burn your accumulated sick time for when you are not able to work. So, if with proper treatment, your neck is no longer disabling, and you are able to do RA but your back injury is becoming progressively worse and you wind up needing surgery you will burn your own sick time because the Police Department will take the position that your back injury is not causally related to your accident and all because you did not list your back as being injured on your initial accident report; this is the most typical issue to be resolved by a GML Sect. 207-c hearing.

After reviewing your aided packet, the Police Department will notify you of its determination if it finds that the injury did not occur in the line of duty. From the time of this notification, you have 30 days to submit a written request to the CO of MAO for a “207-c” hearing. According to the Memorandum of Understanding, Medical Review Board and Administrative Hearings, “The [207-c] hearing shall be scheduled to be commenced at a mutually agreeable date and time within sixty (60) calendar days of the receipt of the request for such hearing at the Medical Administration Office.” Further, the Memorandum cautions of a tough penalty: “If the Department does not conform to any of the aforementioned time limitations, unless extended by mutual agreement, the member, active or separated shall receive his full entitlement of sick leave accumulation upon termination of service.” However, the Memorandum is equally tough on the police officer: “If the member does not conform to any of such time limitations, the appropriate sick leave will be deducted upon termination of service.” So, you must be absolutely certain to notify the police department of your injury within seven (7) days, and you must request a “207-c” hearing within 30 days of being advised that your injury is not being considered to have happened in the line of duty.

If you have already been through a Workers’ Compensation case then the “207-c” hearing process will be pretty familiar to you, but with one KEY difference: In a “207-c” hearing the Police Department appoints the hearing officer from police department ranks, whereas  a Workers’ Compensation case is presided over by an independent, neutral administrative law judge. So, you may be asking yourself a fair question: What are my chances of succeeding in a “207-c” hearing where the police department is the judge, jury and executioner? If you’re thinking that your chances are not really good, you are almost always right; appellate division cases have already held that it’s Okay for the police department to appoint the hearing officer from its ranks. In one “207-c” hearing that has been scheduled, Deputy Chief Ronald J. Walsh, Jr. has been selected to serve as the Departmental Hearing Officer in the upcoming hearing.

As an example of a “207-c” issue consider the case of a police officer who broke his right foot in a fall on duty.  On his accident report the police officer listed his injury as “right foot.” Subsequently the police officer developed tarsal tunnel syndrome of the right foot. Since tarsal tunnel syndrome was not listed on the accident report, the police department has taken the position that the tarsal tunnel syndrome is not causally related to the cop’s injury.  In a future Legal Report we’ll let you know how the outcome of any “207-c” hearings which have been heard and decided.

In the meantime stay safe, but if you are injured in the line of duty may it be the result of an accident not an incident. If you have any questions regarding this Legal Report or claims involving Workers’ Compensation, Accidental Disability Retirement (3/4), Social Security Disability Insurance, Veterans’ Disability or Personal Injury Accident cases, please do not hesitate to contact us at 516.941.4403 or mrada@fbrlaw.com.

Because of our dedication to the members of the PBA we will always do whatever it takes to protect the interests of police officers and their families.