As a police officer you face very dangerous situations and, unfortunately, the risk of injury every day. When you suffer a significant line of duty injury that causes incapacitation “for performance of [full] duty” there are things you must do to protect very valuable rights for yourself as well as your family.
At the very outset you will be asked to submit an accident report to your Department. Even at this early stage of the procedure, it is imperative that you take the time to write an accurate description of how you were injured. This accident report will become the relied upon description of your accident because it is the report most contemporaneous to your accident. The next step will be to file a timely Workers’ Compensation claim which, among other things, will also require you to describe how you were injured. The description of your accident on your Workers’ Compensation claim form, known as a Form C-3, should be the same as written on your accident report to your Department. However, pursuant to NYS General Municipal Law Section 207-c, you will be paid your regular wages until your disability from this accident has ceased.
How Disability Pensions are Determined
Of course, some injuries are more serious than others and some injuries will be so significant as to cause you to be permanently disabled from performing the full duties of a police officer. Should this happen to you, as a member of the NYS Policemen’s and Firemen’s’ Retirement System (NYSPFRS) under certain conditions you may be entitled to a tax-free disability pension equal to 75% of your final average salary or 50% of your final average salary, also tax free. The determinative factor as to your entitlement to one or the other of these disability pensions is the way you were injured. The 75% accidental disability pension requires that a member be “physically or mentally incapacitated for performance of duty as the natural and proximate result of an “accident,” as “accident” is defined for purposes of the NYS Policemen’s and Firemen’s Retirement System. The law governing the NYS Policemen’s and Firemen’s Retirement System is the NYS Retirement and Social Security Law, which surprisingly does not define “accident.” Instead, the definition of “accident” has come from a huge number of cases decided by the NYS Appellate Division, Third Department. Over the course of many years, the State has made it more and more difficult for a police officer to prove that an “accident” has occurred. As such, that initial accident report and the accuracy of the description it contains can be crucial to determining which disability pension will be awarded.
The other line of duty disability pension available to disabled police officers who are members of NYSPFRS is “Retirement for disability incurred in performance of duty,” which pays a disabled police officer 50% of his or her final average salary. The requirements for this pension are identical to those for an accidental disability retirement pension except the performance of duty pension does not require an “accident,” requiring only that a police officer have a disability sustained while in service.
Establishing entitlement to a 75% accidental disability pension or a 50% Performance of Duty disability retirement has many other requirements besides the medical requirement of being incapacitated for the performance of full police duties. There are notice requirements, filing deadlines and the need to provide sufficient and relevant medical evidence to meet the “incapacitation” standard. The purpose of retaining experienced counsel who is fully familiar with police disability is to take you through the process and to being awarded the disability pension to which you are entitled.
There is also another provision for achieving a 75% disability pension for a police officer who has become “incapacitated as the result of a qualifying World Trade Center condition . . . “and files an application “at any time.” In a claim for a 75% World Trade Center disability pension there is no requirement that an “accident” is the cause of the injury because there is a presumption that the disability “was incurred in the performance and discharge of duty and the natural and proximate result of an accident.” However, there are many nuances to establishing entitlement to World Trade Center Accidental Disability so that the services of an attorney practicing in this area will be of great assistance in the long run.
Contact Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C.
These are not easy benefits to receive, and the Retirement System certainly is not generous in awarding them. Therefore, it is always in an applicant’s best interest to seek out the services of experienced counsel in this area of the law to advise you properly in order to make the best decision for your future as well as that of your family. The New York police disability attorneys with Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C. can help you through your application to the favorable resolution of your claim. Contact us at 516-496-0400 to speak with a lawyer today.