Legal Defense and Liability Insurance
Legal Defense and Liability Insurance:
What Rangers Need to Know
The Lodge believes it is critical that every LE ranger purchase and maintain both legal defense insurance and liability insurance. The policy you buy has to have a clause that states the insurance company will pay for a lawyer in a case of an administrative action against you. Such an action can easily cost you your career. Every year, we talk to rangers who are facing an administrative action against them, but have no way to effectively defend themselves without spending huge sums for an attorney. This is what liability insurance does: it provides you with the means to keep your job. The Lodge can give advice based on our experience, and we will sometimes authorize a consult with Passman and Kaplan, but that may not be enough: get officer liability insurance!
There are many companies that provide both of these coverages and we will list five to give you an idea of what’s out there nationally; you can probably find a statewide insurer if you look. In all probability, the national companies will have more experience with federal officers though.
There is a difference between Legal Defense Insurance (LDI) and Liability Insurance (LI). LDI will pay for your lawyer when you have to go before an administrative tribunal, civil court and/or criminal court. Look for a policy that is not capped at a certain amount: In other words, after the ceiling is reached, you’re on your own. The best policies allow you to speak with a lawyer before you are charged with anything but you strongly feel that you will be charged. A good policy will pay for a lawyer to advise you when your supervisor calls you in for a counseling session that can lead to discipline against you.
Liability insurance pays damages that are assessed against you. If you run over someone or something in your patrol car and then you are sued in civil court and have to pay for your actions, and your agency won’t pay it, your LI will. Often the sums are quite high and you’ll never financially recover. Fortunately, these cases are rare but LI is usually inexpensive. You can be liable for damages for slander or libel too, and these policies cover that. A good LI policy will provide a lawyer to try and stop you from getting assessed damages in the first place. To see how important LI is, just remember, the NPS is required to pay half the annual premium.
You need LDI and LI as much as you need your body armor and other defensive equipment. Look at it as another item in your daily tool kit that will allow you to come home safe and sound. The Lodge urges you to purchase these coverages.
When you look for a policy, make sure your job category is covered. Some companies won’t cover a dispatcher for instance, and it may be hard to find out if that’s the case or not. If you are a dispatcher, please doublecheck that you are covered. If you are not a dispatcher but are a sworn federal officer, ask yourself if you want a policy from a company that doesn’t cover an integral job like a dispatcher. If the company will cut corners here, will they cut corners with you when crunch time comes?
Here are the names of a few companies and associations that offer these types of coverage. What follows is in their own words and you will need to probe beneath the advertising. You should get a useful overview of the strengths and limitations of these offerings though.
A Sample of Plans Offered:
We asked the executive Director of PLEA to write a few words because we have gotten the impression that few of our members have heard of the organization. Her writing and lead to the web site material should not be taken for a Lodge endorsement. We are grateful that Ms McMahon took the time to write. PLEA now offers a discount to members of the Ranger Lodge.
The Professional Law Enforcement Association has a comprehensive LDI/LI policy that is worth checking out. They have been in business for quite a while now and several of us have had positive experiences with them with no negative. From their web page:
- Legal Defense while “moonlighting.”
- Available to all Law Enforcement Personnel, including Dispatchers, Correction Officers, etc.
- Grand Jury investigations also covered.
- Optional Non-Duty related administrative available.
- Over twenty years experience in Legal Defense.
- NO DEDUCTIBLES!
- No Deductible when using a non-plan Attorney.
- No Exclusion or limitation when you are defended by your city, county, etc.- we’re there with you!
- No Exclusion for “activities not carried on in a professional capacity in the course and scope of employment.”
- No penalty for cancellation.
- Monthly Fee Only: $11.25 (Based on 50% or more eligible group participation).
The PLEA Plan
- The Legal Defense Fund shall pay on behalf of participants legal fees for the following matters which arise from a duty related incident, as defined.
- Defense of criminal charges, including all hearings or appearances before any court of Federal, State or local government, in which the participant is the defendant.
- Advice, consultation, and preparation for a grand jury investigation hearing conducted against a participant.
- Defense of civil lawsuits.
- Defense of administrative proceedings which arise from incidents involving the public.
Incident means an actual or alleged act or omission to which this plan applies, which is first reported to the Legal Defense Fund during the period the participant is covered by the plan. An incident can occur on or off duty.
Duty Related means actual or alleged acts or omissions of the participant while acting within the scope of his or her authority as a law enforcement officer.
Reimbursable Costs means filing fees, court costs, and transcripts.
This may be the oldest company in continuous operation insuring federal employees. A few years ago they upgraded their coverage to include LDI.
(From their literature):
Top 10 Reasons to Buy Federal Employee Liability Insurance (FEPLI) from Wright USA
17. Wright USA invented Federal Employee Liability Insurance. Our name is synonymous with FEPLI (Wright USA = FEPLI).
18. Wright USA has proven our commitment and stability through nearly a half century of exclusive service to current and former Federal Government Employees.
19. Our optional $2,000,000 liability limit is double what our competition offers.
20. We provide round-the-clock protection at affordable premiums that can break down to less than $1 a day.
21. All federal agencies are required to reimburse qualified employees up to half (50%) of their annual premium for their coverage purchased from Wright USA.
22. Wright USA is very easy to work with, fast and efficient. You can even buy your FEPLI policy online from us.
23. Our customer service is superior. Wright USA has paid more FEPLI claims than all our competitors combined.
24. Wright USA has a National Panel of former Assistant U.S. Attorneys and Federal Govern-ment employees with the subject matter expertise and appropriate security clearances to help you.
25. Wright USA also has a unique Professional Liability program specifically designed for Former Federal Employees.
26. Wright USA has no potential conflicts of interest. We do not represent, associate with or otherwise accept funding or sponsorships from federal employee associations, unions, or agencies.
Our FEPLI policy provides you with coverage for liabilities arising out of acts, errors and omissions that you commit as a federal employee.
- Up to $2 million to pay civil court judgments against you.
- Up to $200,000 in defense costs for federal government initiated administrative proceedings and investigations.
- Up to $100,000 in defense costs for criminal proceedings or investigations.
- Loss Prevention Helpline available ($50 additional annual charge for $1,000,000 Liability Limit plans; No charge for $2,000,000 plan). Provides up to 2 hours of phone consultation with a legal professional to try to reduce your liability exposure before a claim is even filed.
- No deductibles.
- 36 month extended reporting period after you leave the federal government.
As you can see, Wright & Co offers a large range of services in their policy and are a provider of both LDI and LI. There is a cap however and this may be a concern for you.
FOP Plan through Hylant
The FOP plan was designed by the staff at the Grand Lodge and put out for bid and Hylant won the contract. We have had many members invoke their policy usually with good results. However, there is, in our view, a big hole in the Plan: you cannot speak with a lawyer until you are charged with something. We have done our best to close that hole by offering our members a free consultation with an attorney from the firm of Passman & Kaplan who only handle federal cases and have built up a wealth of knowledge in this area.
What follows is just an overview from the FOP Grand Lodge home page. You can get complete information by going to the home page and calling the toll free number supplied.
The Fraternal Order of Police Legal Defense Plan, Inc. was created by the National FOP to administer the FOP Legal Defense Plan, Inc.. This program is designed specifically to cover the law enforcement exposures faced by members of the FOP Legal Defense Plan, Inc. pays legal defense costs on behalf of participating members for the following actions and proceedings:
Coverage A – Administrative
Coverage B – Civil
Coverage C – Criminal
Coverage D – Administrative Off-Duty
For the law enforcement professional, duty related legal defense protection is a necessity as the frequency and cost of allegations against peace officers continues to rise. The FOP Legal Defense Plan, Inc. offers you and your lodge members a very affordable and comprehensive coverage plan. Please refer to the options above for additional information on Plan coverages, enrollment and claims services.
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association provides legal defense directly through their own attorneys and your coverage comes with your membership. You are defended by a FLEOA lawyer, so if using a lawyer of your choice is important to you, then you may want to weigh the pros and cons here.
We have had several members receive outstanding defense from a FLEOA lawyer and you can pick up the phone and speak with a lawyer as soon after an incident occurs as you choose.
FLEOA provides 24hr Legal Services to members needing legal assistance. Join FLEOA immediately if you are not yet a member. You must be a FLEOA member in good standing at the time of the occurrence for which you are seeking legal advice and assistance. Make sure your renewal is up to date. Problems? Call the Legal Counsel.
FLEOA has a team of experienced attorneys, with Larry Berger as FLEOA’s General Counsel. Assistant Counsels James J. Osgood, Esq.: Jeff Jacobson, Esq. And Joy Bertrand, Esq. are also part of our legal team. Don’t Go it Alone! Visit FLEOA’s web site for more details.
FEDS offers both LDI and LI so it’s worth considering on that basis. Having a company where you can get both makes a certain amount of sense and is probably cost effective. From their web site:
Membership in FEDS entitles a federal employee who is accused of misconduct or wrongdoing in the course of rendering a professional service or scope of employment to the following:
- Legal fees paid up to $200,000 in an administrative investigation, disciplinary action or judicial sanction proceeding.
- $100,000 for criminal legal defense and up to $1,000,000 for liability damages in a civil suit.
- 36 months extended reporting period after leaving federal service.
There is information at their site on how to contact them to either sign up or request more information. They are not law enforcement specific but will cover any federal employee.