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Missing man sued by insurer over injured officer's workers' comp

Workers' compensation benefits are available to those who are injured while on the job. It may be a simple concept to understand, but the process of obtaining the benefits is not always easy. Ensuring that an injured worker obtains the compensation that they are eligible for isn't the only thing that workplace accident attorneys can help with. 

Take the recent case of a Chester Township police officer who was injured while searching for a missing person. The city later sued the missing individual and two of his friends for the sum of compensation benefits paid to the injured officer. 

The case began in 2006 when a limousine driver reported that one of his passengers had gone missing. The passenger was being taken to a friend's house when he told the driver that he needed to stop and "relieve himself" only blocks away from his final destination. The driver obliged, and while the passenger checked back in after a few moments, he left again.

When the passenger failed to return, the driver called the police. The officer responded to the call, talked to those at the friend's house and conducted a short search for the missing passenger. It was during the search that he injured his knee, later receiving $43,810 in benefits. 

The insurer later sued the passenger and two friends. The theory was one of negligence. Negligence was alleged on the part of the passenger for "wandering off" on his own accord. His friends also allegedly were negligent when they hid the passenger from the officer responding to the report. Thus, the without the actions of the two parties, the officer would not have been injured or required workers' compensation benefits.

The court determined that even though the passenger may have wandered off and hid, he had no "duty of care" to the injured officer. Further, the costs associated in "providing police services" are "assigned to society at large." This cost includes workers' compensation benefits. The appeals court upheld both this reasoning and decision.

Source: nj.com, "Court rejects appeal of workers' comp paid to Chester Twp. cop hurt in missing-person search," Ben Horowitz, July 16, 2013