When you are behind the wheel of a vehicle for up to 8 or more hours a day, it is inevitable that, sooner or later, you will be involved in an automobile accident. When you find yourself in an automobile accident driving a city vehicle, you can count on a few things. You will have to notify your supervisor. Car 17 will have to come take an accident report. You will have to submit to an SAT4. Your supervisor will have to complete a supervisor’s report of an accident. The question is, will you have to go before the Accident Review Board as a result of the accident?
Reviewing accidents is a function of the NOPD’s Risk Management and Fleet Management efforts. Car 17 reports are reviewed on a regular basis. The initial determination made when reviewing an accident report is whether or not the officer is at fault in the accident.
If the officer is deemed not to be at fault in the accident, then Car 17 may be the last you hear about the accident unless you were injured and have a worker’s compensation or injured on duty claim. If you are injured or think you may have been injured in an accident that was not your fault, you should contact one of the FOP attorneys about representation for the injuries sustained in the accident. Your FOP attorneys can also advise and assist you with worker’s compensation or injured on duty claims. If you are injured or think you may be injured, make sure your supervisor completes a First Report of Injury.
If you were at fault in the accident and you were injured, you should still make sure that your supervisor completes a First Report of Injury. As long as you were acting in the course and scope of your employment, you will have worker’s compensation coverage regardless of your fault in the accident (with a few possible exceptions).
If you were at fault in the accident, your crash may be flagged for the Accident Review Board. The Accident Review Board is a disciplinary hearing. The Accident Review Board is normally composed of a Deputy Chief, the Commander of Traffic, the Commander of the Academy (or a Captain from the Academy), a District Commander, and another Commander from the Field Operations Bureau.
The Accident Review Board meets at irregular times, so it is difficult to predict when they might convene. It is also difficult to predict how much time might elapse between your accident and when your accident will be before the Accident Review Board. It usually takes several months to a year.
When you appear before the Accident Review Board, the Board will review the video of the crash, if any video exists. If you were driving a car with a camera, chances are there will be video of the crash. The video cameras are always recording and are triggered to save the recording upon impact. Some minor impacts do not trigger the camera.
Generally, you will be given an opportunity to explain to the Board how the accident happened. Keep in mind that by this time, there has been an accident report written, they have asked you to complete a voluntary statement about the accident, and your supervisor, who is also there at the Accident Review Board, has also written a Supervisor’s Report of an Accident. You are ordered to participate in the Accident Review Board. So, you do not have the option of remaining silent. Therefore, any statements you make can not be used against you in a criminal proceeding, as directed by Garrity. However, Garrity does not protect against actions in civil matters. You should give a concise statement of the facts surrounding the accident. You should include any mitigating factors that contributed to the accident. You should also describe what police work or police action you were engaged in at the time, as well as how that police work or police action concluded, if you know.
Remember, if you are involved in an accident while engaged in a police action, you have an obligation to relay any pertinent information you may have to the dispatcher or other units involved and check on anyone who was potentially injured in the accident and secure emergency medical services if needed. You should include this information in any statement to the Accident Review Board.
The FOP Legal Defense Plan will provide you with an attorney for the Accident Review Board. Remember, members of Crescent City Lodge #2 must be represented by an FOP attorney to take advantage of the Salary Reimbursement Option (SRO). You can either call an FOP attorney directly or you can contact Jim Gallagher (504-442-4050) if you are unsure of how to do that.
Accident Review Board penalties and appeals will be addressed in a subsequent posting.
Please be careful. You can avoid the Accident Review Board by avoiding the accident. Also, it may be a pain in the ass, but WEAR YOUR SEATBELT.