In 2015, I took on the representation of an officer who was injured on the job when she was struck by an uninsured drunk driver. Officer Allison Renander was knocked unconscious when Gary Clark’s Dodge Ram smashed into the back of her patrol car. Her patrol car rolled onto the sidewalk some 50 feet away, where other officers revived her. She had some temporary leg paralysis, but, luckily, suffered otherwise relatively minor injuries, including a concussion, a strain to the joint in her jaw and some bruising on the right side of her body. She was released from the hospital after three days and began physical therapy while on leave from work.

As is customary, and pursuant to her employment contract with the City of Portland, FPD&R covered her medical expenses and 75% of her wages while she was recovering. My plan was to see if Clark had any assets or insurance, make a claim against the bar for serving him while he was intoxicated (since he was a 0.17 BAC at the time of the crash) and make an uninsured motorist claim against the City of Portland. If you are a police officer, fireman or lawyer who represents police officers or firemen, this is where you should start paying attention.

The City of Portland risk management office told me that because Officer Renander accepted FPD&R coverage for her injuries, she waived her statutory right to uninsured motorist coverage from the City. This meant she could receive no money to compensate her for pain and suffering. Nor would she be compensated for the 25% wage loss not covered by FPD&R.

Oregon law requires self-insured companies and governmental entities to carry uninsured and underinsured coverage. The statute specifically says, “The uninsured motorist coverage under this section shall be excess over any other collateral benefits to which an injured person is entitled, including, but not limited to, other uninsured motorist coverage, insurance benefits, governmental benefits or gratuitous benefits.” The risk manager argued that the Portland City Charter (Section 5-306(i)) authorizes them to ignore State law and offered Officer Renander the standard $5,000 to settle her case. Instead, we sued Gary Clark, the Tik Tok Bar and Grill and the City of Portland. I filed a motion for summary judgment against the City, and Judge Breithaupt agreed: The City must provide coverage. Long story short, we just settled Officer Renander’s case for $105,000.

Here’s what you need to know:

If you are injured by another driver while on the job, you can sue that other driver for their negligence. If they don’t have insurance, or if their insurance is insufficient to cover your damages, you can make an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim against the City. The City will then have to stand in the shoes of the at-fault driver and cover your damages.

Here’s what else you need to know:

Not many attorneys know this. I am the only one I have heard of who has ever challenged the City on this issue. So, be sure to have your attorney call me about your case. I am happy to send them all of my materials on this issue.

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