Court: Ill. cop struck by car while at stop light can be awarded disability benefits

A city maintained that Officer David Martin, who suffered spinal injuries after being rear-ended in his squad car, did not have a line-of-duty injury

By Kara Berg
Belleville News-Democrat

SHILOH, Ill. — Ever since a Shiloh police officer was injured when another car hit him while sitting in his squad car, the village of Shiloh and the officer have been battling on whether he was injured in the line of duty.

Officer David Martin suffered cervical spine injuries in his back and neck in May 2012 while on duty when a car rear-ended the unmarked squad car he was a passenger in at a stop light, according to the appellate court decision that came down Nov. 29. Martin ended up with permanent disabilities that prevented him from returning to the field, which neither party disputes.

However, the Board of Trustees of the police pension fund of Shiloh maintained that Martin did not have a line-of-duty injury, which under the Illinois pension code is considered to be an injury suffered while on an assignment approved by the chief of police. At the time of the injury, Martin was returning from the St. Clair County courthouse where he got copies of subpoenas for an investigation and filed traffic tickets and other citations, according to the appellate court decision.

The only issue in the appeal was whether that counted as a line-of-duty activity.

Shiloh argued that because the squad car was stopped at a stop light, something most citizens do multiple times a day as they drive, Martin’s injuries were not to be considered line-of-duty. The Illinois code also describes an act of duty as one “inherently involving special risk, not ordinarily assumed by a citizen in the ordinary walks of life.”

But after reviewing previous case decisions, the appeals court said an officer can be awarded line-of-duty disability benefits when an officer is disabled “as the result of the injury incurred in the performance of an act of duty.” The appellate court came to the same decision as the St. Clair County Circuit Court. Because Martin was injured while performing his duties as a detective and had to direct his attention toward “being prepared to deal with any eventuality” from his squad car, he was injured in the line of duty, according to the appellate court.

On-duty pension is equivalent to 65 percent of an officer’s salary, as opposed to the 50 percent of salary that comes with a non-line-of-duty pension, according to appellate court documents.

©2017 the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Ill.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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