A police detective faces months of unpaid leave in a dispute with his employer over whether an injury should be covered by workers’ comp.
Adam Toops, a police detective for Montclair, NJ, had spine surgery in December 2011. It was his third work-related back surgery. He says Montclair assured him that he would be paid during the time he was out because the injury occurred in the line of duty.
But now Toops’ pay has been cut off. Not only that, he’s been asked to refund the township for 12 days’ pay he already received.
Toops slipped on ice in an unplowed lot where Montclair police parked. He says his head snapped back “in a whiplash effect.” He later discovered the accident disturbed part of his spine where doctors had performed surgery in 2009 after Toops was injured searching for suspects in an armed robbery.
In the 2009 incident, Toops and another officer were jumping fences and climbing over sheds, chasing suspects.
As a result of that chase, doctors later discovered a spinal disc in his neck had torn out of place and his backbone was leaking spinal fluid.
Toops says he tried to get by with just pain management, but eventually had to have surgery.
Montclair’s workers’ comp insurer refused paying for his medical care, saying Toops had not reported the injury within the required 90-day period. Toops’ lawyer says he has documentation showing the detective did report it within the required time period.
The injured detective turned to his regular medical insurer, but that company refused to pay, arguing the township was responsible since the injury had occurred while Toops was working.
Toops’ lawyer filed a lawsuit in workers’ comp court. The case hasn’t been resolved.
As for the re-injury connected to the icy parking lot, the township’s Human Resources director said Toops’ absence wasn’t being classified as an injury in the line of duty. She said Toops was burning through his vacation and sick time, which has now run out. Once he exhausted that time, he was placed on unpaid leave.
Toops says he could face another two months off the job to heal from the surgery and a related infection.
The Human Resources director says Toops never filed the proper paperwork for the icy parking lot incident.
Toops’ lawyer says the paperwork was filed. The Montclair Times obtained a schedule for the Montclair Police Department’s Detective Bureau dated Feb. 5, 2012, which shows Toops had the entire month off due to a line-of-duty injury.
Toops says he’s a dedicated officer and he loves his job.
In 2002, a local nonprofit that helps families of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty named Toops “Officer of the Year” for helping rescue people from a burning house before firefighters arrived.
Toops wants to go back to work. “I believe I am going to heal to the point where I hope I can do my job,” he told the Times.
This is where Toops stands now: Both workers’ comp and regular health insurance have refused to pay for his medical bills, saying the other is responsible. And the township has cut off his pay.
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