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In this case, the firefighter's only coverage is the policy he or she has purchased. However, the volunteer fire department or the municipality could purchase additional "non-owned vehicle coverage." This additional protection for the firefighter's vehicle would be over and above the coverage the firefighter has purchased. That means the firefighter's personal auto coverage will pay until the limits of the policy are exhausted. Additional damages owed the injured or their families would be covered by the non-owned vehicle coverage of the fire department or the municipality up to the limits of that policy. If there is no non-owned vehicle coverage and damages exceed the firefighter's personal policy, the firefighter could be personally responsible for the damages exceeding his or her policy amount.
Because the firefighter may pose more than the ordinary motor vehicle accident risk, he or she should usually carry an amount significantly greater than the minimum coverage required by law. This coverage varies from state to state and is often in the range of $25,000 to $50,000 per person for bodily injury liability coverage for all victims in any one accident and $10,000 property damage liability. Firefighters with assets to protect should consider buying much more insurance and purchasing a liability "umbrella policy" that will increase limits by $1 million to $5 million, depending on how much additional coverage is needed.
I would like to thank the American Insurance Association for its help in the preparation of this column.
Michael Wilbur, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is an FDNY lieutenant in Ladder Company 27 in the Bronx and a firefighter in the Howells, NY, Fire Department. He is an adjunct instructor at the New York State Academy of Fire Science and the Orange County Fire Training Center. Wilbur has developed and presented emergency vehicle operator courses throughout the country and has consulted on a variety of fire apparatus issues.