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Liability Insurance for Federal Employees and Contractors

Federal Wildland Firefighters – Questions addressing Investigations, Lawsuits, Criminal Prosecutions

FEDS Protection came to be after FEDS founder, Anthony Vergnetti defended wildland firefighters in the Thirtymile and Cramer fires.  He had no idea that defending these federal employees would so drastically change the course of his life from an attorney defending Feds in private practice to founding a professional liability insurance company to protect and defend Feds the way he wanted to do it.  Read Tony’s Open Letter (written in 2010) to Federal Wildland Firefighters.

Here are the top questions we have received at the start of this fire season.  Most of these questions are addressed or answered in our 2020 Fire Season Wildland Fire webinar

1. Could I really face manslaughter charges in the course and scope of my employment? Unfortunately, yes.   Following the tragedy of the Thirtymile Fire, on June 24, 2002 the 107th Congress passed the Cantwell-Hastings Bill, codified as 7 U.S.C 2270b.  
Watch the webinar to learn more about how wildfire entrapment and burnover fatalities changed the investigative process involving wildland firefighters. The webinar addresses exposures of federal wildland firefighters as well as the protections offered by the FEDS Protection professional liability insurance policy.

2. Could I really face criminal investigations for doing my job?  Yes, to name a few: Involuntary manslaughter, protection of U.S. officers and employees, false statements (lack of candor), state and local criminal charges, etc. A more detailed description is available in the webinar.

3. What positions are eligible for agency reimbursement?  Here is a list of all 88 USFS positions eligible for agency reimbursement up to half the cost of this insurance. The USFS really does have your back – they want everyone involved in fighting fire to be able to defend him or herself in the event of an unfortunate incident or accident.  

4. Are AD firefighters eligible for the same policy/protection? Absolutely – you are fighting the same fire alongside your full time federal wildland firefighters.  The agency does not reimburse half the cost, but you are eligible for the FEDS Protection policy.  The cost is $300 annually.  You cannot hire an attorney for one hour at this amount, and you can’t afford to do this job without the ability to pay for a defense in the case of a serious accident or tragedy on your fire. 

5. What do you mean by administrative coverage?  The administrative protections of the policy are invoked when there is an allegation of negligence or a safety violation, an alleged failure to supervise, an alleged failure to follow supervisory or safety instructions, an alleged failure to identify or secure safety zones, an alleged violation of one of the watchout situations or standing firefighter orders, an alleged work/rest ratio violation, etc. 

6. Can I really be personally sued? You can be sued, DOJ can deny representation, and you can be held liable for damages.  It’s rare – the federal government usually defends, but it does happen. Skip to 17:20 of the attached webinar for information regarding personal capacity lawsuits arising out of the performance of your professional duties. 

7. What is the difference between a Garrity and Kalkines warning? This is absolutely critical for wildland firefighters to understand.  A statement or testimony provided under a Garrity warning is considered a "voluntary statement,” which means it can be used against you in both an administrative, as well as a CRIMINAL proceeding.  A statement or testimony under a Kalkines warning is a "compelled statement,” which means it cannot be used against you in a CRIMINAL proceeding.   It’s complicated so you do not want to talk with anyone until you talk to your lawyer.  Call us at 866.955.FEDS with any questions. You must have PLI coverage in place PRIOR to the fire that leads to the accident, injury or tragedy. It works just like auto or homeowners, you can’t get it after the house is on fire. 

8. False allegations were made against me – will this policy cover me for this?  Yes, the policy is a defense policy covering the administrative & disciplinary, civil and criminal exposures arising out of the course and scope of your wildland firefighting duties. Read Pete Soderquist’s testimonial at the bottom of our endorsement/testimonials for WFFs. 

9. Are contract employees eligible for coverage? Yes, but the policy and cost of coverage is different. Only the contract work you do for the federal, state or local governments (directly or via a prime contractor) is covered.  Private entity burns or contracts are not covered; and only wildland fire exposures are covered. 

10. Do I have to pay extra if I’m a supervisor for EEO type matters?  No – coverage is included at no additional cost for supervisors facing allegations of harassment, discrimination, retaliation, etc. 

11. Does coverage apply to prescribed burns? Absolutely. This coverage defends you for acts, errors and omissions arising out of your professional job duties as a federal wildland firefighter and/or supervisor. 

12. Am I covered if I get sent to a fire outside of CONUS?  Yes.

If you have any questions, please call (866) 955-FEDS or email us
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