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Gingersnap
09-10-2010, 10:46 AM
Accident Victims Increasingly Being Hit Again -- With 'Crash Taxes'

By Ed Barnes

Published September 07, 2010

Cary Feldman was astride his motor scooter, three cars back at a stoplight in Chicago Heights, Ill., last June when a car bumped him from behind. “It was nothing,” the 71-year old said. “I fell off and got right back up. As I was getting up I noticed a fire truck slow, look at me, and pull away. It never stopped and I didn’t think anything of it.”

But five months later, Feldman received a bill for $200, to cover the cost of the fire truck showing up at the scene of his accident. For months, he argued the charge with the fire department while he fought with his and the other driver’s insurance companies to pay it.

He gave up when a collection agency called. "There was no way to fight it. No court to appeal to," he complained. "It was extortion."

Feldman paid the bill, but he is still angry. "They are despicable thieves,” he says.

As local governments strain against declining revenues, many have turned to a controversial -- and legally dubious -- way to raise money: They're charging accident victims for municipal services that are already covered by taxes. And the biggest proponents of these “Accident Response Fees” -- also known as "crash taxes" -- often are not good government groups and economists, but debt collection agencies looking to expand their business.

The increasingly popular revenue-raising plans generally work like this:

Every time a local public safety service (police, fire, ambulance, hazmat) responds to an emergency call, a bill gets sent to the person who receives aid. In most places, only non-residents get a bill; but in others, everyone does. And in a few places, only those found to be at fault are billed.

The idea is to make up for lost tax revenues by turning municipal workers into on-call contractors. But as often as not, these taxpayer-paid public servants wind up adding to the grief of accident victims by charging for their services at the scene.

The bills can be huge. A simple response to an accident usually costs just less than $500, but the bottom line can quickly soar. In Florida, if a fire chief shows up at your accident, it'll cost you an extra $200 an hour. Need a Jaws of Life rescue in Sacramento, Calif.? Add $1,875. In Chico, Calif., going into a ditch could cost as much as your car, because a complex rescue goes for $2,000 an hour, plus $50 per hour for each rescue worker. And if there is gas or oil to clean up, the hazmat team will bill another $100 per hour per team member. In San Francisco an ambulance ride will cost $1,642 under a new proposal there. A Pennsylvania man recently complained that his bill for an accident on his motorcycle included charges for “mops and brooms.”

Though variations of the plan have been around for a long time, the recession has given it new life. More than 40 towns and cities in California alone are currently considering adopting crash tax measures, according to Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. And 33 other states have begun adopting or studying accident response fees, according to Mary Bonelli of the Ohio Insurance Institute, who has studied the growth of the accident fee industry for the past seven years. That is a 600 percent increase from when she began looking at the industry six years ago.

:mad:

Fox (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/09/07/accident-victims-increasingly-hit-crash-taxes/?test=latestnews)

marv
09-10-2010, 01:22 PM
I question this. The key is...
Every time a local public safety service (police, fire, ambulance, hazmat) responds to an emergency call, a bill gets sent to the person who receives aid.
The thing to have done was to demand evidence that a "call" was made, by whom, and what the nature of the "aid" was.

If the "injured" party made no call, and no "aid" was rendered, end of story.

But on the other hand, we're talking about something that happened in Crook County, IL......!