Unexpected bills: Some local governments relying on accident response fees

AMBERLEY VILLAGE, OH (FOX19) - Have you ever received a bill from police months after causing a crash? It could happen to you, and some say it is a dangerous trend for local governments.

Accident response fees are illegal in Indiana, but in Ohio and Kentucky it's up to the local government to decide if it will charge a person who causes an accident.

"I was taking my son to a Boy Scout camping trip and was running late, kind of distracted -- turned around to make sure he had his coat and it was the first accident I've ever been in. I rear-ended somebody," said Rachel Moore.

Moore said she was recently billed for causing the crash. Because her fender bender happened on Galbraith in Amberley Village, and at the time, had no idea the village might be the last place she'd wanted to cause a crash.

That's a lesson she didn't learn until six months later.

"I thought it was completely behind me," she said.

Moore got a bill for more than $600 in the mail for the two officers who responded to her crash.

"This is ridiculous," she said. "Why would you call police if you knew you had to pay for it if police came -- thought that's why we pay taxes."

But Amberley Village Police Chief Richard Wallace points out that because Moore doesn't live there and doesn't pay taxes there, she's being billed to reimburse those who do.

"This is no more than covering the cost our taxpayers are paying here to reimburse the village for the funds," Wallace said.

It's called an accident response fee, and Amberley Village has been charging them for a decade now. And with many states cutting local government funds, other local departments are looking into it, too.

"Within the past month, I've probably talked to another five to six agencies," Wallace said. "It's just that everybody is in the same situation where dollars are going down and we have to be able to maintain."

It turns out that Amberley Village sends three copies. After that, if there's no payment received, the bill goes away. Though Amberley Village won't send those accounts to collections, it's up to each local government to decide how they're going to handle it.

Representatives with Cost Recovery Corporation, the third party company that bills for the accident fees, say they are currently talking to both Golf Manor and Saint Bernard about similar programs. They also confirm the city of Cincinnati has contacted them.

Cost Recovery keeps 25 percent of the money they recoup for local departments.

Cost recovery starts by billing the insurance company, but according to the Ohio Insurance Institute at least 85 percent of insurance companies providing auto insurance in the state don't cover non-medical accident fees. So in most cases the bill comes straight to the driver at fault.

Moore admits she caused the accident she was billed for, and her first response was to call 911 for help. But after getting her bill, that may not be her reaction if it happens again.

AAA stands firmly against charging these kind of fees.

"Motorists should not be fearful of wanting to call the police if they're in an accident or if they hit somebody's car because they're going to get a massive bill in the mail," said AAA senior public affairs specialist Jennifer Moore.

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