Whose fault was a cop car wreck?

October 28, 2008 9:39:24 PM PDT
To say one Stafford man is frustrated is an understatement. His vehicle was hit by a police officer running a stop sign back in January. So why has he yet to be paid for what happened? Hernando Montenegro will always know the Stafford intersection of W. Airport and Jebbia Lane well, not just because it used to be a part of his daily routine, rather because of what happened here.

"I was lucky it wasn't my day," Montenegro said.

On January 30, he was driving to work -- east on West Airport -- when a Stafford police officer traveling north on Jebbia with his lights flashing hit him. The impact so great the vehicle left the road.

"Across five lanes of traffic, over the median, over the sidewalk, through a fence, into someone's back yard," Montenegro recalled.

His car was totaled, he took a trip to the ER and life, he says, will never be the same.

"I have four boys and a wife that when I leave now, I don't know if I'm coming back home," Montenegro explained.

Hernando thought the worst was over with the accident, but 10 months later, he says he's still living a nightmare.

He said, "I'm still trying to settle this and I have gotten nowhere."

Montenegro says he's trying to re-coup about $3,000 in medical expenses and missed wages in addition to $3,000 more in damages, but he says the city of Stafford won't budge.

"I feel like they're above the law," he said. "They can basically do what they want."

According to the city's attorney, they looked into it and determined the accident was 50 percent Hernando's fault and 50 percent the officer's fault. So he says they're not liable.

Indeed, the DPS accident report says Hernando may not have seen the officer's lights because of impaired visibility -- a fence with a long row of hedges. But the primary factor, according to the report, was that the officer disregarded the stop sign. That leads Hernando to conclude the accident is the city's fault. He says the city has offered him about $500 to settle -- not even close to what he's asking for, but he's says he's not asking for much.

"Just take responsibility and liability for your actions and your officers' actions and that's it," Montenegro said. "That's all I'm asking for."

The claims manager for the Texas Municipal League, what's essentially Stafford's insurance company, tells me they are still in negotiations with the family and are trying to work something out. Since we started asking questions, Hernando says the city has upped its offer from $500 to $1,800. He says that's still well short of covering his medical expenses.

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