Case of the missing stop sign

April 10, 2009 3:19:20 AM PDT
A young Houston woman and her family say they are dealing with a lot of heartache, all for something that wasn't at one Houston intersection, and what an officer left off an accident report[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

At the intersection of Sawyer and Summer in The Heights, a stop sign directs drivers. The sign exists now, but three months ago it wasn't there.

At just 20-years-old, Jessica Rodriguez has had to learn a lot about police reports, insurance claims, and liability in the three months since her accident.

On the afternoon of January 11, 2009, Jessica was driving eastbound on Summer when she crashed into an SUV.

"My car spun around, her car flipped over and it stopped over at the corner," said Jessica.

At first, she didn't know what happened. Then she saw a picture that a witness took that day and something was missing.

"There was no stop sign at all," said Jessica.

There clearly should have been. According to a city service record, just two hours after the accident, a police officer reported the missing stop sign to the Public Works Department. Two days later, a new sign was erected.

That doesn't help Jessica. She and her father say the HPD officer on the accident scene that day told them the non-existent stop sign would be noted on the police report. It's not. Instead it only says she failed to yield the right of way, therefore the accident is her fault.

"She got a ticket for running a stop sign that isn't there," said Jessica's father, Ignacio Rodriguez.

The Rodriguez's concern right now is liability. Not only was Jessica's car totaled, so was the SUV.

"Once I'm liable, then who knows after that. Will they come after me at some point after for more?" asked Ignacio.

Ignacio thinks the officer could have cleared a lot of those issues up. Our legal analyst said he should have.

"If there's a missing stop sign, that has to be in the report. It's mandatory that you include all significant evidence that could lead to guilt or innocence," said KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy.

Jessica and her father feel the city should be responsible. Had the proper signage been there, they say the accident might not have happened.

"I would have stopped if there was a stop sign," said Jessica.

HPD says Jessica can fight the ticket in court, but she and her father say that doesn't help them with the liability issue. The City Attorney's Office told us an officer can use discretion when it comes to what they put down in an accident report. They encourage the Rodriguez's to file a claim with the city.

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