Woman charged for calling police to scene of minor accident

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Monday, December 15, 2014

LYNDHURST, OH (KTRK) -- A woman got into a fender bender in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. Now, she's facing a huge bill because she had police respond to the accident.

Grace Jones, 20, told WJW-TV that a driver in front of her suddenly slammed on their brakes. She couldn't stop in time and bumped into the car in front of her.

Jones did what she thought is the right thing: She called police.

Police responded, investigated and then wrote her a ticket for following too closely. Jones didn't object.

But then she got a second bill in the mail for $584.87.

The city of Lyndhust, where she had the fender bender, passed an ordinance in 2010 allowing the city to charge non-residents for emergency services rendered. Grace doesn't live in Lyndhurst.

The bill includes $308 for the two responding police vehicles, $196.87 for police administrative overhead and $80 to pay the two responding officers.

"I can't believe that the police would charge you for doing their job, for showing up to an accident, which you have to do, per your insurance," said Patricia Jones, Grace's mother.

The AAA and the insurance industry oppose such fees, known as "crash taxes," telling ABC News that accident response and public safety are basic government services that should be paid for with general taxes.

"It's basically double taxation," said Robert Passmore, senior director for personal lines at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. "People feel they have already paid for these services."

Similar "crash taxes" exist in other cities nationwide. In 2010, the Iwin Pennsylvania Fire Department charged a woman $1,576 for responding to an accident. The bill included charges of $50 for brooms, $50 for shovels and $175 for traffic cones.

"I was floored. First of all, what broom costs $50? Shovel $50?" Paula Callahan told WTAE-TV. "I think that's outrageous. It's a volunteer fire department. They show up at the scene whether you call them or not."