Who foots the bill when a stolen police car is involved in an accident

Friday, January 11th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The cost of a police car accident and who foots the bill. The victims were left behind after a man stole a police car - then crashed into several other cars. It happened Thursday morning - leaving several people with wrecked cars and injuries.

News on Six reporter Emory Bryan says the stolen Tulsa Police car came through the intersection fast - without lights or siren. Police say an ex-con was behind the wheel - and several innocent people were in his way. The accident left cars scattered through the intersection. Tulsa Police say Bernard Benson - caused the crash. Three people were injured - all drivers waiting at the intersection.

Nicole Dotson's car was the last to be hit - and she saw the prisoner behind the wheel take off. "The man that stole the car is coming out with his handcuffs on stepping onto the hood of my car, then fleeing to QT." He was uninjured - but Dotson was hurt. Paramedics held her neck straight at the scene. She has no broken bones, but says she hurts all over. "I got whipped back and forth like this and my neck and back are killing me."

Dotson - a schoolteacher - worries she'll take another hit with insurance bills and repair bills. And she may be right. Even though the police officer left the keys in the car - the last time it happened, the courts ruled the city was immune from liability, for injuries suffered when a handcuffed arrestee escaped in a police car and caused an accident. The damage is sure to be thousands of dollars for each of the vehicles - and the cost of injuries may be even more - and Dotson doubts the guy behind the wheel has any insurance. "If you're stealing a police car over a pack of cigarettes, come on, he's not going to have the insurance that's needed."

In a case like this, a person’s basic car insurance policy covers the damages to the vehicle. An uninsured motorist policy will cover the cost of the injuries. And since it's not the policyholder's fault - the rates will not increase. Dotson still has to pay a deductible - but she thinks the city bears some responsibility for what happened to her. "Police officers should have took the keys out of the car, there would be three people going to work, leading a normal life."