Is it fair for NZTA to recoup crash costs from victims who are at fault?
The mother of a teenager nearly killed in a car crash has been billed by the New Zealand Transport Agency for the cost of closing the road while she was cut free.
Romy Goodfellow, now 19, lost control while driving her mother's car to polytechnic near Napier on June 18 last year.
The car went into gravel on the side of Links Rd, flipped and landed on its roof on top of a wall. Romy was cut free, with serious head and neck injuries, and was put in an induced coma. Her mother, Shona, was told to expect the worst.
Romy spent seven weeks in hospital. She has had extensive therapy and still suffers chronic fatigue and other effects.
Within days of her daughter leaving hospital, Mrs Goodfellow was told by NZTA that she had a month to pay $1366.20 for the cost of contractors, traffic control and cleanup for the four hours during which the road was closed.
The agency suggested Mrs Goodfellow contact her insurance company about covering the cost.
Mrs Goodfellow says she does not dispute that the accident was caused by driver error, but questions the rationale for the invoice, saying she believed registration fees and other road taxes should pay for such costs.
She was told the closure required a vehicle and two people at either end of Links Rd, plus "a senior contractor's representative".
Once police had left the scene, contractors "had to remove the detours, and uplift all temporary signs and cones and return to the depot", she was told.
When Mrs Goodfellow had not paid the bill by November, NZTA told her to start paying immediately or the matter would be put in the hands of a debt collection agency.
"With everything else going on with Romy, I just wasn't in a frame of mind to deal with this . . . I really disagree with being made to pay this.
"In the end, I just said, ‘OK, send me the forms,' because it was just getting too much. But then I thought about it, and it's just not right. I won't pay it."
Romy Goodfellow said: "I just think it's so rude. It's just wrong. Do they send invoices when people are killed? I certainly hope not.
"They charged $300 just as a callout fee. And why are two people and a vehicle needed at each end? I think a sign and a few cones would have done it."
A spokeswoman for Mrs Goodfellow's insurer, AMI, said: "As far as we are aware, this is not standard practice, or at least it hasn't been in the past."
The practice had occurred only twice, both within the past six months, and both in the Hastings and Napier area.
Insurance Council insurance manager John Lucas had never heard of such a charge.
"From discussions I've had with insurers, it would appear to be a new practice."
It would discuss the issue with insurers at a meeting next month, he said.
An NZTA spokesman said costs for damaged equipment and signage had been sought for more than a decade.
He could not say how many invoices had been sent, but said it was up to regional offices to decide whether it was appropriate to seek costs from liable drivers.
The agency tried not to add further stress to families of people killed or critically injured, and costs "would not ordinarily be sought against the estate of a dead person", he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News