1. Archive

Officer mishandled accident

As I was pulling into a bank parking lot a few months ago I was hit by another car. We both got out and, after much hesitation on the other driver's part (turned out his license was suspended), the Pinellas Park police were called.

I showed the officer my license and registration. The young man who hit me, Fred, said it was his father's car and he did not have the registration with him. He did not know about insurance, either and, of course, he had no driver's license.

The police officer did not call in Fred's plate number or his name to see if the car was registered. He simply gave each of us a report on the accident and said he could not arrest Fred for driving on a suspended license because he did not see him driving.

Fred said he would have his father call me that night about insurance.

Well, his father never called at all. When I called the phone number on the report, I got Fred's mother. She said he did not live at the address on the report. She also said she that did not know of Fred's father having a car, that they were divorced and that Fred did not live with his father.

My husband managed to track down Fred. He said he did not have enough money to pay for the car repairs but his brother owned a body shop and if we would let his brother fix it, he could arrange payments.

We went to the body shop. The owner was not Fred's brother and, in fact, did not know him. There was, however, an employee who said he was like a half brother to Fred, but he said he had never been contacted about my car.

Since it was obvious that Fred had no intention of making restitution, I went to the Pinellas Park police to find out what could be done. They were not at all helpful. I had to speak to someone over the phone from the front of the station.

They gave me the name of the officer involved and told me to call him. I called him five times and only after I threatened to go to the captain did he call me back. He said I should go through my insurance company.

Meanwhile, my insurance adjuster estimated repairs at $525. I have a $500 deductible. The insurance people also ran a check on the other car's license plate and learned it was registered to a person other than Fred's father. In fact, the license plate belonged on a different car.

Why wasn't that boy picked up for driving on a suspended license and driving an unregistered vehicle? It doesn't make sense! What can I do? Christine Quellette

Response: A traffic supervisor assigned to investigate your complaint has determined that the police officer who wrote the report was inexperienced, said Pinellas Park Park Police Chief David Milchan.

This officer has been informed that he can write citations in crash cases that occur on parking lots, and he has been instructed in the correct procedures for crash investigation on private property, Milchan said. The officer was further instructed to complete a crash report.

Since the violator's driver's license has been suspended, the officer will attempt to serve a citation. If that is not possible, he will refer the case to the State Attorney's Office for prosecution.

The violator will not receive a citation for the charge of not having insurance, Milchan said, because that charge is applicable only to the owner of the vehicle.

Milchan apologized for any inconvenience this incident caused you. He suggested you consider hiring an attorney to recover monetary damages.

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