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Police Officer's car hit my girlfriend's car

Discussion in 'Parking Tickets, Towing, Impound' started by JakeFirst, Apr 3, 2010.

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  1. JakeFirst

    JakeFirst Law Topic Starter New Member

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    At the end of January, my girlfriend was attempting to leave the parking lot of a KFC. She was going to be entering traffic at a 5-line highway area (2 lanes each way and a turn lane). My girlfriend was going to be turning to the right (and not cross a lane of traffic), but she could not. An accident of some sort had occurred close by, so immediately to the right of the KFC entrance, a police car was parked.

    Traffic was being diverted by the police officer so that all cars going to the right had to go around the inner lane and use the outer lane. The police car had its lights on. There was a gentleman cleaning glass in front of the police car in the inner lane, in front of the police car. My girlfriend waited patiently for an opportunity to exit parking lot and finally a car in the outer lane stopped and signaled for her to go. So she did. As she started out, the police car, for whatever reason, decided to back up (which would be against the flow of normal traffic) and hit my girlfriend's car.

    The officer got out and told my girlfriend that she did not see her when she backed up. Soon several other officers showed up and tried to tell my girlfriend that she must have hit the officer's car (which, because of where the damage is located, on the corner bumper and in-between the bumper and the right front tire, is essentially impossible). My girlfriend could not find her insurance card. The one she could find was an old card. She did have her most recent card, she just didn't see it because it was during the evening and too dark (we found it after she got home).

    The officers told my girlfriend that she may or may not be getting a citation, pending the conclusion of their investigation, a ticket for not having an up-to-date insurance card with her. She was told she needed to go to the DMV to file paperwork because the damage was initially estimated at over $1,500 to my girlfriend's car. The officers were quite rude, and my girlfriend was in tears when she finally got home.

    The problem? When we looked in her car and couldn't find her insurance card (again, because it was too dark), we went on-line to Progressive to get a copy of it. Apparently, she doesn't HAVE insurance. In September, she paid for insurance, but it was only for 1 month. My girlfriend believed she had paid for 6 months, as she had always done with Progressive in the past. Her insurance card said she was covered until March 2010, so she assumed she had 6 full months of coverage (which we have learned, is actually the date of her POLICY, and does NOT actually pertain to having COVERAGE).

    Anyway, the next day we went to the DMV and got paperwork to fill out about the accident. We were told by the officers to get it taken care of right away. We returned the completed documents to the DMV right before closing. A couple hours later, one of the officers (the chief, I believe) called the house and instructed me to tell my girlfriend NOT to file the papers with the DMV. He was hoping to avoid having to file anything in hopes that he could protect his officer from repercussions of having been involved in a car accident. I informed him that we had already filed the paperwork.

    He continued to tell me that he would do everything in his power to help my girlfriend from losing her license. I explained to him that we weren't necessarily angry with the office who hit my girlfriend's car, as the officer was all by herself trying to deal with the situation. However, we expected to be paid for the damages, we would accept any help the chief could offer, and we would in turn do what we could to help the officer keep her driving privileges.

    A week later we were contacted by an insurance person for the city of Eugene. He told my girlfriend that she was at fault. My girlfriend disputed this and said the officer clearly hit her and that it was obvious from where the damage occurred on her car.

    Since then, we have received paperwork telling us that on April 14, 2010, my girlfriend's license will be suspended (for driving without insurance). I believe she reasonably believed that she was covered, since she had never in the past paid Progressive month-to-month. We called the night of the accident and got her car insurance again. I don't recall receiving any paperwork from Progressive back in October telling us that my girlfriend needed to pay again for her policy. But then again, the mail in our apartment is frequently mixed up and we get other people's mail a couple times every month.

    Do we have any recourse in getting my girlfriend to keep her license? My understanding is that if you don't have insurance, it is pretty much your own fault and you are screwed; however, if we reasonably assumed that she had coverage, and if she was immediately covered following the accident, and if we got something from the police department, could she be allowed to retain her license? Or are we stuck with just trying to get her a hardship license (which we would need, since we have children and both have to work)?

    Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.
     
  2. CdwJava

    CdwJava Moderator

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    This is a matter that is entirely the responsibility of the DMV, not the police. Your girlfriend will have to find out the DMV's process for contesting suspensions and requesting hardship licenses should that become necessary.

    Here is a link to Administrative Hearings: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/DMV/driverid/ADHearing.shtml and at the bottom of that page you will find links to info on hardship permits as well. It appears she will be a good candidate for the hardship permit.
     
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  3. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    Yes, insurance is your own responsibility, and arguing that you believed you had coverage won't get you far. When your girlfriend paid the one month coverage back in September she could not have possibly believed it was a six-month premium. Surely the amount of the payment would have been a clue to that.

    Anyway, if the officer backed up and caused the accident then the police insurance company will pay for the damages to the vehicle, so all is not lost.

    Since you quickly fixed the insurance issue and are now covered again, you can probably get out of this with paying a fine and still keep the license. You will just have to work with the DMV on it. You won't get out of it without some kind of penalty though.
     
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  4. JakeFirst

    JakeFirst Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you for your responses. I am nearly positive that we are going to be stuck with trying to get a hardship license. My girlfriend pays with everything via credit card and usually has amounts automatically taken out for monthly expenses. I cannot fathom why she would have bothered to go month-to-month for her policy. That's why I pay with checks, because they are easier to track and I know for certain if and what has been paid.

    When we turned in the paperwork to the DMV, the woman at the counter looked it over and sneered and said, "Say goodbye to your license." Suffice to say, she is not my favorite person on the planet. Again, thank you for the responses. We will get our hardship paperwork filled out.
     
  5. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    There is probably some sort of appeal process you can try through the DMV. You might want to look into that before resigning yourself to the hardship license. If your girlfriend has a clean record and can show a legitimate mistake, and show that she promptly renewed her insurance upon learning of the mistake, she MIGHT get a break.
    There is nothing in the law that ensures she will get a break for having made a mistake (heck, everyone would be making that mistake) but you can certainly try to get some leniency. If she is up for suspension there should be an appeal process.
     
  6. CdwJava

    CdwJava Moderator

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    I posted the link to the Administrative Hearings in my post above. That is the first step that should be taken before asking for the hardship license ... unless, of course, obtaining a hearing on the hardship license is quicker than an Admin Hearing for the suspension (if it IS suspended - though based upon what I have read about OR law, it very well could be).
     
  7. JakeFirst

    JakeFirst Law Topic Starter New Member

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    We have been granted an Administrative Hearing. We got the request in on the last possible day. Now I am pondering how best to help my girlfriend present herself at the hearing. Honestly, I do not wish to waste any of the court's time. My girlfriend screwed up and didn't make sure that her vehicle was insured. She believed that the because her card had a date that went from Sept-March that she was covered for that entire period. And, she has never in the past paid only a month at a time with Progressive. We still aren't sure why she was only charged (and subsequently covered) for only a single month.

    So we obviously aren't going to fight the fact that she was driving uninsured. We got her immediate coverage following the accident and she has never had a problem with being insured/uninsured before.

    I am wondering if the Administrative Judge actually has the power to lessen the penalty my girlfriend could incur. Although a couple people here suggested that we try to get a hearing, I'm not positive if it is going to accomplish anything, especially since she will be admitting to driving uninsured. Does an Administrative Judge have the power to offer leeway on different cases? For example, reducing the amount of time that a license is to be suspended.

    I just want to have some idea of what we are ultimately hoping to accomplish with the hearing now that we have one. As always, thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.
     

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