FDNY to charge fee for accidents

| tcimino@queenscourier.com |

           Pretty soon there will be one more reason to hope you never get into a car accident.

            Beginning July 1 of next year, the Fire Department will charge drivers involved in wrecks for services rendered.

            “The city is in the middle of a fiscal crisis – there is talk of closing firehouses and reducing manpower,” said FDNY spokesperson Steve Ritea, by means of an explanation.

            Fees range from $365 for an incident without injuries to $490 for a vehicle fire or other accident with injuries.

            A statement by the FDNY reads, “Other jurisdictions currently bill motorists and their insurance companies as a means of recouping the high costs of providing such services.  In these difficult economic times, the Fire Department can no longer afford to provide such services at no cost to those who require them.”

            Ritea told The Courier that all parties involved in the accident will receive a bill, but only the person at fault is liable for the charge.

            “We don’t expect to collect on every single case, and we have discretion,” he said. “We won’t charge for an act of God, but this is an attempt to relieve the burden on taxpayers and put it on the person at fault and their insurance [company].”

The costs include the time spent responding to the accident scene; securing the roadway for safe operation; stabilizing the vehicle; searching the vehicle; evaluating motorists and their passengers for injuries; shutting off the engine and disconnecting the battery; washing off or otherwise removing debris from the roadway; and assisting other emergency responders and tow truck personnel. 

            The FDNY said that it will not deny motorist services based on the status of the billing or payment for such services.

            But many have already come out against the fees.

The proposal to charge a fee for ambulance and fire service at the scene of a vehicle crash is a terrible idea and would add another unfair cash grab to already overburdened motorists,” said Robert Sinclair Jr., manager of media relations for AAA New York. “With new toll hikes set to begin at the end of the month, high gas prices and taxes, new surcharges on licenses and registrations along with surcharges on parking and moving violations, a New York motorist faces a mounting financial burden when they are already being denied services they are paying for.”

Sinclair pointed out that motorists will probably add the Fire Department fees to insurance claims, thereby increasing premiums.

“This could be the beginning of a slide down a very slippery slope toward economic oblivion for the average New Yorker. How long will it be before we see residents being charged for the Fire Department to put out a fire in their home,” he questioned.

            Ritea said that “there are still some details to work out,” and that they are “inviting public comment.”

A public hearing will be held on Friday, January 14, 2011, at 10:30 a.m., in the auditorium at Fire Department Headquarters, located at 9 MetroTech Center, Brooklyn, New York 11201‑3857.