Getting government to pay

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Andrew Robinson
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Citizens’ representative helped settle ferry terminal accident damages

A man who felt the provincial government was responsible for damage to his vehicle following an accident at the ferry terminal in Portugal Cove initially could not get compensation from the Department of Transportation and Works.

It was here at the ferry terminal in Portugal Cove that a vehicle struck steel embedded in the ground after the driver made a sudden turn to avoid hitting a pedestrian, causing more than $1,000 in damage to the vehicle. The Department of Transportation and Works initially refused to pay for the damage, but later offered to cover the lowest quote for damage after the Office of the Citizens’ Representative started to investigate. — Telegram file photo

But that all changed after the Office of the Citizens’ Representative got involved.

According to the office’s annual report released earlier this month, the man was looking to park his vehicle in the spring of 2012 when he was suddenly forced to swerve to avoid a pedestrian. In doing so, he struck apiece of steel embedded in the ground on the dock.

Quotes the man received for the damage ranged from $1,100 to $1,700. According to provincial citizens’ representative Barry Fleming, the man contacted the manager of marine transportation with the Department of Transportation and Works. The driver was eventually informed by letter that he would not be compensated.

According to Fleming, the letter stated that “while we removed the steel (after the accident), it was never an issue for any other facility user. Also the fact that (the driver was) aware of it being there and then drove over it certainly doesn’t support your case for any compensation.”

From there, the man got in touch with Fleming’s office.

“He contacted us and we started a formal investigation, and before we completed that, the department agreed to settle his complaint,” said Fleming.

In the end, the government agreed to pay for the lower estimate of $1,109.13.

“The rationale for us taking the complaint and for bringing it into a full investigation is that we accept the policy that drivers cannot seek compensation for known hazards within government parking lots. But the fact of the matter was that this was not really a known hazard. It was a hazard that existed only by virtue of the fact that this gentleman was trying to avoid hitting a pedestrian.”

Ultimately, Fleming said the office was able to help convince the department to take another look at the situation.

Fleming estimates his office deals with half a dozen complaints each year related to people claiming they deserve compensation from the government for damages.

“Generally, for known hazards, if something is a known hazard, one isn’t entitled to damages for one’s vehicle, but the unique facts of this situation were such that you could make a reasonable argument that this gentleman should have been compensated.”

arobinson@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Watch this week and next for other stories

by Josh Pennell and Andrew Robinson from

the citizens’ representative’s report.

Organizations: Office of the Citizens, Department of Transportation and Works

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Recent comments

  • California Pete from NFLD
    December 13, 2013 - 11:59

    To bad the steel post did not jump out of the way then it would not have been hit by lousy driving. Maybe the post should sue the car. Have a nice day and drive slower and safe.

  • W. Bagg
    December 13, 2013 - 07:46

    Insurance companies do the same. Deny claims hoping it goes away but as soon as a lawyer or external investigation gets launched settle quick