Beware of ‘Collision Tax’ – Managing Accident Response Costs | Roetzel & Andress
Some Roetzel customers are surprised to receive an additional bill following a traffic accident involving their driver: a bill for emergency services provided by the local fire and police departments. An accident response tax, or “accident tax”, is a fee collected by some municipalities for the use of their resources at the scene of a traffic accident.
An example of such a bill required a fee of approximately $500 for the fire department to show up and “assess” the crash scene, and an additional $1,500 for the use of heavy rescue tools. on site. The bill was based on a municipal resolution, with an item-by-item price list for “standard” services, such as assessment and cleaning, and “additional” services, such as extrication. Hazmat or additional time on location could cost north of $6,500.
These fees are assessed to subsidize local police and fire departments, after the municipality determined that taxes collected from voters do not cover the rising costs of the emergency services it provides. While some municipalities assess charges to whom they believe to be at fault, others assess charges to insured drivers only, assuming they will be passed on to insurers. Some municipalities impose the fee only on non-residents, in order to avoid double taxation.
Municipalities usually hire a third-party company to handle the cost collection for them, so there is no additional administrative work for the municipality. It seems like a win-win for the municipality and a loss-loss for the insured (or the insurer), who ends up footing the bill.
While some states have banned accident response fees, Ohio has not. For those who are billed for Ohio accident response costs, we have the following recommendations. First, contact the billing company (usually a third-party contractor) to request itemized invoices and confirmation of authority to collect charges. If liability is disputed, it is reasonable to object to the assessment of costs. Since the constitutionality and enforcement of these bills are questionable, there are ways to avoid or reduce the fees.