Decades after crash, VDOT bills man for guardrail damage

WAVY/Liz Palka

SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Suffolk man says the Virginia Department of Transportation wants him to pay for damage to an interstate guardrail after a crash that happened 30 years ago. On top of the amount of time that has passed, he told the accident wasn’t his fault in the first place.

“I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t intend to pay it,” Carl Alexander said. “Not only was I a minor, but I was run off the road by a drunk driver. Why are you even bothering me?”

Alexander said he never expected a crash from 1985 to come up in 2015. The incident in question happened January 31, 1985 — he remembers the date clearly because the accident was a traumatic experience for him as a teenager. He said he was driving a family member’s car when a drunk driver forced him off the side of I-264 East, right before the Portsmouth Boulevard overpass.

“[The driver] forced me into a guardrail, and his car went over the guardrail and flipped over,” Alexander said.

Alexander, who was 17-years-old at the time, said he never faced charges in this crash. Additionally, he said the family member who owned the car dealt with the insurance.

Fast forward to 2014: Alexander got a call from Enterprise Recovery Systems, Inc. around Christmas. ERS is a collections agency that was hired by VDOT in the last two months to collect money on bills past due. The representative told Alexander he owed around $200 to $300 for the damaged guardrail back in 1985.

“They tried to bully me into paying it, and threatening me that ‘you can go to court,'” Alexander said. “I told them, ‘Just do what you have got to do. Because I wasn’t at fault and I’m not paying you.'”

Doug Snell, with VDOT’s Fiscal Division in Richmond, said the agency uses original police reports to figure out who is liable for damages. Snell said old cases have now been handed over to the collections agency. VDOT can pursue the old cases, even 30 years later, because there is no statute of limitations in Virginia.

A VDOT spokeswoman added, the collections agency gets involved if VDOT has tried to bill someone, like Alexander, in the past and couldn’t locate him or her. The spokeswoman, Marshall Herman, said VDOT does not have the authority to discharge debt. State agencies are also required to pursue outstanding debt.

Alexander said he never received a bill for the guardrail. He also said he stayed at his parent’s address in Newport News for 12 years after the accident happened.

He does not believe he should have to pay for the guardrail.

Alexander said he has tried to dig up the original police report in court, as well as any records on the 1985 accident. He does have witnesses to the crash and he said he’s prepared to hire a lawyer, if he has to.

Snell said cases were handed over to the collections agency in the last month, which means more people could get calls like this. Snell said you can write to the “VDOT Fiscal Division” in Richmond if you don’t think the claim is correct.

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