Source: MSNBC

About a year ago Cary Feldman was surprised to find himself sprawled on the pavement in an intersection in Chicago Heights, Ill., having been knocked off his motor scooter by the car behind him.

Five months later he got another surprise: a bill from the fire department for responding to the scene of the accident.

“I had no idea what the fire truck was there for,” said Mr. Feldman, of nearby Matteson. “It came, it looked and it left. I was not hurt badly. I had scratches and bruises. I did not go to the hospital.”

Mr. Feldman had become enmeshed in what appears to be a nascent budget-balancing trend in municipal government: police and fire departments have begun to charge accident victims as a way to offset budget cuts.

Ambulance charges have long been common and are usually paid by health insurance, but fees for other responders are relatively new. The charge is variously called a “crash tax” or “resource recovery,” depending on one’s point of view. In either case, motorists are billed for services they may have thought were covered by taxpayers.

Collection agency
Sometimes the victim’s insurer pays. But if it declines, motorists may face threats from a collection agency if they don’t pay.

The AAA opposes such fees, said Jill Ingrassia, managing director for government relations and traffic safety advocacy. “Generally, we see that public safety services are a core government function that should be properly budgeted for with general taxes and not addressed by fees after the fact,” she said.

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