HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Department of Transportation billed a Henrico woman $5,175 for an accident she said was not her fault. The department disputes the woman’s claim, saying that the road was not marked as icy when the accident happened.
Celia Brown told 8News her Subaru was totaled after the incident on I-85 in Petersburg during the night of the infamous ice storm on January 3.
State officials faced widespread scrutiny for road preparation and how drivers were alerted of dangerous conditions along the Interstate 95 corridor, which is near where Brown said she spun out of control after hitting a patch of black ice.
StormTracker8 forecasted two to four inches of snow until 4 p.m. in the Petersburg area January 3–DMV records show the crash involving Brown happened around 4:08 p.m.
“I’m not paying a penny because I was in an accident that was charged by the shoddy way they maintained their highway as a result of a storm,” she told 8News after the discovery in her mailbox this week from VDOT.
Brown, who was behind the wheel, her cousin and dog Wilson escaped injuries during the crash where she said a young mother driving a sedan also spun out of control just after her, along with at least two other cars.
“Oh my God, we’re alive. You know, we’re OK. We didn’t flip, we’re OK,” Brown recounted to 8News Thursday.
Nearly seven months later, Brown received an itemized invoice listing damage to a jersey wall that a landscaping corporation apparently contracted for repairs and for “Richmond Traffic Control.”
Sara Owens, a spokesperson for VDOT, told 8News, “the police report we received for the January 3 crash on I-85 north in Petersburg, the police officer noted ‘no adverse conditions’ and that the road was ‘wet.’ There was an option to check ‘icy’ on the report, which was not checked.”
Brown is adamant she hit ice, and police arrived after it melted.
8News requested a copy of the police report from a spokesperson with Virginia State Police, and has not received a response.
Owens said, “It is VDOT’s procedure to bill the vehicle owner who is responsible for the damages.” Meanwhile, Brown points the finger at an existing dangerous road.
8News legal analyst Russ Stone believes Brown can fight the state’s request to pay up, saying, “sometimes accidents occur and they’re not the responsibility of anyone,” and added that drivers are “expected to drive consistent with the road conditions, and that would include if it’s wet or icy.“
Brown said she “absolutely” was driving slower than the posted speed limit. “Everyone was,” she said.
Stone said, “unless the state has a witness to somehow contradict, you were going to have to accept what she says.”
Brown said she did report the accident to her insurance company 30 minutes after the crash, and plans to write to them about the surprise bill, but thinks the insurance company should not have to pay.
It is unknown how many other people may have been billed for property damage the same evening when roads were covered in ice and snow.