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Local 12 Investigates: Police crash, no cash

Local 12 Investigates: Police crash, no cash (provided)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - An innocent man's car was totaled and the other driver was a Cincinnati police officer.

Medical bills, lost wages, and property damage totaled over $12,000. If someone hits your car, you expect the insurance to cover your damages. But if a police officer hits you, an Ohio law could leave you with the bill.

Police dash cam video showed a Cincinnati police officer speeding up to respond to a call August 3, 2015. A teen had just dialed 911 to a robbery. As the officer rounded the curve on Virginia Avenue in Northside, his cruiser loses grip on the wet asphalt. The cruiser crashes into a Honda Civic that was legally parked, knocking it into a utility pole, and spinning the cruiser around. The police officer was not injured.

Bobby Burgess was inside the Civic. He was only bruised but his 2007 Civic was totaled. He had purchased the car nine days prior.

The police cruiser had to be hauled away too and the crash came at a steep cost. Normally Bobby's insurance would have come in to play because he was not at fault. According to the police department's own accident report, "Unit 1 [police cruiser] failed to maintain control in a curve" when it crashed into Bobby's Civic.

The city denied the claim.

IN a letter denying Bobby's claim, the Cincinnati Police Department's finance director wrote, "The City of Cincinnati is immune from liability for damages.... while police officers are on a call of duty."

Ohio law does allow the city of Cincinnati, and other municipalities, to claim immunity in crashes where police officers or firefighters or emergency medical service members are "responding to an emergency call" and "there's no willful or wanton misconduct."

After his Civic was totaled, Bobby said he could only afford a 17-year-old Pontiac Sunfire. It's rusting, the paint is peeling, and he doesn't know how long it will continue to run as he pays the price for a crash that wasn't his fault.

City hall is showing no signs of changing its position and reimbursing Bobby for his losses. Perhaps that's because paying for one case could open the city up to a lot of other claims.

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