Cyclist injured by NYPD car gets billed $1,263 for damage to vehicle

City drops demand for money - the third such case in recent months, says the New York Post

by Simon_MacMichael   April 9, 2013  

NYPD (Pete Stewart, Wikimedia Commons)

A cyclist in New York City who was hospitalised after being struck by an unmarked police car has spoken of his disbelief after being billed more than $1,200 for the damage that happened to the vehicle during the incident.

According to the New York Post, it’s at least the third time in recent months that city authorities have sent victims bills in similar circumstances – and each time, they have quietly dropped the demand for money after being challenged.

The latest bill, in the sum of $1,263, was received by Justin Johnsen, a 31-year-old resident of South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who was riding his bike to work as a design-engineer in Red Hook last November when he was hit by a Ford Taurus that happened to be an unmarked police car.

“I think it’s preposterous,” said Johansen of the bill he received. “I was upset,” continued the cyclist, who had to visit hospital after the incident to have stitches inserted in wounds to his arms.

“I was in kind of disbelief that they were going to send this letter after four months or so and ask me to pay damages for their vehicle, when they hit me when I was on a bicycle.”

Describing the background to the incident, which happened at 8.30 in the morning on 5 November, he said: “I had left the bike lane to make a left turn, and I looked behind me and saw that it was clear, and the farthest car was a fair distance.

He indicated to turn, but said that before he could do so, he “was swiped by this car on my left side. I didn’t feel too good . . . I got some big gashes to my elbows,” he explained, adding that the while the two officers in the vehicle were “pretty friendly” after the collision, they were “not apologetic at all.”

While his medical bills ran to several hundred dollars, Johnsen said he hadn’t thought about suing the police, but in the matter of the demand for money for damage to his vehicle he has a lawyer, Daniel Flanzig, acting for him on a pro bono basis.

Flanzig, who had volunteered his services after hearing that the city had told Johnsen it would sue him if he didn’t pay, said: “They should be sending an apology letter instead of a bill.”

16 user comments

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There are a couple of lessons from this. One is that, if one is knocked off and injured in a crash that isn't one's fault, it's pretty much always worth suing. It's the only way that people get held accountable.

As for the specifics of this case, I moved to New York from London last August and this does seems to be fairly typical of the NYPD's attitude to cyclists. I wrote a while ago about how, although bikes make up for only about 1 per cent of New York City traffic, the NYPD hands out around 5 per cent of traffic tickets to cyclists: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2012/10/do-as-you-like-motorists... That's even though motorists kill knocking on for 300 people a year on New York's streets (against around 150 road deaths a year in London) and the NYPD does very, very little to punish them.

Invisible.

posted by InvisibleVisibleMan [19 posts]
10th April 2013 - 0:07

10 Likes

In NYC 176 cyclists or pedestrians were killed in crashes in 2012

posted by lokikontroll [51 posts]
10th April 2013 - 9:19

7 Likes

It all too regularly features in NY Bike Snobs blog, if you're in a car and you kill someone on a bike or sidewalk you seem to be pretty safe from prosecution.

posted by Ducci [55 posts]
10th April 2013 - 9:40

11 Likes

Fool.

ALWAYS call your lawyer if you get knocked off.

posted by Animal [33 posts]
10th April 2013 - 10:04

9 Likes

Why the injured by car headline? he was hit by a driver, i'd expect better from a cycling website.

posted by northstar [1101 posts]
10th April 2013 - 10:11

10 Likes

Actually the headline is correct, he was hit by a car and not the driver.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2719 posts]
10th April 2013 - 10:28

9 Likes

And it was driverless...

posted by northstar [1101 posts]
10th April 2013 - 11:25

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northstar wrote:
And it was driverless...

Where are you getting driverless from ? It was an unmarked car, but says nothing about driverless. I also did some more looking up about the incident and there was a driver in the unmarked police car.

posted by mr-88 [2 posts]
10th April 2013 - 12:03

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mr-88 wrote:
northstar wrote:
And it was driverless...

Where are you getting driverless from ? It was an unmarked car, but says nothing about driverless. I also did some more looking up about the incident and there was a driver in the unmarked police car.


Oh dear... The point being made is that UNLESS the car is driverless, it is the driver that injures other road users.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
10th April 2013 - 12:41

10 Likes

mr-88 wrote:
northstar wrote:
And it was driverless...

Where are you getting driverless from ? It was an unmarked car, but says nothing about driverless. I also did some more looking up about the incident and there was a driver in the unmarked police car.

I know the article doesn't state it was driverless but the headline to me could be better phrased.

posted by northstar [1101 posts]
10th April 2013 - 14:00

8 Likes

I have generally been shocked since moving eight months ago from London to New York at road safety standards and even more the attitudes to it. I wrote a few weeks ago about the floral tributes I cycle past every morning on my way to work, marking the point where an SUV mounted the pavement and struck a woman coming out of a bagel shop: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2013/03/crashes-and-communities-... The driver in that case seems to be facing no charges at all. There doesn't seem to be any real focus on how the environment might be changed to make it safer.

Flushing Avenue, where the person in this story was hit, is actually mostly pretty good because it's fairly wide and along part of it there's a segregated, two-way bike lane protected by a concrete barrier. But cars still drive far too fast along it - and there's next to no effort to control them.

Invisible.

posted by InvisibleVisibleMan [19 posts]
10th April 2013 - 15:12

12 Likes

Simon_MacMichael wrote:
...had to visit hospital after the incident to have stitches inserted in wounds to his arms... While his medical bills ran to several hundred dollars.

There is not much right in this story. It stinks of American profit motive attitudes; the cost of the medical care, the NYPD's disregard for the injured party. The only person acting generously is the cyclist.


Suffering from Low Cadence.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1264 posts]
10th April 2013 - 19:52

11 Likes

Headline reads fine to me. The cyclist was hit by the car caused by the actions of the driver. Seems to me whenever you read an article nowadays there is a whole army of pedants waiting to pointlessly pounce..... Yawn

posted by DazCr [12 posts]
10th April 2013 - 22:01

9 Likes

bikeboy76 wrote:
The only person acting generously is the cyclist.

And the pro bono lawyer?

To those asking about the headline: His injuries were caused by his being struck by the car.

That's a statement of fact.

Unless the cop got out of the car and lamped the cyclist, he most certainly wasn't struck by the driver... though of course, the way the car was being driven could have ed to the collision that caused the injuries.

Perhaps the headline could have said "Cyclist injured after becoming struck by NYPD car..."

But then it becomes a bit long and in any event, read the first sentence of the article, and it says it right there, with some more detail besides.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8042 posts]
10th April 2013 - 23:02

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Simon_MacMichael wrote:

Perhaps the headline could have said "Cyclist injured after becoming struck..."

Professor Unwin writes: "Irreguardlesslymost in the fundamole. Cheerybyenow."

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
11th April 2013 - 16:00

11 Likes

[[[[ DAZCRE----nothing "pedantic" here at all. We never hear of a biker or pedestrian being "killed by a driver", but rather "killed by a left-turning lorry", "struck by a bus", "hit by a car".....there's a tacit understanding here, that the vehicles themselves are in some way culpable, suggesting mitigating circumstances for the unfortunate drivers----can we imagine an accident report stating "killed by a bicycle"? No, it's "injured by a cyclist", "died after being struck by a cyclist".
Northstar, you're right. Well spotted, squire.
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [281 posts]
13th April 2013 - 0:23

13 Likes