State's insurance company refuses to pay for crash caused by DOT worker

Reported by Michelle Li – bio |email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – A woman who was rear-ended by a Department of Transportation truck says the state's insurance is denying her claim because North Carolina was in a state of emergency.

On January 10th, Carie Craze was rear ended by a DOT worker on the Isabel Holmes Bridge.

"I was really concentrating on the traffic ahead of me because it had been stopped for so long," said Craze. "I hadn't gotten through the light, and yeah, it completely jolted me."

Craze estimates the damage to her car could cost a couple thousand dollars. Her back bumper is torn up, and her back lights are exposed. When a trooper pulled up to write a report, she says he joked that she couldn't have been hit by a better person. But, they didn't know about sovereign immunity.

According to state law, state employees have sovereign immunity during emergencies like snow storms. A letter from the state's insurance, Travelers Insurance, says "Pursuant State Statute 166A-14 Immunity and Exemption the State of North Carolina will not be in a position to make any voluntary payment in this matter."

"I couldn't believe it," said Craze. "Everybody I told this to thinks that I'm lying. They don't believe me until they see the letter and say, 'Oh my God. This is terrible.'"

The Highway Patrol's report indicates the DOT driver was going too fast for the circumstances. Even if the driver wasn't found speeding, the report shows he may have been driving too fast in the snowy weather.

DOT's Chief Engineer of Operations, Jon Nance, says crashes do occasionally happen, and though it seems like Craze's case is closed, the DOT will now look into her case further because of this story.

"In this case, I've asked the Attorney General's office to go and look into this a little more," said Nance.

Craze says she'd like more clarity on why it has to come to this point. To her, it's not just about the damage to her car.

"We pay for the state's insurance, and then when they crash into you and hit you, and you have no recourse," Craze said. "I saw the size of that truck and thought, 'God, I'm glad I'm not dead."

Nance says he could have an answer back in a few days concerning Craze's situation. In the meantime, Craze says she can't afford to get her car fixed right now.

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