New York - Get in an accident? Expect a bill from FDNY
New York - As if crashing your car isn't bad enough, the Fire Department now wants to charge you for it.
The FDNY plans to bill drivers $490 to respond to a crash or car fire when someone is hurt, $415 for a car fire without injuries and $365 for a crash without injuries.
It says those fees cover the actual cost of responding to emergencies - everything from driving the fire trucks to paying fringe benefits for firefighters.
"We are in a tight budget situation," said FDNY spokesman Steve Ritea. "We wanted to relieve pressure on the taxpayer and place it on those at fault and their insurance companies."
The policy will raise an estimated $1 million a year for the FDNY's budget - but that won't affect the agency's plan to close 20 fire companies at night to save $15 million.
"If there's an act of God, if a tree falls on your car, the Fire Department has discretion," Ritea said. "The intent here is to go after the insurance of motorists who are at fault."
The FDNY expects most drivers will pass the bills on to their insurance companies, just as insurers already pick up the bill when FDNY ambulances respond to medical calls.
Uninsured drivers will still have to pay the fees, however.
It might not be that simple, though - one trade group says typical car insurance policies wouldn't cover the fee.
"If insurers were to start providing coverage for additional accident response services, including police and fire, the cost of auto insurance would be likely to increase," said Loretta Worters of the Insurance Information Instiatute.
The new policy is scheduled to take effect July 1, though it could change after a Jan. 14 public hearing.
The policy explicitly says the FDNY will respond to crashes and fires whether or not any bills have been paid.
The FDNY also wants to charge hospitals whose ambulances respond to 911 calls $8.7 million a year for dispatch services.
"Many of these hospitals are already facing severe fiscal pressures, and this fee will be extremely difficult for them to absorb," said Brian Conway of the Greater New York Hospital Association.
Mayor Bloomberg said Thursday the hospitals need to pay their share of the cost or get out of the ambulance business.
"They like these ambulances to pick up patients because that's the way they fill the beds," the mayor said. "If they don't want to have the patients in their hospitals, they won't get 'em."