Triangle Troubleshooter

Troubleshooter: Driver is carless after state truck hit vehicle

Staff WriterFebruary 9, 2011 

  • Complaints about state-car drivers have skyrocketed over the past four years.

    Last year, there were 752 complaints, compared to just 176 complaints in 2006.

    And the Department of Correction has the most driving complaints of all state agencies, with 1,287 since 2000.

    Keith Acree, a spokesman for the department, said the agency has the most state vehicles on the road, which explains its high number of complaints.

Daniel Harmon is probably better equipped than most to deal with a minor car crash.

After all, Harmon, 31, is an insurance agent.

Yet almost two months after his car was struck by a state-owned delivery truck, he has no car, and he can't get the state's insurance company to cover thousands of dollars in repairs - even though a police report suggests the state driver may have been at fault.

Harmon contacted the Triangle Troubleshooter after I wrote Jan. 26 about complaints about state-car drivers skyrocketing over the past four years.

Harmon's crash happened about 2 p.m. Dec. 15. He was driving south on a three-lane section of Louisburg Road in North Raleigh.

Harmon was traveling in the far-right lane.

In the center lane - to the left of Harmon - was a state Department of Correction truck driven by Richard Nicholson, who works for Correction Enterprises, part of the prison system that provides products made by inmates to state agencies.

Nicholson was carrying metal prison lockers to a shop at 7405 Louisburg Road to be sandblasted so they could be refurbished.

Harmon headed straight.

But the truck turned right - into the driver side of Harmon's 1999 Ford Escort, a police report shows.

"The driver said he didn't see anything," Harmon said.

A police report states the truck hit Harmon's car. It shows a diagram of it doing so - and it states the truck's driver failed to yield.

The police report estimated Harmon's damage at $3,500. Harmon has filed a small claims complaint for $2,270.

It "seemed pretty cut and dry" as to who was at fault, Harmon said.

Question about witness

But the state's car insurance, Travelers, is refusing to pay for Harmon's car, which Travelers determined is totaled, Harmon said. Travelers declined to comment, citing privacy reasons.

Questions about a witness might explain the holdup.

According to Harmon'scopy of the police report, there are no witnesses listed. But another wreck report shows an added sentence, which says a witness said he saw the truck had its blinker on.

"But due the position of the witness vehicle, it is unclear if he actually observed the accident," the report states.

Raleigh Police Officer T.R. Jackson Jr. handled the accident but didn't cite the Department of Correction driver, despite writing in the report that the driver failed to yield and "struck" Harmon.

I called Raleigh police to ask why no one was cited.

"It is not atypical to not issue a citation in wrecks where there are no injuries," said Jim Sughrue, a police spokesman.

As for the two wreck reports, the first copy was a preliminary one, which was later amended with the witness statement.

Travelers sent a claims adjuster and determined Harmon's car was totaled, Harmon said.

Harmon says Travelers told him that it had reached out to the witness - and that the witness told the insurance company that Nicholson was straddling the lane before he turned right.

"That would mean I was a kamikaze person trying to pass him on the right," Harmon said. "Travelers denied me based on that."

No information

Harmon said Travelers would not give him any more information about his claim.

Harmon is insured byGeico but does not have collision coverage, he said.

Keith Acree, a Correction Department spokesman, said that since no one was cited or ticketed in this accident, "it's up to the insurance companies to settle the matter." He then suggested I call Travelers.

So I contacted Jennifer Wislocki, a spokeswoman for Travelers.

Wislocki said the company's privacy guidelines prohibit them from speaking about specific claims.

She couldn't even confirm they insure the state's cars.

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