State claims immunity from damages after state trooper hits citizen’s car

Posted at 12:33 AM, Feb 21, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-21 00:33:20-05

MIDLOTHIAN, Va. (WTVR)--Imagine sitting at a stop light, and a state trooper slams into the back of your car.

A Midlothian woman says that happened to her, but she claims the state is refusing to pay for the damages to her car because of governmental immunity.

While the damage to Amanda Wade’s Pontiac appears minimal from the outside, two auto body shops have totaled the car, claiming there’s severe damage to the vehicle’s frame and alignment.  The car is currently worth $1,800.

On January 18, Wade says she was stopped at a red light at the intersection of Belvidere Street and Cumberland Street when a Virginia State Trooper ran into the back of her car.

Just moments before impact, Wade says she heard the trooper on his intercom addressing a bicyclist who wasn’t obeying traffic laws.

“It was a second or two later that I felt this incredible impact just hit the back of my car,” Wade says. “I shot 15 or 20 feet forward into an intersection of oncoming traffic.”

Wade says the trooper was apologetic and concerned about a small abrasion on Wade’s face.

As a matter of protocol, the trooper called his supervisor to take a report, which would later be submitted to the state’s claim office for investigation.

“They were both very courteous, very polite,” Wade says.

But just three weeks after the crash, Wade and her husband say they received a letter from the Virginia Department of Treasury, Division of Risk Management, denying liability for the accident.

The letter explained that the trooper “was engaged in the performance of his/her work duties when this accident occurred,” therefore the Commonwealth of Virginia was protected by governmental immunity.

The Wades say they’re in the process of a very expensive international adoption and cannot afford to pay the $2,500 in damages to the car on a nurse’s and a church music minister’s salary.  The Wades were told by their own insurance company, that the liability fell on the person who rear ended the car.

“It’s absolutely disgusting that our government can cause injury to my property and my body and get away with something like that,” Amanda Wade says.

Timothy Wade says he and his wife are appealing their case to the treasury department.  They couple has also contacted the office of the Virginia Attorney General.

“We’re not asking for thousands of dollars,” says Timothy Wade, “we just want our car fixed.”

The Virginia Department of Risk Management tells CBS 6 that the division is looking into the claim, however the department acknowledges that governmental immunity does exist in cases where an officer is engaged or distracted in their duties while investigating a violator on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“If that is the law, then we need to change that,” argues Timothy Wade, “because that’s a police state that gives police or the commonwealth the ability to destroy your property and nothing can be done about it.”