A New Britain mother said she was injured after a state snowplow sideswiped her car.
Vanessa Irizarry said the plow driver left the scene and she wants the state to pay for her injuries and the full cost of repairing her car.
“They haven’t accepted full responsibility,” Irizzary’s attorney, Christopher Sica, said.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) said state snowplows cover almost five million miles every winter. Occasionally, they get into accidents, according to data the agency provided to the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters.
“The sheer volume of trucks that we have out there and the mileage that we’re putting on out there, it’s unavoidable statistically that you’re going to have incidents that occur, and sometimes there are claims we are going to have to pay,” CTDOT spokesman Kevin Nursick said.
NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reviewed snowplow accident data provided by the CTDOT for 2016 and 2017. The data suggests very few accidents occur considering how many miles state plows drive each year.
But Irizarry said the state isn’t taking full responsibility after she was injured in January 2017 on Corbin Avenue in New Britain. She said she was on her way home when the accident happened.
“He took a right into my car and pushed me onto the sidewalk and I had to turn into the gas station,” Irizarry told NBC Connecticut.
Irizarry said her lower back and hips were hurt after the accident and the insurance company declared her two-door gray Honda totaled.
She and her attorney provided NBC Connecticut with a copy of surveillance video from the nearby gas station right where the accident happened. The video purportedly shows the state plow truck inching up Corbin Avenue near the Valero gas station and the driver of the state plow appears to stop for nearly 10 seconds before continuing on his way.
In the police report, the state employee said he didn’t know what happened and when he saw Irizarry’s car go into the parking lot, he stopped for a moment and then continued driving.
“He only later returned to the scene when his supervisor informed that he had to,” Sica said.
Sica said witnesses came to Irizarry’s aid in the parking lot.
“They asked if I was OK, and I was like, ‘I’m OK,’” Irizarry said. “I said, ‘Where’s the driver?’ They said he left, they attempted to beep the horn and stop him but he just kept going.”
Irizarry and her attorney said they’re planning to sue the state for negligence.
“It’s not my intention to file the lawsuit but unfortunately the state has not accepted full responsibility and therefore that has forced our hands,” Sica said.
The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters found 41 accidents, including Irizarry’s, cost Connecticut’s transportation agency $66,741 last year. State records show Irizarry was paid $1,574 for damages to her car but her attorney said that was half the amount appraised for her car and they’re seeking more.
“That is just fair, reasonable compensation for the low back and hip injury and the pain and suffering associated with undergoing treatment for those injuries,” Sica said.
Nursick said he cannot comment on pending cases, but that drivers should stop if they get into an accident.
“If a driver is aware that they have gotten into a motor vehicle accident, they’re supposed to stop,” Nursick explained.
Nursick wants people to know just how challenging the job can be.
“They are working in the absolute worst conditions that you could possibly ask for in terms of driving, snow, sleet, freezing rain, very little traction, little visibility, 17-hour shifts behind the wheel with very little break before back behind the wheel for 17 hours and you may be repeating that cycle for days on end, in the worst possible driving conditions you could want to be on the road on,” Nursick said.
CTDOT drivers are required to have a certified driver’s license and undergo annual training. If a resident is involved in an accident with a state snowplow, the state will send paperwork so they can file a claim after police investigate the incident.