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Friday, November 16, 2012

THINK LOCAL: Harrisburg's jaws'o'life

I heard about this on some radio station while getting breakfast the other day.  I just caught the part about paying several-hundred dollars if you are in an accident and you need to be extracted from your vehicle. That seemed pretty crazy to me so I thought I would look it up...

(A link to the article as well as its content are at the end of this post)

I really don't understand this.  I guess I am a bit annoyed by laws that require people pay for services that they do not order.  There is also a part of me that wants to scream "we pay taxes for this sort of thing."  The latter is hard to deliver though... ambulance services are private services, but those are a bit different.  The former- this idea that you have to pay for something that you do not request- this is much more interesting to me.  It deserves further study...

For now let's get a few things clear:

  1. There is a $500 fee to be extracted from your vehicle following an accident.
  2. The person who caused the accident and their insurer would be responsible for paying the fee.
  3. No fee is imposed for someone who dies in an accident, as an extraction is not necessary.
Now I realize that these are partly derived from "what the fire chief said,"  but it raises some serious (or not) questions:

  1. What if it is a hit and run?
  2. What if an act of nature causes the accident?  (I would be willing to bet that in the case of a single car incident the driver is already responsible for that).
  3. What if you are not dead when they get there?
  4. If you are dead in your car will they just leave your body in the car to be optionally extracted by you executor?
I would like to know more about the details of how this all works.  And I think it is one example of a bigger concept that I would like to identify- where you are forced to pay for certain services whether you want or need them.

This may seem like a trivial thing if you are the type to get caught up in the major stories sweeping the national news... but all these little pieces should be examined with just as much or more interest- the ramifications for you or your pocketbook may, one day- be major indeed.

Please comment with references when applicable.  I will certainly have another entry on the bigger picture this fits into in the future...


LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Harrisburg approves fee for accident extractions

ORIGINAL ARTICLE CONTENT AS OF 20121116:
HARRISBURG, Pa. —
Harrisburg Council approved an extraction fee for accident victims on Tuesday.
The so-called Jaws of Life ordinance would charge accident victims a fee to be freed from their vehicles.
What used to be free for victims was never free for the city.
It can be very expensive saving lives and the city says it can no longer bear all the costs.
"We are not the first city in central Pennsylvania to do this," said Harrisburg Fire Chief Robert Talloni.
Talloni has supported an extraction fee when firefighters have to remove victims from vehicle crashes.
The fee has been approved by a state court and recommended in the city's Act 47 Financial Recovery Plan.
"If you have to be extricated from your vehicle, the fee would be $500 for that for the manpower, the tools and everything that goes along with that," Talloni said.
Under the plan, the person who caused the accident and his insurer would be held responsible for paying the fee.
Not having insurance or if your insurer doesn't pay will not let you off the hook.
"I think they're given up to a year to pay, so there's something in the works that allows them to pay when they can," Talloni said.
He said firefighters are called to do extractions a number of times each year in the city, but he said it will not be a windfall for a city already struggling to pay its debt.
There would be no fee imposed if a victim is killed in a crash. There would be no need for an extraction in that case, Talloni said.

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