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Crash victims in limbo as police records backlog swells to six months

Posted by on April 21st, 2016 at 4:16 pm

rowan

Small business owner Rowan Kimsey was seriously injured in a traffic crash over five months ago. She still doesn’t have a copy of the police report.
(Photo: M. Andersen/BikePortland)

For many traffic crash victims the difference between getting a check from the insurance company and getting nothing comes down to one document: a police report. And for an increasing number of Portlanders the time it takes to receive a copy of that report has ballooned from two weeks to up to six months.

These victims are in limbo. Without a police report they can’t get paid what they’re owed and they can’t fully heal emotionally because they often aren’t even able to find out basic information — like the first and last name — of the person who hit them.

“It’s clear her case is valid but we don’t have the report, and that’s the sole reason she won’t be given what she’s entitled to.”
— Mark Ginsberg, lawyer

50-year-old Rowan Kimsey, an artist who just opened up The Lucky Mermaid tattoo studio in the Montavilla neighborhood, is living this nightmare. She was hit in 2015 and still doesn’t have a copy of her police report.

On November 3rd of last year Kimsey was biking home from work on SE Division Street (just two days after closing the sale on her new studio) when a woman driving a truck passed her so closely that the side-view mirror slammed into Kimsey’s back. The impact broke three of her ribs, collapsed and punctured one of her lungs, ruptured her spleen and damaged her diaphragm. She spent four days in the hospital and it took over two months to fully recover.

Kimsey was innocent and she has insurance; but her insurance company won’t pay out the claim because they’re waiting to see the police report. (Kimsey filed the claim on her own auto insurance policy because the driver of the truck still hasn’t been found.)

Kimsey’s attorney, Mark Ginsberg of Berkshire Ginsberg LLC, requested the police report on February 5th. It’s been 76 days and the Records Division still hasn’t filled the request.

“Her insurance company has taken position that they need the police report before they can move forward with the case,” Ginsberg told me in an interview this week. “It’s clear her case is valid but we don’t have the report, and that’s the sole reason she won’t be given what she’s entitled to.”

Most insurers require a police report to act as the “proof of loss” document needed to process a claim.

Ginsberg currently has four clients like Kimsey who are waiting for police reports. “It used to be you’d just mail in your 10 bucks and the city would turn around the request in 10 days, maybe two weeks,” he said. “It’s never been this bad in the 21 years I’ve been in practice.”

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And it’s not just about the money. Ginsberg said the delay hurts his clients in others ways. “By delaying these cases, my clients are not getting treatment if they are planning on using that money to pay for medical services,” he said. “And over time cases get harder to prove because witnesses die, leave town, remember less, and so on. So any delay is always a detriment to the injured person and a benefit to the insurance company of the person who has caused the harms and damages.”

“I’m borrowing money from friends to keep it going. I’m very frustrated that it takes six months to get a single piece of paper.”
— Rowan Kimsey, crash victim

For Rowan Kimsey, the delay adds insult to her injuries. “I was trying to open up a new business and I could really use that insurance claim,” she said. “I’m borrowing money from friends to keep it going. I’m very frustrated that it takes six months to get a single piece of paper.”

Ginsberg, a former Chair of the City of Portland’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, has been trying to bring this issue to the attention of the police bureau and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick’s office for two months but says he’s been ignored. Ginsberg finally got a reply to his emails on Tuesday — the same day he said he was taking his story to the media.

Now he’s in touch with the captain of the PPB Traffic Division and staff from City Hall and the records division.

Meetings are planned and possible solutions are finally being discussed; but according to PPB Records Division Supervisor Tammi Weiss the fix won’t be easy. And it won’t happen overnight.

Weiss says she too is frustrated by the backlog, which is the largest it’s been in the 26 years she’s worked in the division.

Weiss has put up a statement on the city’s website that blames the delay on, “an understaffed division, increased workload, financial restrictions, and the new Records Management System.”

“It will be a long time down the road when it will be fixed. We’re so far back now, it’ll take a while for us to get caught back up.”
— Tammi Weiss, PPB Records Division supervisor

In an interview Wednesday, Weiss told us they’ve requested more staff but the positions won’t be approved until next year’s budget which goes into effect in July. For most of last year, Weiss said, they had only two staffers working through 1,500 public records requests a month. “Requests have been increasing around 10 percent a year and we don’t have the personnel to keep up with that.”

Weiss said up until 2014 the average time to fulfill a request was about 21 days.

Along with the lack of staff (a problem exacerbated by obligations the division has to U.S. Department of Justice requests), a new records software program just went live at the end of last year and all existing staff had to be trained to use the system.

Is there a way to pull out more urgent requests and do them first? Weiss said they prioritize records that have been subpoenaed by a court, but other than that it’s “tricky” because they work on a first-come, first-served bases and it becomes a “balancing act” to make sure no one has an unfair advantage.

Weiss said she’s been aware of Ginsberg’s concerns and is working on a solution to the problem, like trying to find shortcuts to process requests faster without disclosing sensitive information. Another interim fix is getting more police officers to issue information exchange forms at the scene of a crash. Those non-legal forms are very common in fender-benders when an officer decides a full report isn’t necessary.

Unfortunately, Ginsberg says these information exchange forms are often not made available when one of the parties of the collision is a bike rider or walker — because they are often incapacitated due to injuries or in an ambulance and not able to advocate for themselves at the scene.

Whatever’s done to address this problem is likely going to take time. Officer behaviors at crash scenes is a fix that will have to come through training and culture change at the PPB. And Weiss at the Records Division doesn’t expect the backlog in her office to subside any time soon. “It will be a long time down the road when it will be fixed. We’re so far back now, it’ll take a while for us to get caught back up.”

In one of the stacks on Weiss’s desk is the request from Rowan Kimsey.

When I told Kimsey that her lawyer had finally received emails from city staffers on Tuesday she said, “In the time it took them to respond to Mark [Ginsberg] they could have gotten the damn piece of paper and put it in an envelope and mailed it.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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paikiala
Guest
paikiala

Succession planning is the name for prediction when employees are going to retire. This is a problem that rests firmly at the feet of upper management of the PPB and the Commissioner in charge going back for each the last five years. They know HR takes 3-6 months to post a job announcement, and another 3 to create a list. Survey of members and future plans, with annual rolling 5-year projections, should be standard practice so this kind of thing doesn’t happen.
Compare how much the PPB spends on homicide investigation and prevention compared to crash investigation and prevention. Then compare how different the number of people murdered versus the number killed in crashes each year.
Homicide has a cache, killed in a car crash does not.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Who would tell HR that they were planning to leave their job a year ahead of time? The only case where that makes sense is planned retirement, and not always then.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Um… coming from the private sector, my question is, why does City of Portland HR take that long? The interview/negotiation/hiring process can legitimately be multiple months based on scheduling, second interviews, offers/counteroffers, and selected candidate delay before starting, but why does just writing a job description and selecting candidates to interview have to take more than a month or two? Especially when you’re pretty much backfilling an existing position (for which the needs should already be fairly agreed upon)?

David Lewis
Guest

Why would a victim not automatically be presented with a police report as soon as it is filed?

Carter
Guest
Carter

How would they get their $10?

Spiffy
Subscriber

you should at least get a citation or report # at the scene… some kind of reference…

I can call in a stolen property report and get a # to give to insurance while I’m on the phone…

Carter
Guest
Carter

If you’re not being whisked away in an ambulance, yes, you get a police report number (I did). Even with that number, which means the records department doesn’t need to do a full-on search, the procedure still takes months.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Our city (Santa Clara, CA) has an online report filing portal, and you get a reference number immediately and status updates as it gets reviewed. Granted, mine was for a stolen bike and not an injury collision, so maybe that’s a different scenario as well.

Anyway, best of luck to you Rowan!

Carter
Guest
Carter

When I was car-doored last year, I had this problem. I had to wait two months for the police report to find out who did it (of course, now I feel lucky it was that short). In that two months, I went to the public record window downtown a couple if times. Both times the (extremely helpful and friendly) people behind the window called up the police report on their screens.

Imagine a system where I could have handed one of them a $10 bill and they would hit “print” (or emailed it to me). It would have taken minutes, not months!

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Wait a minute. The police report is already written, and it takes many months for the PPD to simply print it out and mail it?

Okay, I understand that 1500 requests/month for 2 staffers means each staffer has to handle about 5 requests/hour, but should it take over ten minutes to handle each one? Is there something very cumbersome about the PPD’s process, that should be streamlined?

Al Gorp
Guest
Al Gorp

Gotta go get donuts every 15 minutes. Union rules.

Aleta Wright
Guest
Aleta Wright

Wait a minute… City of Tigard was jurisdiction in my collision. I was able to go to the counter, pay my $10 and it took about 10 minutes to receive the 8 page document. I proofread it and noted some minor factual errors that were then corrected. Right side of vehicle impact vs. left.

In addition I was told that I could obtain the first responder fire truck crew report as well. I have a copy of that and they even emailed it. Again they made typos listing my left vs right shoulder. I asked for correction, their records person checked with the crew chief who checked with the actual responding EMTs and fixed the report. I received the revised report via secured email even with all the edits in a timely manner.

I wonder if the “proof” that the insurance companies need might be found on the ambulance or EMT report and then supplemented with the police narrative once it finally is released? Perhaps there is a work around? It might be worth doing a report audit.comparison to see if it will pass muster.

Aleta Wright
Guest
Aleta Wright

P.S. I think the fees have gone up unless I misread the sign posted in the records section of the Portland Police bureau window I think it reads as of 2016 fees are $30 for a copy of a police report. I do know the records voice mail mentions an extended wait time if requesting a police report from Portland jurisdiction.

Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

This city’s government has become comically and hopelessly dysfunctional. Be sure to pay your Arts Tax, because they *will* be prompt about that….

Matthew B
Guest
Matthew B

How about increasing the fee and earmarking the fees to pay for the jobs required? 1,500 requests per month, assume half are from other governments who don’t pay, that is $7,500 per month. Increase the fee to $50, and the amount goes up to $37,500 – probably enough to cover several clerical staff. Alternatively, increase the $10 to $20 and add a $30 expediting fee for 10 day turnaround, with a requirement that the expediting fee be returned if the 10 days isn’t met.

Carter
Guest
Carter

I found it insulting enough that I had to pay $10 (with a SASE) to get my own police report!

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

earmarks don’t work. Sure… the new money will (probably) go to those positions. The money paying the existing staff? Will likely be transferred somewhere else as soon as the need arises.

Besides, this is basic. Everything should be digital and easily available, for no fee, on the department website.

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

Really, now. Does ANYTHING work in America anymore?

Al Gorp
Guest
Al Gorp

Mike,

Oh yes. Lots of things are working: Men can now use the restroom or locker room that they feel like using. You can force bakers to cater to your wedding whether they want to or not. You can now bring your suitcase bomb to school for show and tell without fear of being detained – and if you are detained you can sue for damages because of discrimination. If you belong to a religion that says you should kill infidels, and you actually do it, then no one can say your religion is bad because that would be discrimination. If you are a minority president and you give a pathway to nukes to a nation that has vowed to destroy the USA and Israel, then you cannot be punished for your treasonous acts because that would be racist. If you are a minority president and you pass a “tax” that originated in the US senate, not in the house as required by the constitution, then the Supreme Court cannot point out that the tax is not valid because that would be racist. If you are a minority president or a female SOS, and you send classified emails back and forth to/from a private, unsecured email server then you cannot be charged with a crime because that would be racist and discriminatory. If you are an officer in the PPB and you fail to do your job by failing to write police reports then you cannot be fired because the police union will not allow it.

The list above is not even the tip of the iceberg of course. But it is clear that what IS working is liberal stupidity – that is working flawlessly.

Al Gorp
Guest
Al Gorp

WARNING:
I googled giphy.com and got some porno stuff. Can’t recommend clicking JL’s link. It might be OK, but I’m not taking my chances.

was carless
Guest
was carless

Wow, and here I thought you invented the internet.

Al Gorp
Guest
Al Gorp

I did. I make money on every key stroke. That’s why I can afford my jet that I use to spew CO2 all over the planet – particularly on Earth Day.

Al Gorp
Guest
Al Gorp

I stand corrected. I typed giphy.com into youtube and got thumbnails of apparent porn videos. Try it. Youtube, not google.

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

Of course, if we had a medical system like our nearest neighbor to the north, victims could get life-impacting treatment regardless of papers required by some bean-counting insurance company top-heavy with very well compensated CEOs. Doesn’t that piss anyone off?

Al Gorp
Guest
Al Gorp

I think she got the care she needed. Just needs to get an insurance check to pay her bills I think. Sounds like she’ll get it eventually – that’s what I’m pissed off about -that our police department is taking so long to do what should have been done on the day of the accident. That bureaucratic dawdling in the police department is exactly what you get in the Canadian health care industry -that’s why when they want something state of the art done right away they often come down here.

Our health care program would be fine if government got out of it and allowed any citizen to purchase insurance from any carrier in any state and all care providers had to take that insurance. Then we might have competition. Also, every care provider should be required to post on a website the charges for every conceivable procedure so we can shop around before deciding where to go for care. The price gouging would slow dramatically. As it is now, you have no idea what a procedure will cost, and you don’t care because insurance – now mandated by the government, will pay for it – thus they charge many times what is required and the CEOs get mega million dollar pay.

Al Gorp
Guest
Al Gorp

The PPB sounds like your typical government workers: lazy, union (can’t be fired), no one cares, etc. Pathetic. I’m sure they’ll be begging for more taxes so they can “solve” this problem.

Whoever is in charge (the police chief, the mayor, etc) should go down there TODAY and TELL them that every police office will write X number of police reports every day until the backlog is gone, starting today – and there will be NO overtime to get it done – do it on your own time if you have to – just like private employees do. X= the number it will take to get it done in 30 days. And they should make clear that there will be no further backlogs – each officer will write his police reports daily – should be part of his job.

As Donald Trump would say: “You’re fired”!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75SEy1qu71I

Carter
Guest
Carter

It’s clear you didn’t actually read the article. Good job.

Al Gorp
Guest
Al Gorp

I’d give them 30 days. No more. No overtime.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Loving the propaganda.

Dennis Kasunic
Guest

Unfortunately, I hear of this quite often being an Acupuncturist in the Pearl District in Portland. One very important fact this article doesn’t mention is that every Oregonian that has Auto Insurance is entitled up to $15,000 (up to $25,000 in some cases) of PIP (Personal Injury Protection) in FREE healthcare to get their body back to pre accident conditions regardless if they were a pedestrian, biker or in an Auto. Police Reports have no bearing on this. If you want to know more about Auto Accidents please follow my link above through my website for more detailed info. Contact me directly if you have questions about your specific case. kaz@yinyangacu.com

Be Well,
Kaz

Mark Smith
Guest
Mark Smith

Al Gorp
Mike,
Oh yes. Lots of things are working: Men can now use the restroom or locker room that they feel like using. You can force bakers to cater to your wedding whether they want to or not. You can now bring your suitcase bomb to school for show and tell without fear of being detained – and if you are detained you can sue for damages because of discrimination. If you belong to a religion that says you should kill infidels, and you actually do it, then no one can say your religion is bad because that would be discrimination. If you are a minority president and you give a pathway to nukes to a nation that has vowed to destroy the USA and Israel, then you cannot be punished for your treasonous acts because that would be racist. If you are a minority president and you pass a “tax” that originated in the US senate, not in the house as required by the constitution, then the Supreme Court cannot point out that the tax is not valid because that would be racist. If you are a minority president or a female SOS, and you send classified emails back and forth to/from a private, unsecured email server then you cannot be charged with a crime because that would be racist and discriminatory. If you are an officer in the PPB and you fail to do your job by failing to write police reports then you cannot be fired because the police union will not allow it.
The list above is not even the tip of the iceberg of course. But it is clear that what IS working is liberal stupidity – that is working flawlessly.
Recommended 2

+2 for epic right wing rant.

However did we finally do with legal lynchings in your amazing world?

Al Gorp
Guest
Al Gorp

MS,
Thank you for proving the point of my last sentence.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Pointless and irrelevant rants aside . . . could police reports simply be made available online? Is there a privacy issue?