By Steve Woodhouse Editor
The Journal Express
---- — Following a closed session Monday night, the Knoxville City Council voted to cover a local family’s insurance deductible, and a portion of any rental car fees incurred, after a city-owned traffic light fell on the family’s vehicle on March 27.
The family involved approached the council Monday night to see if the City would pay approximately $6,500 in damages to their vehicle after the incident. When the accident happened, the city immediately contacted its insurance agent to see if the government was liable for these damages. Tonia Sherman with the Iowa Communities Assurance Pool, the City’s insurance agency, wrote to City Manager Harold Stewart on April 1, “In this claim, there were winds of 20-40 MPH. The post came down as a result of the winds. At that time, it was discovered that the base had rusted and was not properly affixed to the ground when installed over 20 years ago. There is no inspection program for the posts, other than walking by and visually inspecting them. With this, there is no negligence on the part of the City for the damage to her vehicle. She has insurance which would cover her claim, but it’s up to her as to whether or not she utilizes it.”
Chris McCombs, husband to the driver of the vehicle at the time of the accident, Brenda McCombs, was concerned about filing a claim with his insurance company. He is under the impression that the claim could increase his family’s insurance costs.
In response to McCombs’ statements Monday night, Stewart said that the city has been maintaining the posts. The maintenance consisted of painting them.
ICAP sent a separate letter to the family on April 2, which said, “After careful review of the situation, we do not believe our member is at fault and therefore, must deny this claim.”
“My understanding is that their insurance company would cover it,” Stewart said Tuesday morning. The council’s decision to cover the family’s $250 insurance deductible was conveyed to the family after the closed session. According to Sherman’s April 1 message to Stewart, the City has a benefit of Moral Obligation to Pay. The City is allowed to pay up to $5,000 in damages if the City feels obligated to pay. ICAP will reimburse the City 75 percent of the costs of its assistance to the McCombs family.
Stewart said he believes the council’s actions will make the family whole and cover all of their out-of-pocket costs.