By Lauren DiSpirito
DENVER (CBS4) – A Colorado woman says a Colorado Department of Transportation snowplow driver struck her vehicle during a snow storm last month and the state will not pay for the damage.
Evan Chavez, a student attending the University of Denver, says she was driving from Boulder to Broomfield on Dec. 6 along U.S. Highway 36 when she started having car trouble. It was just before 7 p.m. and it was snowing as Chavez struggled to get traction in her 2003 rear-wheel drive BMW hatchback. She pulled over to the side of the highway
“My clutch went out, my transmission had froze up, my car was smoking, I was freaking out,” Chavez said. “So, I was at the side of the road sitting in my car when I heard a crash come from behind me.”
Chavez says the snowplow’s side blade struck her hatchback. She says the plow truck driver stopped, was polite and, she adds, “realized what he had done.”
According to a repairs estimate, the crash caused more than $5,000 worth of damage.
A Colorado State Patrol trooper responded to the scene and neither driver was cited, the department confirmed. Chavez says she followed state guidelines and filed a claim for the cost of the damage. In early January she received a letter from CorVel Corporation, the claims handling service for CDOT and the State of Colorado, denying her claim.
“We cannot validate your accident facts,” the letter stated, going on to say, “The snowplow driver states that you did not have control of your vehicle and you slid into the snowplow as it was passing you … so based on conflicting statements from each of you, I must respectfully deny this claim.”
Chavez says she was not stopped in the plow’s path, was pulled over outside of the highway’s right lane, and is not at fault in the crash.
“It’s baffling to me, seeing the damage inflicted on my car, how someone could surmise that I hit the snowplow and that’s what caused the damage to my car,” Chavez said. “That just doesn’t make any sense.”
A Colorado State Patrol Driver’s Statement and Exchange of Information Form Chavez says she received after the crash redacts the snowplow driver’s written explanation of what happened. Without the money to pay for repairs, and no way to secure her broken hatchback, Chavez has parked the car in her parents’ driveway, unsure what to do with it. She relies on city buses to get to and from class.
“I don’t know what to do at this point,” she said. “I followed all the steps and just hearing back from them they denied my claim, I could try to go to court but that’s a lot of time and expense that I don’t have.”
CBS4 reached out to the office of Colorado’s Attorney General regarding the case, additionally asking how often CDOT snowplows are involved in collisions and, in which cases, if any, the state pays damage claims. In an email reply, Annie Skinner, spokeswoman for the office wrote, “I do not have a comment at this time.”
Amy Ford, a spokeswoman for CDOT says she is looking into the incident.