A Montana resident has filed suit to block a rural fire district from charging an accident response fee to owners of vehicles involved in accidents to which the fire department responds. The Polson Rural Fire District, a fully volunteer operation, has been contemplating imposing such a fee for some time to help offset some of its operating expenses.
Accident response fees, which also go by other names such accident recovery fees or crash fees, are charged by many fire departments as a way to offset some of their expenses. Fees are commonly based on the length of time personnel are needed on scene, if vehicle extrication is required, and if consumables (foam and absorbents) are utilized.
Polson’s fee structure ranges from $500 to $1750. In most cases, automobile liability insurance will provide coverage of the charge.
Last week, resident Tom Eddy filed suit to block the fees. Eddy’s suit alleges that the district’s enactment of the fee structure violates Montana statutes, the state constitution and the fire district’s own bylaws. The suit seeks a declaratory judgment finding the imposition of the fee to be illegal.