Senator Michael McCaffrey suggests the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (DOT) review its procedures after a Warwick woman, who lost her son in a single car accident two years ago, received a $3,257.14 bill for damage done to state property.
Tina Hulkow received the letter and invoice addressed to her late son, Joseph Hulkow, in mid-July. It also contained a copy of the State Police accident report, describing the May 19, 2012 accident on Route 37 and the condition in which the car was found.
Up until that time, Hulkow said she had not read the report. She said she found herself reliving a nightmare as she read it.
Hulkow said her son had gone through “some troubled times,” but he was making headway. He had served time for possession of drugs. She said he had “turned his life around” and was working in a program to help young people get out of gangs and a life of violence. She said an autopsy did not find drugs or alcohol in his system.
Rose Amoros, spokeswoman for the DOT, said Friday that the department’s claim division “had no way of knowing” Joseph Hulkow died in the accident because the police report does not indicate he died.
Also, she said the DOT did not know Hulkow was insured, since the report did not indicate that either. She said, as procedure, the department would seek restitution from the insurance company. She said the DOT has up to 10 years to claim for damages and restitution.
Hulkow said she doesn’t buy the argument that the DOT didn’t have the information about her son’s death, or that he was insured.
“It had to be somewhere in the report,” she said. “They dropped the ball and now they don’t know how to handle the situation.”
McCaffrey, who was provided copies of the accident report and the state’s claim, called the situation “unbelievable.” He said the DOT should do some digging before issuing claim letters. He said he would ask the department “to review the process.”
Hulkow said it is too late for her not to be put through reliving the tragedy, but maybe as a result of her story the DOT will be more diligent and others will be spared.
As her son was responsible for causing the damage, Hulkow said she has no intention on paying the claim. She suggested the state chase the insurance company.
Amoros said the department would pursue the insurance company for reimbursement.