City woman ‘frustrated’ after accident with officer
A Dunkirk woman whose vehicle was struck by a city police cruiser six months ago said she’s yet to be compensated the more than $3,000 in damage the accident caused.
“I’ve cried my eyes out,” Ashley Lycett told the OBSERVER in an interview this week. “I’ve called my grandmother numerous times screaming at her because I can’t call anybody else and scream.”
Lycett’s ordeal began the night of Sept. 4, in the city of Dunkirk. Traveling east on Lakeshore Drive, she was “sideswiped” near Irving Place by a Dunkirk police officer in a marked patrol vehicle.
According to information included in the police report, the officer had hit the driver’s side of Lycett’s vehicle, “leaving a large scrape down the side of that vehicle.”
The cause was noted as “Car 8 … pulling into traffic with an obstructed view and a loud passenger.”
The patrol vehicle also sustained damage to its passenger side front bumper.
No one was injured in the accident.
Lycett said the officer, identified as Joseph Hallmark, also was facing east on the other side of Lakeshore Drive when he pulled out across the road and struck her vehicle.
“I couldn’t do anything because there was another police car to the right of me who I would have hit if I tried to move,” said Lycett, who had her young daughter with her that night.
“Immediately afterwards he got out and he said that he was very disappointed in himself because of the incident,” she continued. “So, he immediately recognized that it was his fault, which I was a little surprised at. He just stood there and kept saying how disappointed he was.”
Lycett said the officer alluded to a person in custody inside the vehicle who was being loud at the time of the accident.
Other officers were called to the scene, and Lycett was told she could pick up a copy of the police report the following day at the police department. When she arrived, she said an officer suggested she get an estimate on how much it would cost to repair her vehicle and that she’d be “cut a check.”
Shortly afterward, Lycett learned it would cost $3,190 — including parts and labor — to repair her 2008 Scion xB.
After returning to the police department with the estimate, Lycett was told by someone else that cutting checks wasn’t how the city handled claims. She said she was advised to sit tight and wait to hear from her insurance company, which she already had contacted to file a claim after the accident.
“Based on what I was being told by the insurance company and the police department, everybody told me to wait, so that’s what I assumed I should be doing,” Lycett said.
After four months with no update, Lycett called City Hall and was told she needed to fill out a notice of claim. While at City Hall, she states an employee took her aside and said he wasn’t sure why she had been told to file a claim.
Based on the comment, Lycett left without filing the paperwork.
By February of this year, and with no update from the city or her insurance company, she finally filed a notice of claim for damages with Dunkirk.
Her claim was included in the communications of the Feb. 21 meeting of the Dunkirk Common Council. An agenda for the meeting states: “Notice of claim from Ashley Lycett … for damages caused to her vehicle allegedly due to being sideswiped by a City of Dunkirk police vehicle.”
It was around that time she heard from the city’s insurance provider, the first such communication after the accident six months earlier.
On Feb. 23, Lycett received a letter from the city’s insurance provider stating that her claim was denied. In New York, claims against a public entity have to be filed within 90 days from the date of the incident.
“I’m extremely frustrated,” said Lycett, who has been forced to keep the damaged Scion at her insurance’s request because the incident remains ongoing.
The OBSERVER reached out to Michael Bobseine, Dunkirk city attorney, for comment on Lycett’s claim. “Unfortunately, because this situation involves possible litigation, I am unable to offer any comments on behalf of the city at this time,” Bobseine responded in an email.
A clerk with Dunkirk City Court could find no traffic citations filed in connection with the Sept. 4 mishap.