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Thursday, June 27, 2013

If You Have CDL, A Ticket Or Legal Issue Pending, In Another State, You Might Want To Read This

          Is your license in jeopardy? It could be and many of us would never realize it. The Federal laws have changed and states you do not even live in can now suspend your license. I discovered it totally by accident.  No pun intended.  When I went to the Indiana license branch to renew my license in December I was told my license had been suspended by the state of Massachusetts.  When I inquired as to what or why they informed me it was related to an incident from October of 2002.  This totally dumbfounded me as I thought the issue was settled long ago.

        It took me from December till May to get it all straightened out.  It was done with no help from Indiana or Massachusetts.  After many frustrating calls to both states I called the attorney of the company who had sued me and he, I meant she, the legal assistant of the attorney, got the matter straightened out.  If Lisa had not been so conscientious about her job I might still be walking.

      Here is how it happened.  In October 2002 I was delivering a load in the Boston area.  I had to make a left turn into my customers receiving area.  Because traffic was backed up I could not complete the turn.  A motorist going in the opposite direction decided to back up and let a person out of a parking space to his right front. He evidently did not see my trailer sitting crossways behind him. In the process he backed into the side of my trailer. Irony of it was he worked where I was delivering.  Anyhow we exchanged information and then he left the scene of the accident.  It did no damage at all to my truck.  Having taken pictures and exchanged information I thought I was covered and never called the police.

     Lesson learned by me was, no matter how minor the accident, call the police and get a report to protect yourself.  The gentleman who backed into me went to his insurance company and filed a claim.  Well they sued me to reclaim the $760+ dollars in damages to repair to his car.  I did not get this notice until May of 2004.  In January of 2004 I had a heart attack and was no longer driving. I had turned in my CDL in April or May. I wrote the State of Massachusetts explaining why I could not come to Massachusetts.  I later received a letter from the small claims court saying they had judged against me and I would be liable for damages plus interest. They also threatened to suspend my license.  I immediately sat down and wrote a letter explaining what happened and sent pictures to back up what I was saying.  I never heard anymore on the matter.  In December of 2006 I renewed my license in Indiana and had no problem.  At least I thought so.

       It seems the law changed, or gone into effect, between 2006 and 2012 and states can now suspend the license of another state.  Once that happens you are at the mercy of the system in getting it straightened out.  Had I not kept a copy of the small claim judgment I would not have had the name of the attorney of the company who sued me. In frustration after hours of sitting on the phone calling state numbers which no one ever answered I tried the attorney’s number. I figured with interest the cost would now be close to $1500.  After discussing the matter they decided if I would send half of the original $760 they would release the judgment.  I sent the money, but the nightmare was not over. I received a notification that until I paid a $100 reinstatement fee they would not release my license.  Being kind of over a barrel I sent the money. A few weeks later I got a letter reinstating my license.

     In the course of the discussions I had with Indiana, Massachusetts, the attorney, Lisa the legal assistant and several others I learned several things.  I definitely was not the only victim and it was happening pretty often. Any judgment for money, any unpaid ticket and any unsettled legal action can cause you to lose your license.  The state you committed the offence in can legally suspend your license under federal law.  I personally feel that somehow violates the Constitution, but if you want your license back you will settle the issue.  The lady on the Massachusetts help desk, while sympathetic, stated the law is the law and she had to enforce it as it was written.  Indiana told me that once an action is taken and a license is suspended under the federal law they have no authority to over ride or issue you a license. The irony of it to me is that there was no ticket or driving related charge.  It was strictly over the amount of the judgment not being paid.  Because I did not physically appear in court the judgment was decided in favor of the insurance company.

        If you are traveling and get a ticket and decide you can blow it off because it is not in your home state you better think again. They can make your life absolutely miserable and believe me you do not want to deal with any state bureaucracy.  Also beings you will have a suspension on your record you can be forced to pay high risk insurance for up to five years. If for no other reason, that is a good reason to get the matter settled and move on with your life.

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