DDOT bus totals woman's car but won't pay bill due to state law

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"All of a sudden we heard a big boom," remembers Sonya Wofford. "So my girlfriend was sitting next to the window, she looked out and [said, 'Oh (expletive) they just hit your car.'"

Wofford couldn't believe her eyes. Her car was smashed into a tree next door like an accordion. It happened on April 4, when a DDOT driver passing by slammed right into her legally parked car outside a friend's house on Seymour Street in Detroit. 

"I went up to the bus driver and said, 'You didn't see my car sitting there?'" she says. "There was three other people on the bus. He said, 'No ma'am; I was looking.' What he was looking at, I don't know."

Sonya, the bus driver and his passengers waited for a DDOT supervisor and Detroit Police to arrive.

Her 2016 Hyundai Accent was totaled, which was devastating for Tonya. She makes her living with her car, delivering auto parts and as a part-time Lyft driver.

"I am just out of a car; can't go to work; can't do anything and I am just pissed."

Wofford filed an insurance claim and a claim with the City of Detroit. Although, according to the police report, the DDOT driver was at fault - deemed careless and negligent - she received a letter from the city's law department saying her claim has been investigated and they have decided to offer her $1,000. 

"They said they weren't going to pay anything but my deductible, which was $1,000," she says. "Then I was pissed. I said, you are telling me your employee hit my car that I had to use to get back and forth to work, and all you are going to give me is the $1,000 deductible?" 

Sonya has full coverage but even with the insurance pay out, she owes more on her car that is now totaled. According to DDOT spokesperson, under Michigan No Fault Law they are only required to pay the $1,000 deductible, which Sonya can't understand. She's now without a car and money for legally parking her car on a city street.

"A whole lot of frustration and chaos," she says. "I can't work; I've just been stressed out. I can't get to work to pay my bills, I'm having to borrow money from my kids."

Detroit's city attorney released a statement that explained each auto owner's insurer is responsible for the cost of vehicle repair from an accident. Because the DDOT driver was deemed to be at fault, the city has met its responsibility by paying the full deductible. For the city to pay the portion that her private insurance company is required to cover, would be an inappropriate use of public tax dollars, the statement concluded.