Hank Investigates: Government Paybacks

LAKEVILLE, MASS. (WHDH) - Ever spend hours on the phone, waiting in line, or even in court trying to clear up a government mistake? Investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan found you might be able to get paid back for your time and troubles.

You may get the shocking news when you see police lights or a letter in your mailbox: You’re in big trouble.

It happened to Michael Reardon from Lakeville last fall. He got this scary notice from the registry saying his “registration is revoked” “for an indefinite period.” Reading police even reported him as an “immediate threat.”

“I was blown away,” Michael told 7 Investigates.

Turns out the Reading police saw a different car, not Michael’s, but wrote down Michael’s plate in the report to the Registry and as a result Michael’s registration was revoked.

He couldn’t drive his truck until that registration was reinstated. But Michael didn’t have a clue how to fix the mess.

“Didn’t even really know where to start,” Michael said.

So Michael paid an attorney $1200 to help.

“That was really the only option,” Michael said.

But why should Michael have to lose his money and time to prove the police made a mistake?

Our investigation found: he doesn’t. When a government agency: the police, the registry, the state, or town hall makes an error, you can file a claim with them to pay you back the money you had to spend to fix it.

 “Do you think most people know about this?” Hank asked.

No, I don’t think they do. I think the driver just takes it on the chin,” attorney Brian E. Simoneau said.

If you had to pay for unnecessary towing, for instance, or storage charges, or the cab you took to court, you can ask to be reimbursed!

You can even recover lost wages if you spent time in line at a government office or a courthouse just to prove it’s not your fault.

It does work! The registry got these claims from angry drivers, and they got reimbursed!

But experts suspect–way more people are missing out.

“How does a driver know they can file a claim to be compensated for their losses?” Hank asked.

“The rights to do that are not well-publicized,” Simoneau said.

Michael is now on the road again, after the mistake was cleared up

And soon after, he wrote this claim letter to the town of Reading asking to be reimbursed for that legal bill.

About a month later Michael got the good news: They’re going to pay him.

Sometimes honest mistakes cost money to innocent people. I’m just happy that the town of Reading was able to see the mistake and reimburse that money,” Michael said.

We found most government agencies don’t have a page on their websites that says, “We’ll pay you back if we made a mistake,” but just click this link for information on how to make a claim.

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