Woman's license plate left on totaled car costs her months after Hurricane Irma

VERO BEACH, Fla. - More than seven months after Hurricane Irma an elderly Vero Beach woman is still feeling the effects of the damage.

Her vehicle was totaled from flooding and sold. 

But that sale is still costing her because of one item she left behind on the car: her license plate.

Now, her family wants to keep anyone else from making the same costly mistake.

Jamie Portell’s mother lives at Indian River Estates assisted living in Vero Beach.

Portell rode out the storm with her mother there.

The next morning, they realized her mother’s car flooded.

“The seats, the electric, she couldn’t adjust anything,” Portell explained. The carpet was soaked.

They called the woman’s insurance company, State Farm, and said someone came out, looked at the car, totaled it and arranged for it to be towed away.

About a week later, Portell said she took her mother to a local State Farm location to pick up a check.

“We didn’t think anything more about the car, until about four months later she received, from the state of New Jersey, a bill with the picture of the back of her car,” Portell said.

The letter was a $52 toll road fine.

“She was very upset not knowing what had happened to the car,” Portell said.  

They called State Farm and asked the agency to take care of the mishap.

“Another 3-4 weeks later, she gets another bill from the state of New Jersey with another picture of her car,” Portell said. It was another $52 fine.

“Called the insurance company again and said 'I thought this was taken care of, can you please look into it, ' ” Portell said.

This month, they did not get a bill and hope this matter has been resolved.

But, they learned a lesson.

“Definitely remove your plates. You don’t think about those things needing to be done, you just assume your agency is going to take care of that,” Portell said.

A State Farm spokesperson told WPTV in a statement: "While I am unable to speak to the specifics of this claim due to customer privacy reasons, I can share in general that we typically encourage customers to remove all personal belongings and items from the total loss vehicle prior to being towed, including their personal license plate. State Farm works with an auto salvage vendor to dispose of the salvage vehicle in the form of a salvage sale.  If personal property was not removed from the vehicle, that property may remain on the vehicle throughout the sale. We encourage customers to contact their claim representative should they discover personal property has remained on the vehicle, so measures can be taken with the customer to help track down personal property."
 

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