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Manhattan "hit and run" bicyclist victim allowed to submit claim to Crime Victims Board

A woman who was injured by a "hit and run" bicyclist in Manhattan has won the chance to press her claim for compensation before the state Office of Victim Services.

At issue in Matter of Robin Tooker , 112360/2010, was whether the plaintiff was a victim of a crime. The crime victims office found that the incident was an accident, not a crime, and decided the plaintiff could not tap into the state fund.

But the pro se plaintiff, Robin Tooker, convinced Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Martin Schoenfeld (See Profile) that she has the right to a hearing before the agency.

The claim arose from an incident on April 7, 2007, when Tooker, a professional photographer, was run down by a delivery bike while crossing a street in downtown Manhattan. Tooker suffered a badly broken wrist, resulting in a four-day hospital stay, surgery and lingering injuries that make it impossible for her to use several of her fingers and work effectively at her trade.

Tooker sought $20,000 from the crime victims board to compensate her for medical expenses, but the panel decided there was no evidence a crime was committed. The agency is authorized only to compensate innocent victims of crime.

It cited Vehicle and Traffic Law §600, which describes the crime of leaving the scene of an accident and refers to a "motorized vehicle." The agency also said it had never received any official report of a crime.

But Tooker countered that another section of Vehicle and Traffic Law, §1241, refers to a "wheeled non-motorized means of conveyance" and makes it a Class B misdemeanor to leave the scene of an accident that resulted in a serious physical injury.

Additionally, she presented two faxed letters from a police officer who responded to the incident, with one of the letters describing the matter as a "hit and run."

Schoenfeld said the crime victims board has not addressed the §1241 question, nor provided an "explanation why the two faxes from [the police officer] are not considered criminal justice records despite their confirmation that the NYPD was at the scene and that one of the faxes describes the incident as a 'hit and run.'"

The judge remitted the matter for a hearing before what is now the Office of Victim Services, previously the Crime Victims Board. The agency compensates crime victims with funds raised through fines, mandatory surcharges and other non-tax sources.

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