11/29/2012 08:12 EST | Updated 01/29/2013 05:12 EST

Saint John family upset over bill for guardrail damage

A Saint John family is upset after receiving a $2,700 bill from Dexter Construction to repair a guardrail that their son damaged in a fender-bender more than a year ago.

Sandra Sleep McIntyre said her son, Christopher, lost control of his car in October 2011 and hit a guardrail along Route 1.

Sleep McIntyre said the damage to the vehicle was minor and it cost the family about $150 and some of their own labour to get the vehicle back on the road.

She said the family thought the accident was long behind them until they received a bill in the mail from Dexter Construction on Wednesday.

“Dexter Construction has put a claim against his insurance for about $2,700 to $3,000 damage to the guardrail,” she said.

Sleep McIntyre said she is now afraid of a huge spike in her 20-year-old son's insurance premiums.

She said she wants to know how Dexter justifies the claim for the property damage.

”I stopped and was talking to the police officer today. I wanted the report. They don't even have pictures. Other than the pictures we took of the car, we have nothing else,” she said.

Emily Richard, a Dexter Construction spokesperson, said in an email to CBC News that it's standard practice to recover costs for damaged property.

"Information regarding claims for asset and/or property damages located within the Route 1 Highway facility limits is compiled through the local policing agency where any incident or accident has occurred," the email states.

"This information is then forwarded to an independent claims adjuster for further investigation and communication with any necessary insurance parties. It is standard practice to recover costs for damaged property or assets."

Dexter Construction was responsible for building a new section of Route 1 in southern New Brunswick. Transfield Dexter Gateway Services Ltd. is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the highway until 2040.

The Department of Transportation said it also seeks compensation for repairs, including labour and materials.

Liberal MLA Rick Doucet said he often hears stories of claims that come long after the accident and often cause sticker shock.

“I've seen some of the details of the billing and it's ridiculous,” Doucet said.

“They get the bill and they're completely surprised that a small section of guardrail costs them $3,500 or $4,500.”

Ronald Godin, the province’s consumer advocate for insurance, said third parties often make claims for damaged property, whether it's NB Power or a municipality.

Godin said once police are on the scene, a report is generated with the Motor Vehicle Branch in Fredericton and the accident becomes part of the public record.

“The best advice, is always when you are involved in an accident to advise your insurance company because you can never judge, simply by the amount of damage whether or not there is going to be a claim down the road,” Godin said.