If a driver fails to pay a toll for using HOT lanes in Northern Virginia, the toll authority can add fees to the amount of the delinquent toll until it is paid in full. One such example occurred to Toni Lynn Cooley. She actually had an EZPass transponder in her car when she used the HOT lanes for a trip in 2012. However, the $11.70 toll fee was never received and fees started to mount and eventually, Cooley was told she owed over $10,000 in tolls, fees, penalties, and court costs.
Transurban, the company that runs the HOT lanes in Virginia and collects tolls, let the balloon accrue over several years helping it balloon to over $10,000.Transurban filed suit against Cooley, and the District Court found in favor of the toll authority. Cooley appealed to the Circuit Court, which also found that she did indeed violate the tolls. But, the court also considered the statute of limitations issue: is a toll violation a civil or criminal issue? Transurban argues that the statute is “civil on its face and in application, and therefore should be governed by a two year civil limitations period.”Cooley, on the other hand, argues the statute is criminal and a one-year statute of limitations should apply because civil penalties and fines are covered under the criminal statute.
The Judge ruled in favor of Cooley, saying the toll violations fall under the criminal code and a one-year statute of limitations applies. Thus, Transurban was incorrect in allowing the fees to accrue over two years. All HOT lanes toll enforcement is limited to a one-year statute of limitations, so Transurban can no longer wait more than a year to let fees accrue. With the Court’s ruling, Transurban has said the maximum fee they will ever ask for is now $2,200.
This case should be a reminder to Virginia drivers to make sure you have a working EZPass transponder when using the HOT lanes and to never use them if you do not have an EZPass.Transurban, like other toll road operators, are quick to hit toll violators with numerous fees and penalties for failing to pay a toll. Although Transurban is now limited to a one-year statute of limitations period, a toll violator could still be forced to pay up to $2,200 if the fees continue to accrue for a year.
If you or a family member has been injured or killed in an accident on Virginia’s toll roads and would like to consult an experienced personal injury attorney for free, contact us at (855) 954-4141 to schedule an appointment at one of our office locations in Fairfax or throughout Northern Virginia or visit us online.