A North Texas homeowner asked NBC 5 Responds for help after a U.S. Postal Service delivery truck caught fire, burning part of the lawn in front of his home.
TRUCK CATCHES FIRE
While on vacation, Abbas Poonawala of Irving watched as a U.S. Postal Service truck burned in front of his home, “I got a text from my neighbor saying there's fire in front of our house and he sent me a video.”
“I was a little worried, but then within about 10 minutes the fire was contained,” Poonawala told NBC 5 Responds.
An Irving Fire report stated the fire started in the engine of the Postal Service vehicle and was unintentional. The report noted no one was injured and the postal employee had unloaded mail before the fire department arrived.
Poonawala said when he returned from his trip, his mail delivery person put a supervisor on the phone and the homeowner asked about replacing burned grass and a damaged sprinkler.
“They told me at that point that somebody will call me back,” Poonawala recalled.
Poonawala said no one called, so he tried visiting his Post Office and reached out to the Postal Service on social media.
“The end result there was just leave a voicemail here and that's it,” Poonawala said.
“I REALLY NEEDED TO GET IT CLEANED UP”
Poonawala said he went into his own pocket to pay $960 for repairs, “I really needed to get it cleaned up because it was pretty nasty.”
The USPS told NBC 5 Responds in an email, “The U.S. Postal Service delivers to over 156 million addresses, six days a week and we take great care to protect both postal property and customers’ personal property. Unfortunately, rare instances of property damage do occur. We apologize for any inconvenience this incident may have caused for our customers. The Postal Service is governed by specific guidelines regarding tort claims. In this case, we are working with the customer to resolve the situation and have provided all necessary information and documents for filing a claim. Local postal management will continue to work with the customer, within existing guidelines and regulations, in order to reach a fair and equitable resolution.”
After NBC 5 reached out to the Postal Service, Poonawala said it delivered the form Poonawala needed to fill out: Standard Form 95.
In a letter responding to the claim, the USPS wrote it couldn’t continue processing it.
The U.S. Postal Service told us it doesn’t discuss tort claims, but someone would be in touch with Poonawala.
Poonawala said he learned the invoice he submitted needed to clearly show he already paid the repair crew. He’s now working to get USPS proof of the payment.
“Anything that's involving the government is going to involve bureaucracy and red tape and frustration,” said Nathaniel Plemons.
Plemons, an attorney, is not involved in this case but is familiar with administrative complaints filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
“If these letters ask for a follow up, that's not them denying your claim. You might be frustrated, they might identify flaws that they perceive in your claim, but if they're asking for this follow up, it's not done yet,” Plemons explained.
Generally, Plemons said the government has six months to look at a claim once it’s submitted to the appropriate agency. There may be back and forth about the evidence and paperwork sent in.
“The reimbursement is one thing, but I think a change in the way a USPS handles these situations would be good for everybody,” Poonawala said.
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