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N.H. Bills Lost Hikers $25K
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Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
N.H. Bills Lost Hikers $25K on 10/31/2009 19:24:52 MDT Print View

excerpt - thanks to Ed Rodriguez for pointer about this story (I found the link)

N.H. Bills Lost Hikers for Cost of Rescue

(tinylink: )

CONCORD, N.H., Oct. 29, 2009

Seven Other States Have Laws Allowing Such Charges, But Some Groups Say the Policy Is Dangerous

(AP) Stranded with a sprained ankle on a snow-covered mountain, Eagle Scout Scott Mason put his survival skills to work by sleeping in the crevice of a boulder and jump-starting evergreen fires with hand sanitizer gel.

He put plastic bags inside his boots to keep his feet dry as he sloshed through mountain runoff hidden beneath waist-deep snow. After three cold days last April, rescue crews spotted him hiking toward the summit of Mount Washington, the Northeast's highest mountain.

My note: Of significance in story is this paragraph:

"Three states besides New Hampshire — Hawaii, Oregon and Maine — have general laws allowing agencies to bill for rescues. Only Maine has attempted to recoup money a handful of times and the bills were never paid. California, Vermont, Colorado and Idaho have laws allowing state agencies to bill in limited circumstances, but the laws are rarely enforced — and when they are, draw a firestorm of protest from search and rescue groups.

Two years ago, the fire department in Golden, Colo., rescued a hiker from Kansas who had sprained his ankle and later billed him for $5,135. The outcry from national search and rescue groups influenced the city to change its policy and settle with the hiker for 10 percent of the bill.

Only New Hampshire has consistently billed people. Last year, lawmakers increased the likelihood of being billed when they lowered the legal standard from reckless to negligent to make it easier to collect. "

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: N.H. Bills Lost Hikers $25K on 10/31/2009 21:08:04 MDT Print View

Perhaps a slight edit to the NH license plate is in order, to "Live Free and Die."

My brother lives there--odd place. But hey, no sales tax no income tax. Method to the madness?



Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: N.H. Bills Lost Hikers $25K on 10/31/2009 21:19:26 MDT Print View

"But hey, no sales tax no income tax."

They gotta be getting it from somewhere. Property taxes must be through the roof (no pun intended).

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Weird on 10/31/2009 21:31:00 MDT Print View

I thought we pay taxes to fund things like police and fire departments for public safety. Why should you have to pay extra just because these agencies did the job your taxes are supposed to support? I know there have been some silly search and rescue situations but the fact that this guy was an Eagle Scout and gets blamed for being negligent rubs me the wrong way.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
New Policy Needed! on 10/31/2009 21:34:22 MDT Print View

State S&R teams & agencies need to get together and get a nationwide, inexpensive S&R insurance policy instituted. Fees could come from outdoor gear taxes (YIKES!), OR yearly user policies at say, $10. per hiker, payable in January and required as ID when hiking in ANY state.

Not to get too Nazi about it but it could be well advertised at trailheads, outdoor magazines, etc. that if one DOES NOT have a yearly policy one will be liable for 25% of the rescue cost which will be collected.

Just a thought...


Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
What are taxes for? on 10/31/2009 22:13:45 MDT Print View

Here's my analogy. If my car breaks down I pay the auto shop to repair it because they won't do the job out of the goodness of their hearts. I don't do that for a policemen who responds to a 911 call because he is already being compensated by my taxes. It seems unfair to start an agency with tax dollers and than demand that people cover the cost when that agency is used. So what if it took a lot of helicopter fuel to find the kid, you're supposed to budget for things like that. I thought public safety was one of the most basic functions of government? Why should we pay extra when they do their job?
Aside from all that I'm most uncomfortable with the "blame the victom" attitude. It sounds like any emergancy is preventable and the victom is responsible.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
N.H. Bills Lost Hikers $25K on 10/31/2009 22:54:35 MDT Print View

Remind me not to vacation in New Hampshire.

Jack Newton
(figster) - F

Locale: Central Arkansas
Hmm on 11/01/2009 07:16:39 MST Print View

My air conditioner breaks. I pay for it.

My ankle breaks. I pay for it.

My hiking partner and I joke about the cost of getting rescued off our mountains regularly. None of us have ever expected our ride out to be free.

Ambulance rides from 911 calls start at 800 dollars around here. Its hard for me to imagine a rescue situation where I didn't have to pay a dime.

Most accidents, if you prescribe to them, are negligent.


Gordon Towne
(gordontowne) - MLife

Locale: New England
Re: What are taxes for? on 11/01/2009 08:26:04 MST Print View

In certain situations I would argue that emergency is largely preventable and the victim is responsible. When people knowingly put themselves into extreme situations for recreational purposes, they implicitly take on responsibility for the risk they are undertaking. Here in Massachusetts there was a controversy when Charlie Girard tried three times to row across the Atlantic, and called for rescue on all three attempts. After the first two attempts failed, I would say that it would be reasonable to assume that there's a fairly high probability that he'd need to call for rescue on the third attempt as well.

James Patsalides
( - MLife

Locale: New England
Erm, which taxes would those be? on 11/01/2009 08:42:27 MST Print View

The major tax base for NH comes from property taxes. Those would be direct usage taxes on the owners of properties in NH, to cover local roads, schools, cops, garbage collection etc. State roads have tolls to cover their costs. Local homeowners are not asked to fund safety for VISITORS to the state - if you're a local, that would be sen as THE VISITORS' responsibility.

Absent any FEDERAL level S&R capability, we are asking local homeowners to personally fund rescue efforts for visitors to their state. While you or I might think they should do it (and in my home state of Connecticut, I would expect part of my 6% state income taxes to cover such things), we CANNOT interfere with NH residents' right to choose or judge their decision about whether they will pay for it or not.

Now, if you asked me about whether there should be a federal system, I would say YES, ABSOLUTELY! Would it be as simple as the $10 idea suggested above, probably not due to the moral hazard... like the other thread on here about sat emergency devices, the risk of people going beyond what they're capable of, knowing they can call the rescue guys, is pretty extreme. But, could smart underwriters/actuaries/economists work out a way to pay for a national system and minimize moral hazard? Yes. They should do it and I think BPL could be one of the groups lobbying to get this done.

Just me $0.02. Take it easy, all.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Erm, which taxes would those be? on 11/01/2009 09:46:29 MST Print View

An additional thought. Cow Hampshire (my brother's term, I just report :-) gets a significant amount of income from tourism--one of the state's major industries. They estimate a return on investment of $8.84 for every dollar spent. That's a nice ROI

S&R costs could be booked as part of their investment in promoting tourism, because the flip side of the coin is to drive tourists elsewhere because of horrible PR like this story (helloooo Vermont). I get the sense that they're not all singing from the same score up there.



Edited by halfturbo on 11/01/2009 09:47:30 MST.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Erm, which taxes would those be? on 11/01/2009 09:53:03 MST Print View

For my entire adult life, the government has taken nearly 30% of everything I've earned. And then there are sales taxes. And then there are property taxes.

I don't think it's unreasonable in a country this vast and wealthy to expect a small portion of our tax dollars to be set aside for emergencies.

John Whynot

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: Re: Erm, which taxes would those be? on 11/01/2009 10:51:38 MST Print View

@Rick - That's a good point. Tourists also pay lodging taxes and rental car taxes, they may also purchase hunting and fishing licenses.

New Hampshire encourages tourism (including hiking and backpacking) through tax supported state entities. So the message is visit and spend money, but if you need a rescue from the woods -- we may or may not bill you...

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Insurance on 11/01/2009 12:33:38 MST Print View

I always thought in a missing person case time was super important. Do we really want people to hesitate before they call 911?
There is no reason why a national wilderness insurance system wouldn't work but would it save money and improve efficienty? I seriously doubt it. There would be investiagions, stardards, lawyers etc. In the end it would still be publically funded for the most part so I don't know how that would change things.

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
N.H. Bills Lost Hikers $25K on 11/02/2009 09:34:45 MST Print View

I think that for those in states that do enforce these SAR fees, it would be a very, very wise to invest in 3rd party rescue insurance.

I've got a policy that came with my SPOT that'll cover a fairly substantial rescue amount worldwide ($200,000 or 250,000, I forget). I picked it up mostly because I was going to be in locations that I knew charged for SAR and I also because it was only around $7 per year.

Keep in mind that the above isn't an endorsement of the spot itself, but for the idea of having insurance to cover you if you live or hike in a place that would need it.

Also worth noting, hunters in Colorado pay a $.25 to $.75 fee on hunting tags which goes to a SAR fund and implies coverage during you hunts. I don't think this is wholely unreasonable considering the cost of extraction and the sheer number of out of state hunters that end up needing it per year.

All that said, I don't believe in charging hikers for accidents unless they were grossly negligent, but lawmakers rarely ask me what I think.

Another interesting and potentially related note would be that Rural volunteer fire departments (or at least in Missouri) are not required to extinguish house fires unless you pay yearly dues. They will respond to house fires if someone is in mortal danger, but your home may well burn to the ground if that isn't the case. Without paying the yearly dues, you'll see the full cost of the bill.

Edited by slacklinejoe on 11/02/2009 09:39:29 MST.

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Hiking fee? on 11/02/2009 09:46:49 MST Print View

>Also worth noting, hunters in Colorado pay a $.25 to $.75 fee on hunting tags which goes to a SAR fund and implies coverage during you hunts. I don't think this is wholely unreasonable considering the cost of extraction and the sheer number of out of state hunters that end up needing it per year.

I have to say, I wouldn't mind paying a hiking fee for a hiking license if I thought it might provide some physical and financial protection for me (and others, collectively) on the trail.

It seems like the best compromise between the very small risk of paying an enormous amount if I have to be extracted and the 100-percent chance of paying a fairly steep premium for hiking insurance (and the extremely small chance that I will ever cash in on it). The nice thing about a fee is that it spreads the cost among all the participants. Insurance has to have a steep fee because not everybody would opt in.


Edited by nerdboy52 on 11/02/2009 09:48:01 MST.

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
N.H. Bills Lost Hikers $25K on 11/02/2009 10:00:29 MST Print View

"100-percent chance of paying a fairly steep premium for hiking insurance"

$7 per year for global coverage is steep?

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
SPOT Insurance on 11/02/2009 11:48:50 MST Print View

Joe I didn't know there were deals like that. This may be a bit of a niche market since most states won't bill you. If it was more common I suspect bigger insurance companies would offer plans just like we have flood insurance for certain areas and legal insurance for people likely to get sued.
Is this policy available to non SPOT users or are there similar policies out there?

Edited by Cameron on 11/02/2009 11:54:31 MST.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: N.H. Bills Lost Hikers $25K on 11/02/2009 12:04:44 MST Print View

The Spot insurance (called GEOS) is actually only up to $50,000 per occurrence with $100,000 yearly maximum.


Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
N.H. Bills Lost Hikers $25K on 11/02/2009 14:06:24 MST Print View

Jack - thanks for the update / fact check.

Either I'm forgetful or they have changed their GEOS coverage plans. I got on board very early, but either is very possible.

Either way, most people don't get billed more than $50K even for a full bill on a helicopter extraction.

Does anyone know of other non-spot related insurances like this?

Edited by slacklinejoe on 11/02/2009 14:09:43 MST.