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An uninsured driver destroyed their car – and has paid only $34 for it

Posted at 6:36 PM, Nov 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-08 22:47:36-05

DENVER -- As far as non-injury car accidents go, Jenni and Justin Mortimeyer had just about the worst luck you can imagine. 

Stopped at a red light at a Colorado Springs intersection in 2012, the couple suddenly felt an impact from behind. 

“Never heard it coming. I vaguely remember looking in the rear view, and I saw some lights way back there, and we were talking. Next thing I know, bam,” Justin remembered.

The parents of three were unhurt and grateful they did not have their young children in the car with them.

“The diaper bag we had in the back got thrown out into the intersection,” Justin said. 

“And the baby's car seat was crushed back there. Thankfully she wasn't in it,” Jenni said.

The wreck destroyed their car, but the news got worse. After the wreck they learned the driver who hit them, Nathan Nelms, didn't have insurance. His coverage, Justin says, expired just 24 hours before the crash. 

“So, we had to get the car towed, it was held in an impound lot, while we were trying to figure out all of this and found out the insurance wasn't going to cover. So we ended up being set with the charges, all the fees involved with the tow, the impound lot, and then we unfortunately didn't have all the uninsured motorist coverage we were supposed to have. We had liability, we thought that covered it all, but it didn't. So, we were out our entire car too,” Jenni said. 

Police cited Nelms with careless driving, driving without a valid license and driving without insurance. Court records show Nelms reached a deal to get a deferred sentence – meaning his charges would be dismissed after he successfully completed 40 hours of community service. 

The judge ordered him to repay the Mortimeyers for the car he destroyed – granting restitution in the amount of $9,251. 

“We were really glad, because we're like ‘Great, we can have a down payment on a car. This is going to be great.’ But then we were also kind of disappointed because they said it was going to be $34 a month [payments],” Jenni said. “So, we were like 'Well it's going to be a long payout.' But at least he's on the hook for giving us the money. It's in the courts, it's a criminal case, he's going to have to pay us, is what we were thinking.”

But the Mortimeyers waited more than a year without receiving a dime.

In February of 2014, court records showed Nelms had not only failed to complete the community service he agreed to serve, but he had also failed to pay his restitution. The district attorney filed a motion to revoke the deferred sentence. 

Nearly a year later, in January of 2015, court records show Nelms finally provided proof he completed his 40 hours of community service. The case was closed with restitution costs still owed. 

Now, five years after the crash, the Mortimeyers say they’ve received only one meager payment of $34 of the more than $9,000 they lost when Nelms crashed into them without insurance -- and now, they're owed thousands more in interest.

“It feels like the criminals have more rights than the victims,” Justin said. “It makes you wonder why you got to carry insurance or anything else. I mean, he walked away scot-free.”

Public records indicate Nelms now lives in another state. Denver7 Investigates made repeated efforts to reach him without success.