Last fall, Hannah Rosenberg reached out to the MBTA, asking it to cover the $1,000 in medical bills she incurred after being injured in a Green Line crash last summer.
After all, there was never any doubt that the T was responsible; within eight weeks of the accident, investigators had determined that a trolley operator had been speeding at three times the limit when his trolley rammed into the one Rosenberg was riding in on Commonwealth Avenue. Rosenberg and 26 other passengers required medical treatment.
But after one initial phone call with the T employee handling her claim, Rosenberg heard nothing. For eight months.
Back on July 30, Rosenberg had been heading home on the Green Line, listening to music, when — bam — her head was suddenly exploding with pain, her clothes drenched in blood.
All around her she could see people strewn on the floor, stunned and bloodied like her.
Rosenberg, a deep gash in her chin, was one of a couple dozen commuters violently thrown from their seats that day.
She was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where she was stitched, scanned, and sent home after seven anguishing hours.
Her efforts since then to get the MBTA to cover her out-of-pocket medical expenses have been almost as painful.
A frustrated Rosenberg sent an e-mail to me last month after reading a column I wrote in 2017 about a woman bedeviled by the same senseless delays in her dealings with the MBTA. She realized that the same MBTA claim administrator, Antonio (”Tony”) Perez, was assigned to both cases.
In that 2017 piece, a woman complained about the MBTA after her car had been hit and badly damaged by a T supervisor driving a T-owned SUV in Lynn. The supervisor was clearly at fault for the collision, but to get her car repaired and back on the road, the woman needed Perez to process her claim for several thousand dollars.
The woman complained to me that her calls went unreturned for months. Finally, after I contacted the MBTA, the transit agency paid the long-delayed claim and apologized.
Rosenberg, 30, from Brookline, was unaware of that sorry episode when she first contacted the MBTA with the expectation her claim would be processed routinely and quickly.
The National Transportation Safety Board had found that the trolley’s speed controller was in “full-power position prior” to the crash, in an area with a 10-mile-per-hour speed limit. In court filings, it was disclosed that the operator of the trolley, Owen T. Turner, had a history of speeding infractions at the transit agency.
In October, Turner, who no longer works for the T, was charged criminally with gross negligence in connection with the crash. He pleaded not guilty. His next court date is April 26.
Under the circumstances, the MBTA should have made a special effort to promptly process the claims of Rosenberg and the 26 others injured in the crash. The MBTA owed them that. But it did not happen.
In her e-mails to the MBTA, Rosenberg struck a friendly but businesslike tone. In November, she learned her case was assigned to Perez. She and Perez spoke on the phone once about the process.
But after that, Rosenberg’s calls and e-mails to Perez went unanswered, even after she disclosed that one of her bills had been sent to a collection agency for nonpayment, according to copies of e-mails provided to me by Rosenberg.
Rosenberg, who works in the biotech industry, also tried to warn the MBTA that the electronic records sent by her medical providers would automatically expire if they were not opened within 30 days of receipt.
In a Feb. 14 e-mail to Perez’s supervisor, Rosenberg pointed out that Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center had just informed her “that the records were sent weeks ago via e-mail but never opened. They expire after 30 days so [Perez] will need to renew them to be able to view. Are you or Tony able to provide an update?”
The supervisor replied: “I’m following up with Tony. Get back in touch with me if you don’t hear from him in the next few days. Take care.”
She never heard from Perez. (Perez did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.)
Rosenberg, worried about a possible downgrading of her credit rating because of the unpaid bill, wrote to the supervisor again on March 21. “I still haven’t heard from Tony. I was just in touch with the collections agency who is handling my claim. I believe they will also be trying to get in touch with Tony in the next couple of days. They need more information from him about the details of the case. Hope to hear from him soon.”
Finally, in desperation, Rosenberg put Perez’s name into a search engine to see what might pop up. That’s how she found my 2017 column, which contained Perez’s name. And that led her to contact me.
I contacted the MBTA by e-mail on Rosenberg’s behalf on April 1. Less than an hour later, Rosenberg texted me: “I just heard from the MBTA. Was that a result of your outreach?”
Rosenberg said that the call she got was from one of the MBTA’s top lawyers and that they discussed her case in detail.
“I feel like I’m now dealing with someone who is helpful and transparent,” she said. “I feel a lot better.”
In a statement, the MBTA expressed “its sincerest apologies” to Rosenberg and said it “profoundly regrets that this claim was not processed in a timelier manner.”
Rosenberg’s claim will now be expedited and payment issued, it said.
The MBTA also said it has now designated a senior lawyer to “manage and oversee the processing of the remaining claims from the Green Line crash, as quickly as possible.”
It’s about time.