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Teens on crime spree crash car. Victim in wheelchair has huge bills. Guess who got insurance money.

Ricky Melendez received no money after four teens on a crime spree slammed a stolen SUV into his vehicle in early August. But the teens' families got $20,000 from Melendez's insurance company. (Image source: WTVT-TV video screenshot)

What's wrong with this picture?

  • Four teenagers fresh off a nighttime crime spree in Florida were speeding in a stolen SUV the morning of Aug. 6, WTVT-TV reported.
  • The teens' combined criminal records at the time totaled more than 100 arrests, the station added.
  • They proceeded to crash into a driver who was on his way to work and sitting at a red light in Palm Harbor, WTVT said.

Image source: WTVT-TV video screenshot

  • The teen driver and two other teens died after the SUV rolled several times and caught fire, the station said, adding that another teen was thrown from the vehicle and survived.

Image source: WTVT-TV video screenshot

  • Ricky Melendez — the driver they crashed into — survived as well but relives the nightmare every day, WTVT reported
  • "I might not be here right now," he told the station, "and it's really hard to think about something like that."

Image source: WTVT-TV video screenshot

  • Arguably as difficult is the fact that Melendez's insurance company, Geico, paid the families of the teens who caused the crash $20,000 while Melendez has received nothing, WTVT reported.

How much worse can it get?

  • Even though a police report says there's no doubt Melendez was not at fault, the station said the payout to the families likely means his insurance costs will increase.
  • "It just ripped my heart out," he told WTVT. "It's was like a punch in the gut like I've never felt before."

Any other bad news?

  • Oh yeah, Melendez is in a wheelchair — and his medical bills have piled up to over $100,000, the station said.

Image source: WTVT-TV video screenshot

  • And he can't get his car repaired because he only had liability insurance, WVTV said.

What is Melendez's attorney saying?

  • Mark Roman, Melendez's attorney, told the station he's trying to figure out who filed the claim: "Frankly, I would love to look in the eyes of these families that accepted this money and ask them if they can sleep nights."

Image source: WTVT-TV video screenshot

  • The teens "were absolutely a menace to society," he told WTVT.
  • And Roman told the station he's heard only "crickets" from Geico.

Is there any insight on how such a thing could have happened?

  • Denis Devlaming, an attorney not connected to the case, told WTVT that insurance companies sometimes pay settlements of so-called hush money to avoid larger claims down the road.
  • "They probably have a pamphlet that says, ‘Death? Anything under fifty thousand? Write it!’" Devlaming remarked to the station.

Image source: WTVT-TV video screenshot

WTVT added that calls to Geico and the teens' families seeking comment were not returned.

(H/T: Blue Lives Matter)

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