Last week I met a young man and his family in Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Harborview is the only Level 1 adult and pediatric trauma and burn center in Washington, and also serves the States of Alaska, Idaho, and Montana. All the serious injuries in the Northwest end up at Harborview.
In this case, the man I met had been riding a motorcycle when a 22-year-old driver in oncoming traffic made a sudden left turn across his path. The motorcyclist tried to stop, but he was unable to avoid the collision. The impact resulted in fractures to both arms, wrists and hands, multiple ribs, and severe facial fractures. He has already undergone surgery on both arms and hands, and on Friday he spent the day in the operating room having his face surgically reconstructed.
I met this man in his hospital bed on Tuesday. On Wednesday he decided to hire me. On Friday I had the unfortunate duty to inform him and his family that the girl who hit him had no insurance. Her policy had lapsed due to non-payment. In a situation like that, you can hire an investigator to run an asset check on the responsible driver, but based on her age and address, it is highly unlikely that there will be any assets worth collecting.
Understandably, the family had questions. Does this mean she (the driver) gets to just walk away with no responsibility? What recourse do we have? Is there anything that can be done? In this case, there were no satisfactory answers. Under Washington’s financial responsibility laws, the driver could have her license suspended until she makes restitution, but that is little consolation to the injured man and his family. The police are still investigating the incident, so if she is charged with a crime, he could be eligible for benefits under the State’s crime victims compensation fund. Other than that, there isn’t much that can be done.
This heartbreaking situation could have been avoided if the motorcyclist had personal injury protection (PIP) and uninsured motorist coverage (UM) in effect at the time of the collision. PIP is a no-fault medical payments coverage that pays for reasonable, accident-related medical treatment following a collision. Uninsured motorist coverage provides coverage when the at-fault driver has no insurance of her own. In this case, the biker had neither coverage. At least he has health insurance, which will cover some of his bills after co-pays and deductibles are met.
Ultimately, due to the lack of insurance, there is nothing I can do for this young man and his family. I wished them the best and invited them to reach out to me if they have any more questions or concerns, but in the end their legal remedies are virtually non-existent. I encounter this kind of situation all too often, and it is one of the most heartbreaking aspects of my profession.
Riding a motorcycle (or driving a car) without personal injury protection and uninsured motorist coverage is as reckless as riding a motorcycle without a helmet. Please, please take my advice and if you ride a motorcycle check your insurance coverage and make sure you are protected. And if you have questions about motorcycle accidents, or any kind of motor vehicle accidents check out our or just give us a call. We’d love to hear from you.