So as I approach to one month anniversary of Chawalit Chalermpong falling asleep in broad daylight on a Saturday afternoon and plowing into the back of the Hyperstrada, I find myself awfully darn close to not much further ahead than I was a week after the accident. The bike still sits on the work stand and I’m still not riding.
Things insurance related work much differently down here than they do in the Great White North where provincial laws require a minimum of $1,000,000 in combined Property Damage/Liability. Remarkably, Maryland auto insurance laws require liability coverage of 20/40/15. (That's $20,000 per person for Personal Injury, up to $40,000 total, and $15,000 for Property Damage.) These limits are so low; I wonder why they even bother…
These same laws require that you purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, which would help cover your expenses should you be in an accident with a driver with inadequate liability coverage. The required minimum on this coverage is also 20/40/15 ($20,000 for injuries per person, up to $40,000 total, and $15,000 for property damage). Some quick math shows a maximum pool of $40K for PI/BI per person (80K total) and $30K combined for PD.
Finally, Maryland auto insurance laws require that all drivers purchase a minimum of $2,500 in personal injury protection (or PIP). This coverage will help reimburse you for medical expenses and lost wages regardless of who was at fault in an accident. Any idea how far that much money will go?
OK, this might be barely adequate in a single car accident involving very minor injuries and a used mid-sized Japanese import – but that’s never the case is it? So what we have is prevailing legislation that promotes – you guessed it – litigation (this is America after all) if you (the injured and damaged party) are involved in anything beyond a simple fender-bender.
Naturally, mine was anything but a simple fender-bender..
Not only did my new friend Chawalit whack me into an ugly mood, he side-swiped a parked car and then punted my one-off bike into the vehicle in front of me.
Go ahead – take a wild guess at how much coverage he had?
Fortunately, I’m conditioned to carrying adequate coverage (and as I’m down here on a diplomatic visa I had to purchase higher limits than the State minimums), but I was amazed to find that they (the insurance companies) were loath to offer me anything even approaching Canadian limits. I didn’t buy Property Damage coverage on my bike ‘cause – hey – I don’t crash. And if I some idiot punts me off the road, his (or her) policy will cover damage to me and bike – at least that’s what I’m used to.
In a prior life, I was an insurance underwriter and what I found when started looking at my situation was that there is a prevailing environment of underinsurance and a complicated process involving multiple pools of funding further complicated by the requirement for the insurance companies to subrogate. On the PD side, the companies would really like you to buy lots of coverage on your stuff so you won’t have to suffer through this obviously protracted process. Oh, and they get more premium, too.
Virtually EVERY person I spoke to about my accident insisted that I would not experience a happy ending unless I involved a specialized lawyer. Searching on the internet seemed to support the theory and even more distressing – so did my first two telephone engagements with the claims departments of both State Farm (his) and Progressive (mine).
So, after assessing my position I did what most Americans do when someone does ‘em wrong – I called a lawyer. It’s no secret – just Google “motorcycle accident” and you’ll find a whole raft of firms waiting to help you extract your just reward. And that in itself is a major cultural shift for me. While the personal Injury litigation market exists to a certain degree in Canada, the players are restricted in the manner in which they market their services and the limits of insurance mean an obviously lower incidence of legal action to effect a fair settlement.
Anyway… I called a bunch of them who specialize in Motorcycle accidents and was astounded to find that they operate on a contingency basis – taking 30% or more of your gross BI/PI settlement. PD claims aren’t generally part of the discussion.
Now what’s scary about that kind of deal is that you carry a certain amount of exposure given that the math will look like: Your gross BI/PI settlement less 30% to the lawyer less your medical expenses. If your medical expenses are high and your lawyer doesn’t win big, you could actually be out of pocket.
Although all of the above is common knowledge, it's new to me and I find it all to be rather remarkable and decidedly scary. But that’s the position that I (and most people in my shoes) find myself in here in the Land of the Free, Home of the Litigious. I signed with Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester (who agreed to handle the PD claim as well) for better or for worse.
A month later, I’ve seen a couple of doctors, had a bunch of X-Rays and scans and don't seem to be much closer to a solid recovery plan for my injuries. It feels for all the world like I’ve had a year of physical recovery (the 2006 burst T-5) taken away from me and now I’ve got a couple of new issues to deal with. The up-side of the American medical community is that you don’t have the absurd wait times folks suffer in Canada. The down-side is that it seems to be difficult to extract a diagnosis and treatment plan.
The adjuster/appraiser from State Farm stopped by my shop last week (what, 3 weeks after the accident?) and when I called my lawyer late last week, they hadn’t heard from State Farm (nor followed-up on the PD claim). My sense now is that State Farm will likely write the bike off and offer its appraised value, but given that their insured’s limits will be exhausted in no time - the balance of my PD claim will come out of my Underinsured Motorist PD coverage with Progressive. Any bets on Progressive wanting one of their own adjuster/appraisers looking at the hapless Hyperstrada? Another 3 weeks?
Actually, even if the claim was settled and I had a bike to ride, I doubt that I could; the way my knee, back and neck are feeling. And I suspect that I’ll be out of the saddle for a while longer.
When riding is what you do, what’s a missed ride worth? What’s a missed track day worth?
Content: Steve Munro, Ducati, Multistrada, Hyperstrada, Maryland motorcycle accident lawyers, Maryland motorcycle insurance, State Farm Insurance, Maryland motorcycle accident, State Farm motorcycle accident, Progressive Insurance, Goldberg Finnegan Messer