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In a crash, the motorcyclist is always at fault

By James - 4/24/2007

A recent verdict in a civil injury case awarded a biker $17.7 million after a accident that left the biker with permanent injuries. The case was not out of the ordinary, sadly people turn in front of motorcycles all the time. What struck me as outrageous was that the jury found the biker somewhat at fault, which reduced the amount he was awarded.

“Anytime a plaintiff is on a motorcycle, the jury will find them somewhat at fault, just because they’re on a motorcycle,” Mallabo lawyer David M. Ring said in explaining the jury’s decision he was 5 percent at fault.
To state that because I ride a motorcycle, I am automatically at fault in any crash is grossly prejudicial and unacceptable. I ride defensively. I wear all the safety gear, almost all the time. I do not see why I am at fault when another vehicle violates my right of way. Most people are driving vehicles that are too big for them to control. Why should they be protected for a poor choice of transportation? Why am I penalized for riding a motorcycle with limited capacity for injuring and killing others? I am writing a letter to my representatives right now. I suggest you do as well if you want to be protected in the event of a crash.

Full article below:

NORWALK, Calif.- A Taiwanese shipping firm must pay $17.7 million to a motorcyclist severely injured when the wife of the company’s U.S. president struck the bike with a company car.

Wen-Ting Tai turned a Wan Hai Lines company car into the motorcycle’s path on Oct. 23, 2004, four days after she made at least 16 mistakes and flunked the California driving test.

The Superior Court jury deliberated two days before deciding April 19 on the $18.6 million award. The panel said the motorcyclist, plaintiff Joyson Mallabo, was 5 percent at fault.

Mallabo, who was 23 at the time of the crash, was riding his motorcycle in Cerritos when Wen-Ting Tai turned left in front of him at an uncontrolled intersection. He suffered massive injuries and must now use a cane to walk.

“Anytime a plaintiff is on a motorcycle, the jury will find them somewhat at fault, just because they’re on a motorcycle,” Mallabo lawyer David M. Ring said in explaining the jury’s decision he was 5 percent at fault.

Wan Hai Lines attorney Douglas D. Cullins was out of the office in trial this week, a receptionist said, and a voicemail message left Tuesday wasn’t immediately returned.

The jury decided Wan Hai Lines must pay Mallabo $3.6 million for medical bills and lost wages and $15 million for past and future pain and suffering.

Tai’s husband Ching Tarng Lin was transferred to the company’s Long Beach office and his wife moved with him from Taiwan.

California law allows drivers to rely on foreign licenses as long as they don’t move permanently.

Tai attempted to obtain a California license four days before the accident but failed the road test. Failure means a driver made at least 16 mistakes during the test, Ring said.

“If you can’t pass the test, you shouldn’t be driving here,” Ring said.

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Underinsured Motorist Coverage and Health Insurance

By James - 4/12/2007

Ralph was recently in a motorcycle accident and had a question about what happens when you need to use your underinsured motorist coverage.

I was in an accident and Blue Cross settled with the other guy’s insurance company but didn’t give a full and final release. Now, they want to recoup more from my UIM coverage. Can they do that? They collected $15,000 (policy limit) from the driver of the truck that hit me. Blue Cross paid the hospital a total of $33,000. I have $30,000 in uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. My agent told me how to file the claim but now Blue Cross has filed a lien with my motorcycle insurance company for $18,000. I thought they could only go after the third party.
This is quite common. Your health insurance wants to be paid back and assuming that the driver has nothing to sue for, they will get it from your underinsured insurance coverage. That is what it is for. In some policies, they would be going after you if you did not have UIM coverage. Had you gone after the guy in civil court your heath insurance would want part of that. Remember to file a claim for lost wages as well. That is a commonly overlooked source of relief for accident victims.

I suggest you talk to your insurance agent and ask if your premium will increase; it should not. They will inform you on the next steps and let you know your options. But as with every insurance company interaction you will want to be informed so check the internet for more resources. Keep all your receipts and make sure to document every doctor visit and expense.

I hope you heal up and are able to get back on the road soon.

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Mailbag: Uninsured motorist coverage: Do you need it?

By James - 3/7/2007

Aaron wrote in . . .

I have a question about Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage. I called my health insurance that I receive through work and they told me I would be covered for emergencies, office visits, etc. if I were to be in an accident of any sort, being motorcycle or other, I would still be covered.

My question is, wouldn’t it be redundant to pay for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage if my copay for emergency room is only $50?

I have to sign a waiver to refuse it. Is this a scam by the insurance companies or is this really a good idea? If I don’t get the uninsured motorist coverage, I’d be saving about $200 a year.

Is uninsured motorist coverage a scam? Yes and no. Is it worth $200 per year? That depends. I am not helping much am I Aaron. Let me explain this better. This is a timely subject for me as my wife and I just raised our liability coverage so that we could also raise our uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. More on this later. First here are some facts.

Depending on which state you live in 30-50% of the drivers are uninsured. According to Devvy Kidd:

Here in California the numbers are astronomical. Statewide, over one third of drivers lack insurance–about 33 percent, according the California Department of Insurance. The figures skyrocket in low-income and minority city neighborhoods: nearly 50%. In San Jose, California, 55% of all drivers on the road have no insurance. Statewide, the problem is worst in the Los Angeles, Imperial, San Diego and Alameda counties. With the exception of Alameda, the uninsured rates in those counties reaches a whopping 90 percent range. Alameda County’s worst neighborhood, Oakland, is 63 percent uninsured.

If you do happen to have an insured motorist hit you, there is an even better chance that they are only carrying the state minimum amount of insurance. So you can see that if you are in an accident, you will probably have to deal with an uninsured or underinsured driver. An underinsured driver is one that is carrying insurance, but insufficient to pay for all your medical bills or fix your bike. Here in California the minimum is $15,000 bodily injury liability, $30,000 bodily injury liability maximum for all injured, and $5,000 property damage liability.

If you spend any amount of time looking at motorcycle classifieds you know that it is easy to total any motorcycle with just a minor accident and reclassify the title as salvaged. A low speed collision can total a $20,000 Road Glide and easily leave you with $40,000 in medical care. Fairings are expensive, frames are tough to straighten, and doctors are paid the big bucks to sew you up. If the at-fault driver has no insurance you are on the hook for the deductible on your comprehensive and health insurance and your rates will go up. What is more frightening is the time you miss from work, and your ability perform your duties at work and at home could have suffered. Your health insurance or comprehensive coverage will not compensate you for lost wages or diminished capacity to perform your duties. This is where uninsured motorist coverage comes in. If you are absent from work for months or can no longer perform your duties, uninsured motorist coverage will compensate you.

After finding out about this and researching it, we decided to up our coverage to $100K/$300K. Unfortunately, your uninsured motorist coverage cannot exceed your liability insurance, and here is where I see the scam. As a motorcyclist, I am at far more danger from uninsured motorists than the danger I pose to others on the road. But it is more important to cover myself and pay extra for the increased liability insurance than to leave myself open to a devastating injury by a judgment-proof driver.

It is up to each person to decide whether uninsured coverage is worth it to you. If you have a family, a mortgage, an integral part in a company, it may be worth it. It only takes one inattentive moment for you to be hit by a motorist and have your life changed forever.

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Are unhelmeted riders really costing us an arm and a leg?

By James - 11/10/2006

Someone on a forum I participate in, while discussing helmet laws, brought up the frequent lament of those in favor of mandatory helmet laws. Insurance rates and taxes will go up as more unhelmetd bikers are a burden on the public healthcare system. I wondered how much the “burden” was and wanted to put it into perspective, so I did a little research.

Unhelmeted riders cost taxpayers $853 million last year.

The United States spent $1.9 trillion on healthcare in 2004.

Unhelmeted riders accounted for .00004% of the spend.

For comparison, caring for smoking related health problems cost the government $12.9 billion or .007%. That is more than 150 times more costly.

Here are some more numbers I found around the web:

Obesity costs the government $7.7 billion in healthcare expenses

Alcohol costs the government $12.2 billion in healthcare expenses

Medicaid fraud costs the government $140 billion in healthcare expenses

Now I am all for reducing waste, but the argument that unhelmeted riders are a burden on our healthcare system is a weak one. When it is put into perspective with other more costly activities it seems to be a pittance. Whether or not you are for or against helmet laws, I hope you find this data useful.

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