Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Crotch Rocket Vs. VW

A confession to the obvious.
I missed the second day of posting and therefore surrender my Resolute Detective status. However, a relapse is no cause for giving up.
Relapse is part of every recovery process include Blog Recovery.

And so I begin blogging again because the sheer premise -- and the true promise -- of a blog is updates. And the concept of a Private Eye Diary would infer a daily one. Because a blog is not static. It's moving and flowing, with ebbs and tides. Never still or silent.

The challenge comes at the end of the day when you are weary and the case notes await, as do the daily requirements of life. The sun is setting, the weather is chilling and chilling seems to be the order of the evening.

So tonight I write of that. How to chill. How to cool off when things heat up. How to stand your ground when you feel its being pulled out from under you. Why attitude is everything.
I write from two perspectives:
  • Perspective One: having been there, done that.
  • Perspective Two: having helped others who have been there, are there doing that.
When you're at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.

Today's case is a 42 year old man who was riding a motorcycle to work two days ago. He married, has four children ranging from age 15 down to age 4. He is a construction worker, alternates between flagging and truck driving. He has a CDL (Commercial Drivers License). He's been riding motorcycles since he was kid. Never had an accident. And with the Seattle weather in rare sunny form, he chose to ride his bike to work just after sunrise two days ago.

I ask him if he was riding a Crotch Rocket. He said yes and asked how I knew. I said he didn't seem the Harley type.

He had right of way. The DEF, A VW 4-door, new model, had the stop sign. The biker (our client) saw the VW at the stop sign. The biker slowed from the speed limit, 35 to 25. The biker said he recalled thinking the car which was stopped would stay stopped.

Not so. Instead, the VW pulled out from the stop sign at full speed. It was what we accident investigators call a T-Bone, the front of the bike hit the front driver's side quarter panel of the car. The biker slammed his right knee, then the bike on the car when it pulled out in front of him.

The biker flew off the bike, hit his helmet on the hood, did a couple of somersaults before slamming to the ground on his right shoulder, which ripped his rotator cuff. He was unconscious briefly, he said, then awoke to someone saying don't move him, his neck could be broken.

According to a witness, while the biker was flying over the hood of the DEF's car, so was the motorcycle, which did a vertical flip before landing on it's side about 50 feet from the unconscious biker. The witness was sure the biker was dead.

The DEF driver of the car that hit the motorcycle was at fault. We know this not just because of what the witness saw and said. But because of what the DEF driver said to the police officer:
  • his windows were foggy
  • he hadn't had his coffee yet
  • and he didn't know there was motorcycle coming.
The police officer cited the DEF driver. Our client ended up with a broken right kneecap, a torn rotator cuff, a back injury of undetermined nature at this point. He has a head injury, an neck injury, no insurance for his motorcycle and his health insurance from work hadn't kicked in yet.

This is why some people call personal injury attorneys, who call their investigators, for help.

In Washington State, bikers don't have to have motorcycle insurance. Some do, though most don't. When I asked one biker why he had none, he laughed and said, if I have a hit I figure I'm dead anyway.

He wasn't so far from the truth.

Some of my biker clients are dead. Many more are not the same people they were before their hits. And since the economy tanked, instead of getting one of these cases a week I get several.

Because of increasing gas prices, more and more people are riding motorcycles to work. From Crotch Rockets to Harley Classics; Scooters to Gold Wings... many of these riders have a lifetime of experience. Others are just learning. Either way, pro or novice, you have no control when a vehicle has decided to run into or over you.

It is for this reason I will never ride on a motorcycle, front or back, ever again.

It is because in every motorcycle case I investigate, my biker clients are not fault. There is nothing they could have done to avoid a hit.
It happened because another driver did not see him; or chose to out-run him; or deliberately wanted to hit him.
In the latter case, deliberation would make the accident a crime. The auto insurance could then deny the claim.

In my experience, the passengers on the back, usually the girls, get it the worst of it. Unless of course, there's no passenger and just the driver.
Then there's no contest.

I have family members and friends who ride motorcycles as both drivers and passengers. And I have never said any of this to them directly. Part of me thinks people ride because they can and they feel the rewards outweigh the risks. I get that... because I feel the rewards of my job far outweigh the risks.

Yet each time I think of someone I love hopping on the back of a bike, arms around someone they trust, I have no trust that they won't return from their road trip as road kill.

I have taken pictures of bikers with the front part of their skull bone removed from their heads and stuck in their bellies until ready to be replaced. Their brains have swelled so big, there's no room for that skull piece until the swelling goes down.

I've photographed broken necks and captured broken spirits in intensive care rooms and rehabs.
I've seen heads split by telephone poles and bikes twisted, turned, flattened, unrecognizable.
I've photographed the toughest leather jackets, chaps, gloves, boots, studded leather belts, shredded by a single impact.

I've watched grown men cry and lose everything they have all because someone didn't see them coming. And it is a proven fact that some drivers simply do not see the bikes even when they are right there. To some people, motorcycles are invisible.

Attitude is everything

So I return to my aforementioned client. Father of four, busted knee cap, torn shoulder, multiple other injuries, currently not working, no health insurance.

I tell him the lawyers will represent him because the person who hit him has insurance, we just don't know how much insurance is there it and if it will be enough to cover everything he needs. He listens, though I realize he doesn't get it it. All he can tell me is he has to be back at work next week because he needs to feed his family, pay the rent.

I tell him I think it will be long time before he returns to work. His employer has demanded a doctors release and his knee cap is busted. I tell him the road ahead will be very rough, yet the miracle of it all is... he is still here. I tell him about my Harley client, still in a coma after 6 months from the same kind of accident.

He then tells me when he saw his bike move to the car then hit it, he said all the stories about facing death are true. The last thought he had was, "I 'm dead and I didn't get to say goodbye to my wife and kids."

He tells me more about that moment, that fine thread between life and death. About being unconscious and then waking up to excruciating pain in his knee and realizing he was still alive. He said the pain was comforting in that it reassured him he still exists.

I tell him he is a miracle.That maybe he has angels guarding him; or maybe some greater purpose here on the planet...because for all intents and purposes, he should be dead. I tell him how many of our biker clients don't make it. I study his calm demeanor, his attitude.
I ask him, when everyone is out of the room, how he really is, how he is coping.

He said he is scared to death. He is sole provider for his family. The economy is horrible. He has a great job and now he may lose it. He talks about how he can't fish or camp or play with his kids.
Then he said what I was told many moons ago, when I felt all was lost.
"Attitude is everything. Guess I gotta' just keep my attitude in check."

I took lots of pictures today. Of him, his bike, his kids, his ripped leathers, his scraped helmet.
I wrote up his case at Starbucks, printed his photos at Rite Aid, and delivered the cases to the attorneys in Seattle, who have already contacted the insurance company of the VW driver.
Now he can get a settlement for his bike... and more important, medical care on a lien against the case.

So when someone makes a lawyer joke, I must admit, i get p.o.'ed.

I am of the opinion that the good ones, the good lawyers/attorneys, are the true warriors in an unjust world. When they wield their swords, they stand up for the weak and fight for their rights. The key, of course, of course is to find the good attorney, the right one, the just one.

As for bikers, I suggest insurance of some kind. If you are in a hit that is not your fault... whether you survive or not, it will come in handy for you.... or your survivors. Without insurance for your bike, you are at the mercy of the insurance company for the DEF. And that insurance company won't play fair.

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