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Two by two: Reflections on a crash that hits close to home

Posted by on April 8th, 2016 at 11:45 am

Lisa George’s recovery fund has
raised over $3,300 in just one day.

This essay is by Aleta Wright

Two women, two bikes, both 52 years of age. Two months separate our two bicycling collisions. Both of us were hit while riding lawfully in a clearly marked bike lane. We both have been smashed by the left hook. We both suffer from broken bones and recoveries of an unknown duration well into the future.

Lisa George, the woman who was hit while biking on N Williams Avenue last week, could have been me.

And the similarities don’t end there. Turns out we both have the same employer, Portland Community College. Technically, after my bike collision and two-night hospitalization it became clear that I would need to retire from PCC so that I could cash out my PERS retirement. I need to have some form of income as I complete my rounds of physical and occupational therapy. Two months out my broken bone is surely healed. I consider myself lucky to have escaped being hit, flipped and splayed across the intersection on Dartmouth in Tigard with just a broken scapula. I am blessed to be alive, ambulatory and on the way to healing and recovery.

The uninsured driver who hit me got a $200 traffic ticket.

My colleague, Lisa George, who teaches a sociology course on Thursday evenings at the Cascade campus of PCC is on the other end of the injury spectrum. She was most likely hit while commuting to work for her 6 o’clock class. Lisa does other work on campus that is vital to instructors as the co-coordinator of the Teaching and Learning Center (TLC).

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I can see myself in her saddle. We have much in common. We love our bikes. We both have pedaled the same streets to work.

This is me at Deerfield Beach on the Atlantic coast of Florida in December of last year.
That’s my trusty ’94 cromoly Giant. Due to my injuries I must now ride a recumbent trike.

As the dust begins to settle and the shock wears off there will be financial facts that will emerge. It is a well-kept secret that enrollment at PCC continues to plummet. The result is that for the adjuncts teaching assignments dwindle and making ends meet becomes increasingly challenging. As adjuncts work less hours their insurance coverage may lapse because the threshold for worked hours is not met. This happened to me and my college sponsored insurance plan terminated in November last year. It takes just one major catastrophic event to zap any cash reserves or banked sick leave. Something like short or long term disability is not available to part-time employees/adjuncts.

Lisa George has been the victim of a reckless driver who has severely impacted her life, career, and health for an unknown time into the future. Citizens, students and the larger PCC community, as well as the biking community, must rally behind her for all her needs, financial, emotional, spiritual, practical.

The reality is that her family will need financial support. Please visit the GoFundMe site established by her daughter to help defray the substantial costs that the family now faces in the midst of this life changing event. Give generously, give as if it were your mom, sister, wife, best friend or favorite college professor who really needs your help right here, right now.

— Aleta Wright

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  • MaxD April 8, 2016 at 11:48 am

    I am SHOCKED at the lack of consequences for uninsured driving. I am saddened to hear your story, but thanks for sharing. Good luck on your recovery

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  • Tim April 8, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Can anyone help with advice about what can be done to seize assets and garnish wages. Not having insurance does not get you off the hook for paying. Being poor and uninsured shouldn’t either.

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    • Gary B April 8, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      Well the very first thing is you need a judgment, so you need to sue and prevail. Then the “fun” of trying to collect begins. As you can imagine, none of it is a fast process.

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    • bjorn April 8, 2016 at 12:16 pm

      You can’t garnish wages etc until you have a judgement from a court in your favor. One issue in these cases is that you want to make sure that the extent of your injuries and their impact on your life is fully known before you sue, then you have to go through the process of the lawsuit, and then try to collect, but your bills want to be paid right away. I have added a million dollar rider to my auto policy that will cover me in the case of an uninsured rider hitting me while I am riding my bicycle. Far too often drivers in these cases are driving on a suspended license with no insurance and are for all intents and purposes judgement proof.

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      • Tom Hardy April 8, 2016 at 12:34 pm

        Amazing how the fines for uninsured driving GO DOWN! when a motorist hits a cyclist or pedestrian. For the pedestrian, or cyclist, that is what lawyers are for.

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      • C H White April 8, 2016 at 1:40 pm

        I did that too. Only costs $125 a year and well worth having less worry

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      • still riding after all that April 8, 2016 at 2:02 pm

        I’m confused by some of what you wrote here.
        1. uninsured RIDER hitting me while I am riding my bicycle.
        2. Far too often DRIVERS in these cases…

        So what is covered, exactly? Being hit by another person on a bicyle, being hit by a driver of a car/van/SUV/truck/motorcycle, or both? I’d like to follow your example and get similar coverage added to my auto insurance, and I want to know what to ask for when I call. Thank you.

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      • Kate April 8, 2016 at 2:06 pm

        I’ve never heard of such a rider policy for insurance. Is that common? May I ask what auto insurance you have? Definitely something I’d like to investigate. Thanks!

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      • wsbob April 8, 2016 at 3:33 pm

        I’m the only person that drives my motor vehicle. Insurance companies offering their motor vehicle insurance policy holders, coverage for when they’re riding bikes, is a nice service, but the service shouldn’t need to involve an additional fee on top of the motor vehicle premium, if the motor vehicle is not in use when the bike is being ridden.

        As for Aleta Wright and her essay: First of all, taking into consideration her age, average build, and profession, she seems like an excellent example of the kind of person it’s hoped that many more of will take up riding rather than driving; not super slim, not a kid, but is articulate, educated, seemingly mature and well reasoned.

        I probably should know, but don’t, what Oregon’s uninsured motorist fund covers, and what are the conditions. Stands to reason that someone responsibly and legally using the road by whatever mode of travel, that becomes involved in a collision due to irresponsible and illegal road use by another person, should be covered against damage and injuries sustained in such collisions…whether or not their mode of travel specifically obliges them to carry insurance for their mode of travel.

        Opportunity for road use in cities and rural areas in Oregon is a need that probably could reasonably said is common to most residents of the state, and many of those that come here to visit as well. Natural to say ‘where’s the money for it going to come from?’, but it’s a very frightening situation if people in the state, using the road by means other than motor vehicles, can’t expect that, of no fault of their own, after being in a collision with another road user, their expenses won’t be covered unless they’re driving an insured motor vehicle.

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      • Rain Waters April 8, 2016 at 4:47 pm

        Back in the late 70’s. . . .sorry, this was in Minnesota, “no fault” land:

        Even fender benders without valid proof were paid for on the spot in cash or the asshol% good name went to sh*t forcing it to california, texas or worse. The judge got over $500 or your license if police showed up at the scene and cited the uninsured. Cash changed hands and hospitals got paid.

        Now we believe in insurance

        Insurance companies are doing well with such a captive clientelle.

        I send my love and hope you’re healing.

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  • Paul April 8, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    I got hit when I lived in California so I am not sure it would apply in Oregon. I carry uninsured motorist protection under my car insurance. Since the driver who hit me was uninsured I sued myself and my insurance company went after the driver to recover their payout.

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    • mh April 8, 2016 at 3:33 pm

      Since no one else has questioned this, I must just be being slow. You sued YOURSELF? Both plaintiff and defendant? What was your complaint?

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      • Paul April 8, 2016 at 4:11 pm

        I guess sue is the wrong word. Even though I was on my bicycle, since a car was involved and actually made contact I was able to use my uninsured motorist protection. So I filed a claim with my insurance company. They paid for all the property damage, medical bills and a pretty hefty sum for pain and suffering. It was actually quite simple and I did not have to deal with the person who hit me. My insurance company went after him.

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  • Byron Palmer April 8, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    We let people off too lightly for driving with a no valid license and without insurance. It seems most appropriate that we tighten the laws so that if you have an accident without insurance you do not get to drive again until you have paid off all expenses related to the accident. And if you drive without a license you should lose the vehicle you are driving. If it is a friends then then the friend would either have to lose the vehicle for failing to ensure the driver had a valid license or report the vehicle as stolen and let the driver go to jail for theft.

    Driving is not a right but a privilege. When you abuse that privilege is should be withheld.

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    • eddie April 9, 2016 at 12:27 am

      What’s sad and terrible about this whole thing is, having a car makes people more employable in this country. So poor people sometimes have to bend the rules in order to get work to pay rent. I know plenty of people who drive completely illegally because they need the car to get work, and can’t afford the paperwork. They take their chances because they feel they have no choice.

      Having said that, I’m personally completely against relying on a car for anything. But I am a white college educated male with a whole lot of privilege and this sort of disqualifies me from passing judgement…

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    • PC April 10, 2016 at 10:27 pm

      Amen..we let people off too lightly.
      Time to change the laws and bring the hammer down..HARD.
      Mandatory incarceration for injuring a cyclist/pedestrian that requires emergency response services. Mandatory!

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    • Dave April 11, 2016 at 8:50 am

      Our society’s excessive tolerance of deadly, semiconscious driving really nails the phrase “tyranny of the majority;” the users of the “majority” vehicle exist in damn near a state of anarchy and the rest of us must put up with it.

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  • jeff April 8, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    please find a lawyer and sue the driver for whatever you can get.

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  • B. Carfree April 8, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    We’re almost half done with the second decade of the twenty-first century, but our regulatory structure for cars is stuck in the 1960s. How hard would it be to require insurance companies to report all cars insured, with mandatory updates within twenty-four hours of any policy that lapses? Police should have access to this data base while on the road, preferably through automated licence plate reading, and any vehicle without current insurance should be immediately pulled off the road.

    Clearly there will need to be additional penalties for displaying stolen license plates and there will inevitably be some criminals who sneak through the cracks, but our epidemic of uninsured motorists injuring and killing people, often with the added insult and injury of fleeing the scene, obviously needs some stronger medicine than we have been applying.

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    • Rain Waters April 8, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      You know as well as everyone here they’ve had that for years???

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    • still riding after all that April 8, 2016 at 5:26 pm

      “How hard would it be…” Technologically, it’s easy. Politically, it’s nearly impossible. Car, gasoline, and insurance companies have a lot of MONEY that they use to “influence” (bribe, pay off) state legislators to do what those companies want – foster a car-centric society – and to NOT do what those companies don’t want.

      Aleta Wright, author of the article on this page, said:
      “The uninsured driver who hit me got a $200 traffic ticket.”

      How can we still have uninsured drivers??? I wouldn’t DARE pull out of my driveway without knowing for sure that my insurance is paid up and current, but some people just don’t play by the rules. Don’t blame the police – they don’t want their family members injured by drunk, texting, or uninsured drivers, or anyone else for that matter. However, they can’t make arrests for moral failings – heck, we’d all be in jail for something – but only for violations of the laws on the books.

      How you might convince the state lawmakers to do what’s right – get uninsured drivers off the roads – when they’re being PAID by companies that make campaign contributions is beyond me. Good luck, really.

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      • eddie April 9, 2016 at 12:20 am

        I drove for several years uninsured. And it took me going to a state where a vehicle will be impounded if discovered to be without all the paperwork to scare me into getting insurance. I support any and all draconian laws regarding insurance and liability for motorists.

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    • Matthew B April 12, 2016 at 11:26 am

      New York State requires insurance companies to notify the DMV when a motor vehicle’s insurance lapses. If the owner of said vehicle doesn’t establish that it has insurance or has been moved out of state or sold, the owner’s driver’s license is suspended/cancelled. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop scofflaws from driving without a license, registration or insurance.

      I firmly believe that if a law enforcement officer stops you and you don’t have valid registration or insurance, the motor vehicle has to be impounded, the driver needs to be taken to the precinct and any other occupants to a place of safety where they can organize alternative transportation. Unfortunately, this all takes time and resources, and a willingness by the legislature, police and administration to enforce the law.

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  • still riding after all that April 8, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    “Well the very first thing is you need a judgment, so you need to sue and prevail. Then the “fun” of trying to collect begins. As you can imagine, none of it is a fast process”

    In order to sue, you have to find a lawyer willing to represent you. Try finding a lawyer who will take your case if the person who harmed you has no insurance policy to chase. Good luck with that.

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  • dgcollum April 8, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    The costs to sue in civil court are far more than an add-on rider to your auto insurance that covers injuries, disability and bike damage/replacement. Just the time it takes to get to court dates is a large commitment. To my knowledge, stand-alone bicycle injury insurance does not exist at this time. There is a great article about insurance in Oregon here:

    If there are significant injuries or damage to the bike, call the police first then gather information from the person who caused the crash – if you are physically able. Next, call your insurance carrier and let them know what’s going on. ALWAYS file an Oregon accident report if the damages are over $1,500.00. Then, if things look bleak, get a bicycle lawyer and NEVER talk to the “opponent’s” insurance carrier. Either let your insurance company or the lawyer do the talking and negotiating.

    Two weeks ago I got clipped by a “creeper” – driver was attempting to turn left onto Murray from NW Millcreek Road (a bad intersection) and moved right in front of me leaving nowhere to go. Driver took out my crank, right platform peddle, busted a rear spoke and slightly bent the front derailleur. If I’d had the crank brothers clipless on, my right foot would have been toast, ’cause the platform peddle shielded my foot. And my lunch got crushed in my pannier. All else was okay. No injuries to me. Not sure how he missed me. I was wearing bright yellow jacket and helmet, one flashing headlight and one Niterider Lumina 550 headlight on high beam.

    Oh yeah . . . that peddle did quite a bit of damage to his bumper.

    Driver paid for the repairs and I’m back on the road. Hallelujah!!!

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  • eddie April 9, 2016 at 12:17 am

    “Not sure how he missed me. I was wearing bright yellow jacket and helmet, one flashing headlight and one Niterider Lumina 550 headlight on high beam.”

    Honestly, I don’t think cars notice the bright clothing and lights all that much. I don’t think the day glo is as valid a means of “protection” as people seem to believe.

    Motorists sometimes don’t look where they’re turning because everything they do with a vehicle is routine and often done reflexively. Sometimes they just hit people and there’s nothing that can be done about it.

    Me, I wear earth tones and black only, my lights are minimal, and I’ve only once been hit by a car, back in 1999. The guy was looking the other way.

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  • bendite April 10, 2016 at 11:49 am

    I think it starts with the driver’s way of thinking regarding driving. If the driver thinks roads are for cars, and cars are the priority, rather than having the attitude that the road is for a wide range of users, the brain gives visual priority to cars. The brain is telling itself to ‘look for cars’, and therefore cyclists are less likely to register where the brain perceives objects. So you get the driver saying “I didn’t see him/her”.

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  • PC April 10, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    As for mandatory sentencing, something that has generated a lot of controversy in recent years. Imagine a person entered a shopping mall/supermarket with a..1) length of iron pipe 2) battery powered drill 3) handgun. Now imagine that person does bodily harm to another person in that setting, it doesnt matter if the operator of the “tool” claims…”I didnt see him” that person is guilty of harming someone with a potentially deadly weapon and they are most certainly going to jail.

    But out on our streets its perfectly ok to run someone down and claim..”I didnt see him officer” and shortly thereafter the driver of the offending auto is allowed to simply drive away. How can anyone think this is right? Total Insanity. If auto drivers knew that hitting a pedestrian or cyclist would require a minimum jail sentence and appropriate fines..starting at..?.. $5K, they would drive far more responsibly insured or not.

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