Author Topic: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q  (Read 7536 times)

ryanthequark

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 60
  • Location: Seattle
Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« on: March 07, 2015, 09:57:33 PM »
Hey Mustachians/Friends,
I've been a bicyclist for nearly 20 years, and an urban bicyclist for many of those years. Sadly, I recently suffered from my first hit-and-run collision with a vehicle.

Fortunately some witnesses got the license plate of the vehicle before it left the scene. The police report also lists the VIN and the name of the owner. But what I need is the driver's insurance info.

A bicycle lawyer has been working on my behalf, and sent the owner a letter requesting the insurance info. Perhaps not surprisingly, this request yielded no reply.

This can't be the first time a hit-and-run victim has been in this position: with a name and license plate but no insurance info. My question is: aside from asking the culprit, is there any other way to obtain their insurance info?

Thanks in advance for your help, sincerely.

As a P.S. since I know you may be curious/it may be relevant, I live in Washington state (Seattle), and my bicycle suffered a lot of damage. I also had physical injuries: a sprained wrist, scrapes, and an unsightly scar on my chin. Fortunately I was wearing a helmet! Thanks again for your advice/help.

MikeBear

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 390
  • Age: 60
  • Location: Michigan
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2015, 10:00:06 PM »
Get some x-rays, strap on a back brace, a wheelchair, and a shyster lawyer. Then sue them.

Almosthw

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 39
  • Location: Southern CA
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2015, 10:37:44 PM »
Glad to hear you weren't more seriously injured. If you have an insurance company handling the property damage to your bike, they would have access to run a 'carrier discovery' query on the license plate or vin.  Not sure how an individual can go about obtaining this on their own...perhaps if the police locate the driver, he could be asked for this info in any related court?

Coonz

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 15
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2015, 10:42:06 PM »
This is sort of sketchy but it may help you narrow things down. Some car insurance providers (like Pemco, I believe) will ask for the VIN etc. when formulating a quote. When you enter this information, it pops up with your current insurance provider so you can compare plans. It might be possible to enter that VIN and figure out what company they have insurance with so you can try to follow up with the company. This may or may not be helpful, but just a random thought. Is your insurance company aware of the situation? Can they help you?

I think it is great that you have made it 20 years before this incident! That is a nice safety record. I'm sure there are lots of bicycle advocate groups that are willing to help up there. Glad the bike took more of the damage than you did.

ryanthequark

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 60
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2015, 10:50:12 PM »
Ah, I should add: I have no insurance (property or vehicle) myself. Thanks for your advice so far!

johnny847

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3196
    • My Blog
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2015, 10:51:36 PM »
Glad the bike took more of the damage than you did.

But but....your body grows back, while your bike doesn't! ;)

In all seriousness though, glad you're okay ryanthequark.


I actually don't have anything constructive to add, but I do want to follow this thread.

Thegoblinchief

  • Guest
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2015, 07:41:06 AM »
Wouldn't your health insurance company be an interested party in suing? I'm assuming you ended up with some medical bills. Glad you're okay though. Could have been a lot worse!

ryanthequark

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 60
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2015, 09:12:06 AM »
Yes, about $3600 in medical bills. In Washington state, the auto insurance of ANY driver involved in a collision with a bicyclist or pedestrian - regardless of who's at fault - is automatically responsible for the medical bills of the bicyclist/pedestrian. Which is nice - even without the hit-and-run aspect, that makes the question of fault irrelevant when it comes to my legal bills.

So yeah - my health insurance has an incentive. But they're not interested in suing. I spoke with them about this specifically and told them I knew the identity of the driver and offered to send them the police report. They're uninterested. But there was a clause in one of their forms that said that if *I* sue and recover anything, they get to collect from me. So maybe they don't have an incentive.

caliq

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 675
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2015, 09:47:31 AM »
Yes, about $3600 in medical bills. In Washington state, the auto insurance of ANY driver involved in a collision with a bicyclist or pedestrian - regardless of who's at fault - is automatically responsible for the medical bills of the bicyclist/pedestrian. Which is nice - even without the hit-and-run aspect, that makes the question of fault irrelevant when it comes to my legal bills.

So yeah - my health insurance has an incentive. But they're not interested in suing. I spoke with them about this specifically and told them I knew the identity of the driver and offered to send them the police report. They're uninterested. But there was a clause in one of their forms that said that if *I* sue and recover anything, they get to collect from me. So maybe they don't have an incentive.

To be clear, is the $3600 the amount you paid out of pocket, or the total amount including whatever the insurance company paid?

I wonder if it's even worth it for you to sue, considering that your insurance company is likely to get a lot more interested if you actually win any damages. 

Greg

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1449
  • Location: Olympia, WA, USA
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2015, 11:28:51 AM »
Why aren't the police handling this?  I thought hit and run was a felony in WA.

Call Bob Anderton: http://www.andertonlaw.com/  Tell him Greg sent you but he probably doesn't remember me. :)
« Last Edit: March 08, 2015, 11:31:23 AM by Greg »

ryanthequark

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 60
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2015, 07:14:10 PM »
The $3600 is the total amount for the ER bills, including what the insurance company paid. The damage to my bike was about $300.

I've talked to my current lawyer about suing, but apparently what makes that difficult is that I can't identify the driver. We know who owns the vehicle, but since I didn't see inside the windshield in that split-second while I was being hit and thrown across the pavement, I don't know who was driving it. It could have been him, or maybe a space alien. Who can say? The insurance company is responsible regardless - they insure the vehicle - so that's why my current lawyer is so interested in figuring out who they are.

When I spoke with the police, it was the same exact issue. They said that since I couldn't visually ID the driver, they had no basis to pursue criminal charges against the driver.

I will contact Bob Anderton. Thank you for the reference!

ryanthequark

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 60
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2015, 07:15:29 PM »
Coonz had a great suggestion for how to figure out the insurance company; I'll try that this week. Any other thoughts? How can I figure out the insurance company/policy number for this hit-and-run driver?

Thanks again for all your help!

octavius

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 39
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2015, 10:24:36 PM »
Didn't you say there were witnesses?  A hit and run is a big deal, especially on a cyclist. 

I'm very surprised the SPD is saying they can't do more to solve this "crime". How hard can it be for them to interrogate the car owner and see who else could have been driving it? ...or get the insurance info for you?

I'm a Seattle resident as well, and I find this concerning.

What part of the city did this happen in?  I'd try to get the Mayor and press involved (talk to the Cascade Bicycle Club or the SBC) to put more pressure on the SPD to do their job.

There have been a couple of recent cases that went public (one involved a groping, one involved a stolen iPhone), where the SPD initially sat on their asses and did nothing -- until the victims made the issues very public -- then the SPD changed course and put more effort into the crimes. We've also had a couple of fatal bike accidents in the last year or two, so I'd think the SPD would be more interested in fixing these issues.

I'm sorry to say this, but sometimes I think Seattle cops are buffoons that care more about their donut breaks than they do about doing their jobs.

Depending on how your attorney is billing you (and how good he is), it might not be in his best interest for the SPD to do the best job they can, so you might look for a 2nd opinion.

Oh, and I'm sorry this happened to you.  The biggest reason I don't bike more is fear of some of the idiots out there behind the wheel of a 3,000 pound piece of machinery, that I have to share the road with. I hope you have a speedy recovery.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2015, 10:36:45 PM by octavius »

eddieryan

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 19
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2015, 11:41:29 AM »
Sorry to hear about your accident. I handle bodily injury claims for a living. Have you signed a contract with the attorney? If not, I would suggest you file a claim with your own auto carrier and do this on your own in order to recover 100% of the bodily injury settlement you have coming to you (not 66% after the attorney takes their fee). Your insurance will immediately use resources (not to my knowledge available for publc use) to obtain the insurance carrier who covers the vehicle who hit you. Your auto carrier will file a claim on your behalf with the at fault carrier--they know exactly how to do it and deal with your exact situation all the time....they do this for you because YOU PAY THEM A PREMIUM for this very reason. Even though you were on a bicycle, the provisions of your auto policy contain uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage which often ends up covering you when another auto hits you in this type of situation. If the car that struck you has no insurance, your own carrier will investigate and handle everything directly with you and they will seek restitution from the driver later. If there is a good active insurance policy on the car that hit you, your insurance will point you to that carrier and you will need to give them a statement of what happened, let them investigate it and as the at fault carrier they will offer you an injury settlement. The end result will be either your own carrier will pay you a settlement, the at fault carrier will, or if its determined you contributed fully to your own injuries (a ridiculous proposition, I know) then you would not receive a settlement. These things take time to be handled, there are a thousand details that may need to be handled behind the scenes, but just try to be patient and if you did sign with the attorney they know what to do.

TreeTired

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 449
  • Age: 135
  • Location: North Carolina
  • I think we can make it
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2015, 12:11:29 PM »
Quote
They said that since I couldn't visually ID the driver, they had no basis to pursue criminal charges against the driver.


That sounds kind of lame to me.   The police could still give you the name of his insurance company.   I will have to remember to wear a mask whenever I am driving my car.   That way nobody will be able to identify me and I won't need to stop for accidents.

AH013

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 272
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #15 on: March 09, 2015, 04:19:26 PM »
Quote
They said that since I couldn't visually ID the driver, they had no basis to pursue criminal charges against the driver.


That sounds kind of lame to me.   The police could still give you the name of his insurance company.   I will have to remember to wear a mask whenever I am driving my car.   That way nobody will be able to identify me and I won't need to stop for accidents.

The law sucks.  The burden of proof should be on the vehicle owner to provide an alibi that they were in fact not driving their own vehicle at the time of the accident.  I mean who else would be driving it?

However, wearing a mask while driving is specifically prohibited for this exact reason of obscuring your identify to a LEO while driving.
http://blogs.findlaw.com/blotter/2011/10/halloween-101-can-i-wear-a-mask-while-driving.html

octavius

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 39
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2015, 04:32:09 PM »
Quote
They said that since I couldn't visually ID the driver, they had no basis to pursue criminal charges against the driver.


That sounds kind of lame to me.   The police could still give you the name of his insurance company.   I will have to remember to wear a mask whenever I am driving my car.   That way nobody will be able to identify me and I won't need to stop for accidents.

The law sucks.  The burden of proof should be on the vehicle owner to provide an alibi that they were in fact not driving their own vehicle at the time of the accident.  I mean who else would be driving it?

However, wearing a mask while driving is specifically prohibited for this exact reason of obscuring your identify to a LEO while driving.
http://blogs.findlaw.com/blotter/2011/10/halloween-101-can-i-wear-a-mask-while-driving.html

I wonder if that law is enforced. I've noticed a growing trend of cars that have all of their windows tinted, to such an extreme degree -- that you can't see inside at all.  I'm sure many of us learned the importance of making eye contact with other drivers at intersections, whether you are driving, cycling, or walking -- which is impossible to do with cars that have these super tinted windows. A Seattle police commander visiting our neighborhood community meeting told me there is a legal limit on tinting -- but obviously it isn't being well enforced.

ryanthequark

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 60
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #17 on: March 10, 2015, 07:26:39 AM »
Since you asked, this happened on Roosevelt Way, at the intersection with 42nd Street. I was in the bike lane, and the car to the left of me made a right-hand turn through the bike lane without checking to see if there was anyone in it (spoiler alert: there was. Me). This was before they put in the flimsy plastic dividers and green paint that better demarcate the bike lane now.

Witnesses from the street rushed up to help. That's how they got the license plate. They also called 911; the police and fire arrived quickly, and they were helpful at the scene.

It would be nice if the police were more helpful now. I have a background in political and social justice advocacy, so I appreciate the post by Octavius about the value of public pressure.

But everything to do with this accident, for me, is dreadful. I had my girlfriend contact a lawyer because the thought of doing so myself was dreadful. Posting here is not fun either: I don't like to be reminded of all this, and I resent that I still have to deal with it. So even though it may work, the last thing I want to do is to launch a big media effort or even a casual one among my friends to put pressure on the police or city hall. I don't want this accident to take over more of my life.

Thanks again for all your advice so far! If you have any additional thoughts about how to obtain the insurance company and policy number for a hit-and-run driver (when I have the license plate, owner's name and VIN number from the police report) please let me know.

octavius

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 39
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #18 on: March 10, 2015, 08:58:02 AM »

I can sympathize with the feeling of just wanting any reminders of it to go away so you can move on -- I had a similar feeling a few years ago after a climbing accident -- but life isn't like that -- some things you have to face. 

And if you cycle as much as you do -- don't you want to do so in a city where the citizens have greater awareness and respect for cyclists?

I'd still try the Seattle Bicycle Club or the Cascade Bicycle Club -- both might have resources for looking into this issue that your attorney has not thought of.

Greg

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1449
  • Location: Olympia, WA, USA
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #19 on: March 10, 2015, 09:50:02 AM »
I wonder if given the info you do have, if you could call around to insurance companies to see if the person is their insured.  Probably not, but worth a shot.  Assuming from the police report you have an address, you could also send a demand letter.  Or file suit for damages.

You could also start contacting higher-ups in the SPD, if the officer on the case won't help.  When I was hit by a car I had to really be persistent to file a report after the fact, SPD was not interested in helping.

Alternatively, try contacting The Stranger, this kind of brush-off by the SPD is right up their alley.

eddieryan

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 19
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #20 on: March 10, 2015, 11:34:45 AM »
Please see my earlier post. The correct answer to your question "how do I find out who insures the car that hit me" is to file a claim with your own auto insurance. If you don't own a car and have no auto insurance, then continue reading.

I suffered a dog bite years ago on the premises where I was renting an apartment and asked my landlord for his insurance. He didn't provide it. I was able to find out on my own by searching the state court website (all states have a judicial court case website--you can search any civil and traffic case by plugging in anyones name or any business name) If the owner of the car that hit you, or the driver, has ever been a party to any civil suit in your state, there is a good chance his insurance carrier is listed along with the case he was involved. Typically records go back ten years or longer on most databases. It is public information and this method is what led me to discovering my landlord's company had been sued in the past and his insurance company was listed in multiple law suits. When I called to report a claim to that insurance company, they were able to tell me he is no longer insured with them but told me who currently insures him. I then filed a claim with that company and obtained settlement funds from them.

ryanthequark

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 60
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #21 on: March 11, 2015, 03:46:43 PM »
@eddieryan, I sent you a personal message, and I also posted earlier in this thread: I have no car insurance. But thanks for the additional advice - it's a useful suggestion.

And to everyone else: thank you, again, for all your thoughts, advice, and warm wishes.

Exflyboy

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6271
  • Age: 57
  • Location: Corvallis, Oregon
  • Expat Brit living in the New World..:)
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #22 on: March 11, 2015, 04:24:56 PM »
So the cops won't go round this guy's house and get him to prove who was driving HIS vehicle that HE is legally responsible for???

WTF?


I would be Screaming at my local newspaper to do a story of the incompetance of local cops for not enforcing a felony (i.e doing their jobs) that I am paying them to do!

Mu206Stach

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 30
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #23 on: March 11, 2015, 04:55:09 PM »
So the cops won't go round this guy's house and get him to prove who was driving HIS vehicle that HE is legally responsible for???

WTF?

I would be Screaming at my local newspaper to do a story of the incompetance of local cops for not enforcing a felony (i.e doing their jobs) that I am paying them to do!

+1000

I can't believe the cops won't do more to investigate a hit and run.  Am I missing part of the story somehow?

Call the damn press about this.   

OP, are you leaving something out of the story that might explain why the cops aren't doing more to help you?

frugaldrummer

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 655
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #24 on: March 11, 2015, 06:52:32 PM »
Any businesses around that might have security camera footage of the accident or of the car leaving the scene?

ryanthequark

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 60
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #25 on: March 12, 2015, 11:47:00 AM »
@Mu206stach: nope. The police asked at the scene and in a follow-up phone call whether I could identify the driver, and I answered honestly: no. It happened at night, and even if it had been daytime, it's not like I'm going to be peering in his windows as I fly through the air. But look at it from their perspective: no one can ID the perp. So any criminal case may not be worth their time to build. I don't agree with their logic, but if this is what they're thinking I can at least understand where they're coming from. Besides, did you read the column in the Seattle Times by the guy who couldn't get the police to come arrest the people who broke into his car and stole his wife's purse and cell phone, even though he followed them for over an hour and called the police multiple times? It's not like their disinterest in my hit-and-run is unique.

purplepants

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 97
    • My Journey - Purplepants' Journey From The 7th Circle of Hell
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #26 on: March 12, 2015, 12:20:12 PM »
Coonz had a great suggestion for how to figure out the insurance company; I'll try that this week. Any other thoughts? How can I figure out the insurance company/policy number for this hit-and-run driver?

Thanks again for all your help!

I don't know how registration works in WA state, but in NC we are required to provide our insurance company and policy number to register a vehicle.  It's printed on our registration paperwork and the police or DMV can easily pull it up.  Is this not a nationwide thing?

Mu206Stach

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 30
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #27 on: March 12, 2015, 01:30:40 PM »
@Mu206stach: nope. The police asked at the scene and in a follow-up phone call whether I could identify the driver, and I answered honestly: no. It happened at night, and even if it had been daytime, it's not like I'm going to be peering in his windows as I fly through the air. But look at it from their perspective: no one can ID the perp. So any criminal case may not be worth their time to build. I don't agree with their logic, but if this is what they're thinking I can at least understand where they're coming from. Besides, did you read the column in the Seattle Times by the guy who couldn't get the police to come arrest the people who broke into his car and stole his wife's purse and cell phone, even though he followed them for over an hour and called the police multiple times? It's not like their disinterest in my hit-and-run is unique.

Yes I saw the story, and the cops changed their stance after that guy made it very public (and others came out and vocalized similar stories to help put pressure on them).  Those perps ended up being caught by cops on the east side.

Hit and run is a felony (last I heard).  You owe it to yourself to do more to get the cops to do their job.  So what if you can't identify the driver -- the cops should be able to establish chain of custody of the vehicle since they know the owner.  Unless the owner reported it stolen -- he/she should know who the heck had it when you were hit... and you have witnesses to the date/time and lic plate.

Don't give up so easily.  Problems (like lazy cops) don't get fixed unless we all do our part to fix it.

ryanthequark

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 60
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Bike Hit & Run: Insurance Q
« Reply #28 on: March 13, 2015, 09:27:28 PM »
Hey all: thank you. I know you have my best interests at heart, and more than that - the interests of our community at large. Who wants to live in a world where hit-and-run drivers go free? Or lazy cops don't do anything about it?

So I understand your indignation on my behalf. And maybe you're right: if I pressured the police in some way (media; angry phone calls; a polite request) they might help me in some way (prosecute the guy; give him a ticket; give me his insurance info).

But here's my thinking: I've already suffered. If a settlement came my way I wouldn't mind, but I'm only willing to expend a little of my time and emotional energy to get one. And I won't expend any to see the guy charged or in trouble with the law - or to make the Seattle PD more responsive or less lazy.

Punishing the guy doesn't make my life better; the process to do so will make my life more stressful and worse. I wish the police were more responsive but that task is a burden I have no interest in undertaking. But if any of you feel strongly - either about the SPD in general or about the injustice in my own case - I sympathize, and I'll cheer you on as you do whatever it is you want to do about it.

For me, I think it may be worth it to call the SPD and see what they can do about getting his insurance info. You've convinced me it's worth another call. I'll make that call in the next month or two, whenever I finish the draft of my dissertation and have both the mental energy and the time. If that yields his insurance info, I'll be delighted - and I'll have my mustachian friends to thank. And if not, so be it. If a third or fourth or fifth phone call might have shaken something free, I'll never know, because I won't go down that rabbit hole. Even if it costs me the possibility of eventually winning a few thousand dollars.

We all have to live our own lives, and this is the choice I've made, and it's the best one for me.

Thank you, also, for all your original and innovative suggestions about my original question: how to find his insurance info. Your ideas are way more than I ever would have thought of on my own, and one of them (or the phone call to the police) may work out. I'm deeply grateful.

Finally, thank you again for all your support, kind words, and warm wishes.