August 12, 2005
It was a beautiful clear sunny summer afternoon. I rode from West Porters Lake to Toad’s Cycle Works to get something checked on my 650 V-Star. After leaving Toads with a clean bill of health, I decided to head westbound through Westphal to the Irving station at the Forest Hills intersection to get a little extra riding time. Just before Montague Road, I changed into the left lane so I wouldn’t have to make the lane change where there would be more traffic as it was getting to be that time of day. Traffic was building in the right lane but the left lane was clear so I was doing close to the speed limit of 60km/hr. Then I noticed a mini-van heading in the opposite direction. He was stopped and signaling to turn left into the Gateway Meat Market. I focused on him in case he started to pull out in front of me.
As I said, traffic was building in the right lane and slowing down for the light at Forest Hills Drive. Beside me there was a van or SUV or something bigger than me which naturally obscured my vision. The next thing I knew there was a car directly across my path. There was no time to stop but I hit both brakes and then make that wonderful “hazard avoidance” steering technique that I learned in the Gearing Up program. That action saved me from T-boning that lady’s car but what it did do was put me into the oncoming traffic. I kept trying to pull a tight right-hand turn to get back in my own lane but there was just not enough space between the vehicles and I hit the on-coming van head-on. I remember saying “Oh, shit” and I remember hearing the van’s headlight break. The next thing I knew, I was on the pavement. I don’t remember hitting the windshield but the windshield was cracked and I had a laceration in my mouth so I am guessing that I did. I don’t know if I became a little airborne or if the bike just slid away from me, or a combination of both, but where I landed was about 6-10 feet away from my bike.
I did not lose conscientiousness and I did not have any sign of head or neck injuries but I knew that I had broken bones. Didn’t know how many or how severe but I knew I had them. A man that was behind the van that I hit jumped out of his vehicle and offered to help. I asked him to call an ambulance. A lady came up and offered to help and I asked her to call my better half. Her message to him was simply, “Your wife was in a motorcycle accident and the ambulance is on its way.” Scared him half to death. A few minutes later there was another man who knelt behind me and offered support. He also seemed to take charge of what was happening. I don’t know who he was as I couldn’t see him and he didn’t introduce himself. When the paramedics arrived he gave them a report and he also gave a report to the responding RCMP officer. The paramedic asked him if he was a doctor and he said that he was RCMP, so obviously he was not in uniform so either undercover or off-duty. Incidentally, the lady was charged at the scene under the Motor Vehicle Act. Like Greg in your first story, I uttered a lot of words that cannot be repeated here both because of the pain and the stupidity of the other driver. My obvious injuries were to my left leg and right arm so the paramedics had to cut off my clothes so they could effectively complete their examination.
By this time it is peak traffic time and I am in the middle of Main Street with very little clothing on. The paramedic asked a fireman who was standing there to pass him a blanket out of the ambulance. The fireman says. “Huh?” The paramedic repeated the statement. The fireman says, “You want a blanket?” So, I said, “It’s about the privacy thing. Maybe you aren’t used to covering up the ones that are still talking. Yes, a blanket would be nice.” So I got splinted, collared, put on a back board and loaded into the ambulance. The pain was unbearable so my defense was to be witty. Once he completed his physical examination, did the neurological screen – you know the drill, follow my finger, and how many fingers do you see and started an IV, he radioed the QEII emergency to get an order for IV morphine. It seemed to take forever for the Morphine to take the edge off but when it kicked in my thoughts turned to spending a nice Friday evening in the emergency department and having to cancel a bike trip we had planned to Cape Breton the following weekend. At the QEII emergency room, the x-rays and all that stuff happened. The laceration in my mouth required sutures and I had 3 fractures in my left leg that required surgery, a fractured radius (arm/wrist), fractured left 5th finger, torn rotator-cuff which luckily did not require surgery and multiple bumps and bruises. I was in hospital for 10 days and I was not allowed weight bearing on my leg for 10 weeks. I couldn’t use crutches because of my arm and shoulder so I was in a wheelchair for those 10 weeks. I also had a hard time with the wheelchair because our house is not wheelchair friendly and I only had one useful arm that only had a half useful hand on it.
The recovery process was a slow, painful and frustrating nightmare. I attended 105 physiotherapy sessions, I went to aquatherapy for a few months and I spent a year with a trainer in a gym. I had 2 additional surgeries on my leg, during that time, as it wasn’t healing and after 3 years I am left with range of motion limitations in my right wrist and left pinkie finger and I have impact and endurance restrictions in my leg. I returned to work after 9 months but I had to retire early as I could not perform all of my duties. I am now working part time hours at the physio clinic that I attended, making little more than minimum wage. My bike was written off. I bought a new one in 2006 and I am back in the saddle but my riding attitude is very different. I am very nervous and paranoid when surrounded by other cars and prefer to ride in the relative safety of country roads. That’s why you don’t see me around much anymore. I am thankful that things were not a lot worse, which they would have been if the guy I hit had been in motion, but I resent the people who say, “You were lucky.” That’s like saying someone is lucky because they got to work without getting hit by a bus. “Lucky” would have been no accident at all. I am thankful that I was not killed or had serious head injuries, but “lucky?” No!
So now there is the insurance settlement thing. That is the biggest nightmare of all. My insurance company was excellent. They were very supportive and went out of their way to make sure that I had everything that I needed to support my recovery. I can’t say enough about them. Because this is still an open case, I will not name names but I will tell everyone, for future reference, what can be expected if they are unfortunate enough to be in the situation. Most insurance companies will refuse to negotiate a settlement. My lawyer sent the initial “letter of demand”, as they call it, on December 5, 2007 and there was no response until August 15, 2008. Legally you have 3 years to file a claim so they waited until the last gun was fired to give a response. In response they filed a defense with the courts alleging that it was my fault. The defense made many derogatory statements including, “failure to drive in a safe manner, failure to maintain the bike in good condition, failure to take avoidance actions, failure to pay attention, driving while incompetent, etc., etc., etc. Even though I am the plaintiff in the case, they have turned it around and put me on the defensive. Now the onus is on me to prove their allegations to be incorrect. My legal counsel advised me this is standard practice and that the defense wording is standard text. They want to try and show that I contributed to my own injuries in some way to reduce the amount that they have to pay out. Also, the longer the money is in their bank account, the more interest they get. They also hope that the more time that passes, the more I will forget, misplace or otherwise not have and they hope that I will be hungry enough to take their first offer. Sadly, this happens in too many cases. I was advised at the very beginning to keep track of everything and to keep a detailed journal. I did exactly that. As a matter of fact, I am still keeping the journal. I keep my journal in volumes so that I can send it to my lawyer at periodic intervals. That way it is more likely to be read in its entirety and there is no room for anyone to accuse me of changing anything after the fact. My case will be going to discoveries within the next 12 months. My lawyer told me that because I have so much documentation and I have all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed, that hopefully it will still get settled out of court. I am determined not to let them beat me. Financially, things are tight but I am not starving and the bills are getting paid.
I have had a few close calls since then (drivers not paying attention, or on cell phones, etc.) but I have been “lucky”. Today though, a man in a 1/2 ton truck backed into me in a parking lot. He was a fellow biker and felt very bad. He honestly didn’t know I was behind him. He has offered to pay the damages ($500) to my bike and I was not hurt. I put added stress on my weak leg and knee to keep the bike from falling over and I have a fair amount of discomfort there at the moment but that will pass with a couple of Tylenol.
It’s a dangerous world out there and it stands to get worse. With the ever increasing interest in the sport itself combined with the need for a more fuel efficient mode of transportation, there will be more and more motorcycles and bicycles on the roads in the future and drivers of the 4-wheel variety seem to be getting worse. I have a friend who said that she never saw motorcycles until I started riding and now she sees them all. I honestly believe that the new drivers handbook and road test should have a section on motorcycle awareness. May or may not help but it certainly couldn’t hurt.
West Porters Lake
’06 Boulevard C50T