|ZANESVILLE -- Uninsured drivers cost Americans who do have insurance billions of dollars annually.
Counted among those statistics, which can include the cost of medical expenses, lost wages and vehicle damage, are the experiences of local residents Tammy Powell and Bill Page.
Powell was struck by a teen driver whose insurance was not enough to cover the damage to her vehicle or the years' worth of medical bills that were incurred because of her injuries.
Page has lost the use of a boat after an uninsured drunk driver slammed her van into the trailer holding his boat. The damage to the trailer was almost as much as the cost of the boat.
Powell was a teacher at Maysville High School in 1988 when her vehicle was struck from behind near the junction of Potts Lane and Pinkerton Road on her way to school.
"I'm just glad I didn't have my kids with me, I just dropped them off at the sitters," Powell said.
She said the spare tire on the front of the teen driver's truck likely spared her and her Plymouth Voyager from further damage.
"It was your typical rear-end crash. I had whiplash," she said.
But her other injuries were worse than that. She has permanent nerve damage in her left hand and arm. Physical therapy and shooting pains have plagued her since.
"I had my arm wrapped for about 20 years, the pain was so bad," she said.
In a twist, after she retired from teaching two years ago, Powell joined the State Farm Insurance office of her son-in-law, Adam Davenport.
She's been able to share her experience with current and prospective clients in educating them about the benefits of having insurance.
"In talking to people about insurance, they don't think something like that will ever happen to them," she said. "And that's where my experience comes in because I'm proof it can happen, and what you have to go through. The pain is still there. It could be you or the other person that doesn't have insurance. You just need to guard against that."
Fortunately, Powell's insurance cost did not go up because of a state law prohibiting that from occurring when someone is involved in a collision in which an uninsured or under-insured motorist is at fault.
On choppy waters
Page still is perplexed that a boat that was sitting in a field near his daughter and son-in-law's home could be struck -- and that eight months later he still is no closer to resolving the issue.
The crash occurred in June at the junction of Coopermill Road and Meadow Farm Church Road.
A woman was behind the wheel of a van and drove past a stop sign on Coopermill, through a stand of trees and into the side of Page's boat and trailer.
Page did not use the boat last season and did not keep insurance on it. He estimates the damage at $6,000 on the $8,000-worth boat and trailer.
"It was sitting in a field. I thought, who would possibly run into it out there?" he said.
The driver was charged by the Ohio Highway Patrol with operating a vehicle under the influence, fictitious registration and failure to control. She later pleaded guilty in Muskingum County Court, was fined and her license was suspended for six months.
What didn't come up in the investigation report, and what irks Page, is that the woman was not insured at the time of the crash.
"She showed proof of insurance, but she wasn't insured," Page said.
By state law, Ohio residents have to show proof of insurance when law enforcement officials request it during a traffic stop or at the scene of a crash. The woman showed her insurance card.
Page later received a letter from the woman's insurance company confirming she didn't have coverage at the time.
He said before he could obtain photos taken that night by the Patrol and a copy of the report, the court case was complete.
He called Assistant Prosecutor Maria Kalis and wrote a letter to the judge, Jay Vinsel.
"I just wanted them to be aware there was a victim here, that my boat and trailer were damaged and there should be restitution since she ended up not having insurance," Page explained. "But since the case was over, there was nothing the court could do."
In his letter to Vinsel, Page stated: "I do not understand why the court was not aware of my damages and why it cannot be corrected. (She) should be held accountable for the damages she caused ... this is a loss I will suffer because of (her) negligence and the failure in the court system to recognize me as a victim."
Page was advised he could bring a small claims action against the woman, but he said he hasn't pursued it because "anyone who can't afford insurance probably couldn't afford to pay for this."
Muskingum County Court Judge Eric Martin said that's the only recourse if the court is not aware of the lack of insurance at time of sentencing.
"If we're put on notice of it, we can order restitution as part of the sentence," Martin said. "But if we don't know it, there's nothing we can do."
Martin said a small window exists in which a person can fail to pay for their insurance and have their license suspended. Until that person and the BMV are notified that the driver is in violation of the financial responsibility law, law enforcement or the courts can be in the dark.
"It's not a regular occurrence, but it can happen," he said.
Even if the issue isn't brought to the court for restitution, victims can protect themselves with uninsured motorist coverage. That coverage would pay for the damage, then the insurance company would go after the uninsured driver on behalf of the victim, Martin said.
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