A short while ago I had a call from my solicitor with regards to my case associated with my motorcycle accident way back in 2011. We had been fighting for all that time to prove that the accident was due to the negligence of the driver of the car that pulled from a side road on to the main road that I was travelling on. Amongst the things that you are taught when learning to drive or ride is the fact that when pulling from a junction on to a road you are to ensure that the road is clear paying particular attention to motorcyclists and cyclists. Ironically though, they do not tell you that the motorcyclist does not have the same rights as other road users and that in the event of a collision the bike will be held at fault until it can prove otherwise. This is not a woe is me tale but an actual fact that I have been unfortunate enough to find out. I have spoken to more than a few motorcyclists who have been involved in collisions and they have had to take “contributory negligence” which in basic terms is a portion of the blame. This was what the insurance company offered me through my solicitor. They offered me an 80%-20% “contributory negligence” split in my favour. So despite their insured driver pulling from a side road on to the main A370 road out of Weston Super Mare in to the path of my motorcycle, I had to take 20% of the blame, essentially because I am a motorcycle and as we all know, anyone who rides a motorcycle is a brainless idiot who has no regard for anyone else on the road and therefore deserves anything that comes their way.
Initially I told my Solicitor that there was no way after being ignored for three and a half years I would take any blame as I had been travelling at the speed limit on my side of the road when the woman had pulled out and this had been backed up by the witness statements. The problem though was that the WPC from the Accident Investigation Unit had made such a colossal cock up of the investigation which could only be compared to that of a primary school child, including not interviewing the driver of the car that had pulled out in front of me for over four months (bearing in mind the hospital were unsure if I was going to live I thought this was a bit out of order), oh and that they were going to prosecute ME for the accident! It kind of put wind in the sails of the insurance company and hence gave them no reason to accept the blame. The reason the Police decided not to prosecute me was because and I quote; “…however Mr Pas is paralysed from the waist down and we do not think it is in the public interest to prosecute…”. I sent a message back via my solicitor to say that this was discrimination and that I demanded to be prosecuted as I really wanted to see who would have to go to court and show the evidence that the POLICE had gathered and try to convince a judge that it was my fault. Especially when I had used the Police evidence to prove that what they had said was not actually possible which was later also proved by a forensic specialist appointed by the court.
Anyway, the whole story would take far too long to explain and go through and is currently being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) so I will not go in to it too much right now. So, back to the offer. Right at the start if this my Solicitor did tell me that it is not very common for motorcyclists to get a 100% win and whilst he did say this was not fair, it was an unfortunate fact. I had a meeting with my Barrister and Solicitor and talked over the offer. It was a horrible situation to be in. I was being offered a settlement of blame, this would bring the case of blame to a close and this had consumed me totally for three and a half years. Not one day had gone by where I did not go over the statements or the Police evidence. I was writing reports to counter the absolute bullshit that the Police WPC had written and as I had no memory of the collision I was able to do it without trying to make anything fit in to my memory of the collision. I had lost my home, my job, my military career, my hobbies and obviously my marriage all because I could think of and concentrate on nothing but the case, working tirelessly to prove that I was not at fault and now I had this offer to make it go away. All I had to do was take the 20% blame that was being offered but I was not happy. I was not at fault. Why the bloody hell should I take partial blame for someone else’s negligence that had left me paralysed and had turned the lives of me, my Wife and my children upside down? Why?
I talked it over with my legal team and they went through some things with me. They answered my questions of which I had many and gave me their recommendations. One thing that my Solicitor said to me though did bring home some harsh reality of the situation I found myself in, “…the insurance company CAN afford to lose, YOU cannot…” I left the office with tears in my eyes, tears of frustration, questions rolling round and round in my head. Every fibre of my being saying to me; “Bollocks, go to court, she f***ed up. She could have simply told the truth that she did not see you so screw their deal, go to court and make her look at what she has done. Make her have to stand in front of you and tell the court that she did nothing wrong, let her try to convince the court that it was my fault, do it. Go to court, GO TO COURT.” It was all I could think about, and there was no way I was going to let it go. I was angry, hurt, upset and absolutely raging inside. I got home after talking to my Dad on the journey back via the radio in the car (what they can do with technology today!), I had told him of the meeting and the offer and he gave me his take on it. He also said that I needed to calm down and think about it with A CLEAR CALM HEAD. “Remember that this is your whole life, your decision on this will affect the lives of you and your family for the rest of your life so think carefully.” I did think carefully and I chose to accept the offer, not because I did anything wrong, but because I know that there is not enough “gaffa tape” on this earth to stop my mouth running off while listening to the other side in a court room, especially not the woman who put me in a wheelchair. Three and a half years of torment would explode out of my mouth and this would definitely not go in my favour, so I took the deal.
This decision meant that I was able to get an “interim payment” from the insurance company, this would enable me to clear bills, purchase a new wheelchair as mine has seen better days having been used for the archaeological digs on some not great terrain but most importantly, as discussed with my Solicitor, a holiday for my Wife, kids and I. A holiday that would, for a couple of weeks at least, make the last three and a half years disappear and be forgotten about. So I set about trying to book this holiday. I went to two travel agents and called another but they wanted half of the cost of the holiday as a deposit just to make a call to find out if they could get a disabled room. NOT HAPPENING! And then I stumbled across http://www.ocean-florida.co.uk/ When I called, a young lady answered the phone and she would be the lady who would try to sort us the holiday. Many e mails and calls were sent and made where we had to adjust things and ask others but nothing was too much trouble. When I asked for a room which would be suitable for myself I was not asked for half of the cost up front just to ask if they could get a room but was simply told that she would e mail and that the reply would be 24 to 48 hours but as soon as she got the e mail she would call me. I also knew that it was disabled accessible which is slightly different to a disabled room but with the help that would be going we would make it work. Long story short(er), the lovely lady who had worked so hard to sort out the holiday for me had finally got what we wanted, so I booked and paid for it. Whether you have disabled members of your family or not, and whilst I have not used the room booked for me yet so I cannot comment on how easy it is, I can 100% recommend http://www.ocean-florida.co.uk/ to book your holiday with.
So for a few weeks now we have had to watch what we have been saying in front of the kids but Christmas Day we let them unwrap a present. It was wrapped in three different designs of wrapping paper so each unwrapped one layer until my Daughter opened the last layer. It revealed a blue folder with a logo on it and inside I told her to remove the three plastic wallets and give one to “Pickle”, one to my Son and keep one for herself. Then “Pickle” opened hers and told me that there were cards with Mickey and Minnie on them. Then my Son revealed that there were cards for Sea World and finally my Daughter had cards for Universal Studios. We told them that they would be going to Florida and that we would be going to see Mickey Mouse and the other Disney characters and that we would be going to the other parks as well. We would be going on an aeroplane and staying in a hotel. It was too much for “Pickle” to understand, my Son struggled to fully comprehend it and my Daughter just kept grinning. I think it was fair to say that there was a certain amount of shock for them because the next day they were more than a little hyper telling everyone. I think that it had sunk in a little when we sat down with them to watch the DVD about Sea World as the excitement really started to kick in then. Funnily enough, there are lots of adverts on the TV now for Disneyland Paris showing the castle and the characters and “Pickle” now understands that that is what she will be seeing.
I had a great Christmas Day which I spent at my Wife’s place until very late. It was not the first year that I had woken on Christmas Day without the kids as I spent Christmas 2003 in Afghanistan on tour but that was different, this year was a bit weird but my night had not gone well anyway and after less than three hours sleep I was up and about on Christmas morning so drove up to her place for six in the morning. That was when Christmas day really started for the kids, opening their stockings and shouting with excitement at the presents they had received. I hope that your Christmas was a good one, and that you, like me, spent it with the people who you wanted to be with. Enjoy the rest of the festive period and look forward to the New Year.
Merry Christmas all.