Our extended family had a blow this week

when my sister in law was out jogging on a residential street and got hit by a car. She’s going to be Ok, but her knee was shattered and she required several hours of surgery to repair the damage. She’s home now installed on the couch, living on Percoset as the long recovery begins. My brother’s family has a lot of local support, with friends and neighbors all pitching in to help get their three kids where they need to go (school, soccer practice, gymnastics, and the 1001 other errands normal for a 3-kid household). So the immediate crisis is being dealt with.

However, there is a great deal of concern right now about the medical costs, in particular due to the details of how the accident occurred. My sis-in-law was jogging in what the locals treat as a bike path, which is a painted margin alongside the residential streets of her neighborhood. But it’s not marked as a bike path; instead it is officially designated as overflow parking in front of people’s houses. The accident occurred at an intersection, where a car was stopped prior to crossing the intersection. She saw the driver and the driver saw her, and they waved at each other like “yes, I see you”, and my sis-in-law thought the driver waved her across. But then the driver hit the gas and boom.

The police did respond, and took a full report there at the scene. Since the driver was stopped, and since my sis-in-law was in the road, no ticket was given to the driver. Furthermore, the police officer said my sis-in-law should have been running with traffic, rather than against the direction of traffic. Except that violates every single rule I’ve ever heard of for pedestrians sharing the road. We were always taught, and I have seen in various local codes since then, that bikes travel with traffic and pedestrians move against traffic for better visibility. But in this case, a lot of things are stacking up such that my sis-in-law may be found at fault. That’s where the concern comes in about medical bill payment.

My brother has a good job with good insurance and good benefits. But they have retained an attorney to go after the driver’s insurance and make that insurance pay. Except since the driver wasn’t sited, that’s going to be a really hard argument. If the driver’s insurance doesn’t pay, my brother’s intention is to go after the driver with a lawsuit so that his job’s insurance doesn’t have to pay for the medical bills. This is where I start to get dubious about this whole situation, and have some philosophical concerns with how it’s being handled. The driver is an 84 year old woman who was absolutely mortified about what happened. Maybe this is my own emotional prejudice creeping in. If it had been a young bratty kid who had an attitude of “hey, man, this isn’t my fault”, then I’d be inclined to pursue legal recourse. But going after an 84 year old driver who is almost as traumatized as my sis-in-law, that just doesn’t sit right with me. And the thought of not having our insurance pay for something, and instead going after someone else’s insurance to make them pay, bugs me too. That’s what insurance is for, to cover the costs of an accident, which is exactly what this was. Yet the question of how the medical bills will be paid, remains.

This all happened in Phoenix , AZ. I know rules really vary state by state. And frankly, this will probably be decided in the legal offices and/or courts for that location. I can only watch from the sidelines. Furthermore, I suspect that any “suggestions” or counsel I would offer, would be politely ignored. My brother has made good money in a good career, the best of all four of us adult kids, so he’s viewed as the responsible one. I’m the one who got into credit card debt trouble so my financial/legal advice isn’t worth much. But I have the sense that if this is handled wrong, it could really damage his family’s financial situation. I’d love to hear any suggestions that anyone has, or been-there-done-that for cases in AZ. The extended family will probably not ask my opinion but it would be nice to have an educated opinion just in case they do.