Head smashed, local veteran supports changes to no-fault insurance

A bicyclist hurt in a crash is on the hook for his medical bills because he has no auto insurance.

It may soon be the end of the road for Florida's no-fault insurance system, if lawmakers have it their way.

It frustrates drivers who pay some of the highest premiums for some of the lowest coverage amounts.

A local veteran, recently hit by a car, says insurance issues are costing him his health and possibly his home.

“I saw a flash of light and it was like getting hit with a brick wall,” says 69-year-old James Ohnesorge.

Ohnesorge survived Vietnam, but found himself fighting for his life here at home.

“I looked in the mirror, and I broke out in tears because ... I had 30 staples in my head.  There’s numbness in my arm,” says Ohnesorge.

Ohnesorge had been riding his bike on U.S. 19 in Hudson. He says he turned onto Maryland Avenue heading towards the sidewalk. Troopers say a driver coming from the other direction turned onto Maryland Avenue, slamming into Ohnesorge, snapping the bike in half and throwing him onto the windshield.

“I was a hood ornament. My head hit the windshield. I still have slivers of glass that come out,” says Ohnesorge.

The driver, 33-year-old Kimberly Paradise, was cited for failing to yield.

Florida is one of only two states that doesn't require a driver to carry liability coverage for injuring others. Drivers are required to have $10,000 in personal injury protection to cover their own injuries.

Because Ohnesorge had been on his bicycle and doesn't own a car, he doesn't have his own auto insurance, so he's on the hook for his medical bills.

“It’s hard. I've got bills, and they keep piling up, and then I have the collection agencies call me,” Ohnesorge says.

“James already has over $200,000 in medical bills, and that doesn't include the future surgeries he has coming his way,” says attorney Nicolette Nicoletti.

Nicoletti says Ohnesorge could sue the driver, but even if he wins, the driver may never have the money to pay.

“If you don't have the insurance, and Florida doesn't require it, there's nothing that someone who was injured by you can even do to help themselves,” says Nicoletti.

Senate Bill 1766 hopes to change that.  It calls for doing away with the no-fault system and requiring drivers to buy "medical payments" coverage to help victims like Ohnesorge.

“When they get in accidents, the cars get fixed, but not the people,” Ohnesorge says.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Ohnesorge.

The bill is moving forward in the legislature, but some lawmakers worry if they get rid of the decades-old, troubled system, whether they can agree on a replacement this session.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment
More Stories