Traffic Accident -- I'm in trouble

I have my ARC but I don’t have a license. I’ve been driving around for a while without one and I was recently in an accident.

It was technically my fault since I was crossing a road when I got hit. The guy was speeding without his lights or a helmet on. I was going, like, 5km/h, and he hit mostly my bike so I didn’t get hurt. The other driver was really hurt.

He’s fine now, but his family is asking me to pay 300% of the damages incurred (documented costs include about NT$25,000 in medical bills), but since his doctor said he shouldn’t work for 3 months, 3 months of his salary (NT$84,000) has been included. Anyway, these amounts plus about $200,000 for any future “complications” have been demanded of me. I haven’t got even half of that… and although I’m free to leave the country, I just can’t ditch responsibilities.

If this case goes to court, what could happen to me? Nobody seems to understand that I simply can’t cough up the $100,000 I was pushed into offering. I’d need a payment plan that spans several months. What do I do? Does anyone have ideas about what I can expect? I’ve consulted with a lawyer, but I can’t seem to get all of my questions answered properly and I can’t afford a ton of legal expenses on top of fines/compensation and the ticket I got for driving without a license.

Another thing that I was told by a lawyer, is that my driving without a license really is an aside to this situation; since I was not even in a position to be driving recklessly (I had just pulled out of a parking spot). It’s clear that I know how to drive safely and was trying to do so at the time of the accident. So, there is definitely shared responsibility. There have been some questions as to whether the other guy was wearing his helmet or even talking on his cell while driving. Everyone else tells me that since I don’t have a license and I didn’t get hurt, that automatically makes me overwhelmingly responsible.

One thing that really, really bothers me about this is that 99% of the drivers here blatantly and dangerously break the law. Since I was hit by a car when I was younger, I’ve been a super careful, almost paranoid driver. Why do the police come down so severely on so few?

I know that it’s my fault for not getting a license. When I arrived, I didn’t have much money so I totally cut corners to get by. I really can’t take any more “could have, should have, if only” stuff. I know I made a big mistake and I feel really shitty for it but now I’m being bullied and pushed around.

Sorry to message your ears off, but I don’t really trust anyone around me and I really need help. Thanks so much.

Ask Mr. Hartzell, but it sounds like they are trying to squeeze you. I would probably just tell them you are prepared to go to court if that is what they want – certainly if you can get witnesses that could mitigate the circumstances of your fault (like if the other person was talking on a cell phone, for example). If the other guy is somewhat at fault in your opinion, you should let them try and take you to court.
Remember, they can’t force you to pay them a cent without first going through legal channels.
But I am just thinking out loud here. Get some real legal advice.
Good luck.
(You have a car but not NT$200,000?)

Can you tell us what injuries the other party sustained? What kind of treatment did he get and where?

Here is some more info:

I don’t have a car, I have a 50cc scooter that cost 9000NT. I don’t own anything, I’m under 25 years old, this is my first “real” full time job out of university, and I have student loans.

About the guy, his scooter slide about 8-10 meters on its side before it stopped. He hit his head and as a result of some bleeding inside his skull cavity, he had surgery to drain the blood to prevent too much pressure building.

He spent 2 weeks in the hospital recovering, and his recovery has been normal. His doctor’s report says that he can’t work for three months and he should be careful. I think this is accurate but also preventative. I think that, chances are, the guy will spend some time recuperating but return to work in a few weeks. He is functioning like a tired but normal person. He’s 20 years old and in good health otherwise.

After the accident, I was the only person to stick around to talk to the police. I was leaving my bushiban when the accident happened; about 30 kids from age 10, plus all their parents, and 3 staff members from my office witnessed the accident. Nobody, not a single one, even the man who was sitting in his car less than a meter away, has offered any assistance and the police have not spoken to any witnesses. Someone moved my scooter away from the road so cars could get by, so the police could not measure the stopping distance of the other driver.

One thing.
try to find out had the other guy that crashed into you a license… and if he does in fact work…if he hasn’t and doesn’t you can use this as some leverage against them

If he is 20, and this is Tainan… he may not

Let the family go ahead and take legal action… they are just trying to get as much out of you now… let it a while…
The you may be able to get them down to maybe one third… if I got it down to that I would be happy.
Just write it off and get on with it… you will of course need a negotiator for this… As like everything Taiwanese… it may be open to a compromise or a cheaper price… most likely the family only want as much as you can give…thoughtful of them

As for the legalites of the whole thing… I don’t trust it here… no one probabily will come forward to back you up… since Taiwanese would prefer to stay out of it… and that guys family have probabily exageratted and manipulated the story already to the police

Better of course to get legal advice

Here are a couple more things:

He does work, the family brought a tax statement something or other with his yearly income. Whether or not he was working at the time of the accident is unclear, now that I think about it. I will try to find out if he had a license. I kept asking if his insurance company would be handling some of the costs and that question was never answered. I wonder why now.

He was taken to the ER at Tainan City Hospital and then transferred to a hospital in Kaohsiung. His medical costs (about $25,000) have been documented and reviewed properly. Part of his hospital costs include $1200 per day for a semi private hospital room instead of a fully covered 8 bed room. I thought that adding this on my tab wasn’t really fair.

Does sound like they’re trying to screw you for as much as they can. Like someone earlier said, it’d pay to send Richard a private message to get better or more formal advice on the legalities of the problem.

Your situation really sucks! I hope this will help!

The Civil Courts here are back logged and I heard that it will take years for your case to be completed. Taiwanese prefer to settle all cases outside of court because the cost of taking someone to court is astronomical and they won’t get very much money out of it.

I think that the family is just trying to put the pressure on you. Hold out and take control of the situation.

If I were you I’d make them a fair offer, whatever you figure for the damages say 20000 or so. Start low and see what they will accept. If they don’t want to be cooperative then tell them that the matter can be decided in the courts.

Surely this guy is covered by the National Health Insurance program and therefore should not have had to pay much at all.
You have not described how the accident occurred and why you think it is your fault. If you have all those witnesses, and a police report, you should have plenty of ammo should legal action be forthcoming.
I would say again, don’t pay anyone a cent until you have been legally compelled to do so.
By the way, you say: “The guy was speeding without his lights or a helmet on…” Hello! If you have witnesses to this, I find it hard to imagine that judges would award him much if anything.
Sit tight and don’t let them intimidate you into a shake-down.

I find many of the above comments very insightful and to the point.

I would also suggest that you have your Chinese associate (with your help) write up a one page summary of what happened, and then have each adult witness sign a copy. They should indicate their address, telephone, profession, ID card number, date of birth, age, etc.

This documentation could be very valuable if you do get called into court.

Here is an update and more details (for my own reference, too):

Here is exactly what happened:

I was leaving work at night. I was parked on the sidewalk facing the road. I pulled onto the shoulder to check the traffic before making an (illegal) left turn across a double yellow line. I checked left first, saw one person on a scooter, and waited for them to pass. As I waited, I checked the right side. The right side had only scooter drivers so the main part of the road was clear. I pulled out on to the road and stopped near the lines to wait for the other people to pass so I wouldn’t cut anyone off. I was virtually stopped, or only rolling, when someone crashed into me. All of the staff from my school who were outside say they didn’t see anything until after the impact. The guy had a helmet with him, but when people saw him the helmet was on the ground.

Anyway, I waited at my school with my boss to talk to the police, etc. Someone had moved my scooter after I got up so the police could not assess the scene.

My boss insisted we go to the ER to see how the guy was, so I went. Later, I checked the other guy’s bike to see if the lights were off. They were

Last week I met with the family and their “impartial” mediator to negotiate compensation. They asked for 300,000. I was prepared to offer 20,000. The mediator refused to share my offer with them. I didn’t like the way my boss handled things. She convinced me that the minimum I should offer is 100,000. I asked how much his insurance was supposed to cover but everyone kind of danced around the subject.

Today I asked my boss about that again. She says that they say, “Why should OUR insurance pay when it was HER fault?” What?

I went to a lawyer privately who told me that according to what I say, a 100,000 settlement is fair and what I can expect as a result from going to court.

So, can anyone answer these questions:

Who do you think is “more” at fault?
What can a judge do if I can’t pay 100,000?

Thanks; and I REALLY appreciate all of your input.

I suppose you wouldn’t consider skipping town and living life on the lam?

First off, it is important to find out if he used his National Health Insurance. If they did, and I bet so, then they don’t have much recourse to asking you to “reimburse” them. You could probably go the hospital and just ask if the guy used his insurance. They

A 20 year old guy in Tainan makes NT$28,000 per month? Doing what?! I know college grads in Taipei that do not make that much! He’s 20 years old, isn’t he a student? Shouldn’t he go into the military service soon? What do the tax forms say? Maybe they have property in his name that’s being rented out or something… I’m not a heartless asshole, just a skeptic. If they’re lying on his tax forms somehow, maybe it can be used against them. Do the tax forms show where he works? Get a copy and do more research.

It sounds like he was driving wrecklessly, probably without a license. Is insurance required for scooters? If so, you both are looking at being fined, which will cut into his “profits” from any possible lawsuit. (I don’t have a scooter, so I’m not sure either.) Had he been drinking that night? Most people, not just you, try to cut corners. I doubt that he had a license or insurance.

It’s a real shame what happened, but I think that empathy and not guilt should be what moves you. From the sounds of it, you were only partially at fault, maybe 50%. IF they are trying to cheat you, I don’t think that they should be given a dime. If they have legitimate expenses, then you should work out something reasonable. An arbitrary 100k due to custom or precident isn’t reasonable. IF you were solely responsible for the accident, the extra expenses for the private hospital room should be covered by you as a sign that you care about his recovery. But again, I doubt you were fully responsible. You boss was told “why should our insurance pay…?” But was any proof that they have insurance given? If they have added insurance, the company should try to contact you for compensation, not the injured guy’s mom. By paying the insurance company, they would have less of a case. Check again the expenses to see what else, if anything (meals for the mom?), was optional.

In the meantime, you should also consider your own expenses. No scooter now maybe? Taking taxis more often? How much money and time have you spent on this issue?

In the meantime, go get a license and insurance. If nothing else, this will show your sincerity to start respecting the law to the judge. You feel at fault for two reasons, no license and an illegal turn. Be more careful in the future and at least you won’t make the same mistake twice. This alone will make you feel better.

Good luck and take care.

In my very personal opinion (and I am no expert) both are at fault and each party should take care of their OWN damage or injuries.
At least I would not offer anything but rather see if they take you to court.

If he wasn’t wearing his helmet I would press for the fact that he sustained his injuries due to that, or in other words he would not have needed (expensive) treatment then.
Even he was wearing his helmet the fact that he lost it means he wasn’t wearing it properly.

Else I would also think that NHI covers the expenses.

Hence: don’t pay anything (yet).

I don’t knwo if you want more useless non-legal advice, but here’s what I reckon:

I think that the Chinese way of seeing things is that the one who is more injured is the wronged party and the other one should compensate. IE it doesn’t matter so much whose ‘fault’ it is. Of course this may not be the legal way of seeing it, but might help you when dealing with pre-court or out of court stuff.

I also think that your not having a license is just a side-issue, but of course you could get fined for that.

Was your bike insured (the compulsory insurance)? I’m probably wrong, but I thought that was some kind of 3rd party insurance, that might help.

I agree with the advice to offer a small amount that you’re willing and able to pay, and if they don’t accept, then wait for the whole court process and by the time it’s settled you should have sacved enough money for the worst eventuality.


You have a passport, right? An airplane ticket to somewhere else?

So what’s the problem? Photocopy your butt and fax it to the jerk and his family from the Nana Hotel in Bangkok and then cross the street for a cold Singha.

I thought about the 20-year-old’s “lost wages” as well. I would like to see just what this youngster was supposedly doing that he cannot now.

Moreover, I thought about this more last night and concluded that he must have paid for treatment with the National Health Insurance – over 95 percent of the nation’s citizens are covered. Finding out exactly how much the family had to pay would be powerful leverage, I think.
Also, I am still fuzzy on the circumstances of the accident, but I assume that the bike you were on had some damage as well? Are you not entitled to ask for some compensation?

I am still of the mind to advise not to pay anything until forced to do so. It may be a one-trick pony, but if you pay a little here, they may decide later that you should pay a little there too.

I also agree that it sounds like both of you were somewhat at fault (although it is true that the more injured is the “wronged” individual in Taiwan).

Finally, if you are pressured, just say: “I’m working on that.” “I’m doing what I can,” etc. – don’t say anything definitive. This is the game that they don’t want you to play. The onus is on them to act legally. It is up to you to play it cool.

yes, I have the forced insurance. My bike(and I mean, scooter) was repaired for $600 and aside from some aches and bruises I emerged unscathed.
I’ve decided to keep the matter out of my boss’ hands and let the family try to take me to court. I need some advice now on how to undertake some of the research I need to do.
Here are the questions I have determined need answering:
Was he drunk (and how can I prove it)
Was he talking on his cell phone (and how can I prove it)
What does he do for a living and was he working at the time (and how can I make sure that, if I am forced to compensate him for 3 months, he will not return to work)
Does he have a license
Did he use his NHI at the hospital

And, I found out yesterday that I was mistaken about his age; he’s 28. At the “negotiation” they brought a tax form stating his yearly salary as being about $335K.

I haven’t heard any news from their side, other than they called my boss to invite us for dinner over the weekend… What the?

Does anyone know, if I skip town, can this follow me to Canada?

Again, thanks for all of your input.

1) Was he drunk (and how can I prove it)
  1. Was he talking on his cell phone (and how can I prove it)

  2. What does he do for a living and was he working at the time (and how can I make sure that, if I am forced to compensate him for 3 months, he will not return to work)

  3. Does he have a license

  4. Did he use his NHI at the hospital

No. 1
No way to tell now.

No. 2
Look for witnesses.

No. 3
I wouldn’t worry about this now. IF there is court action, you will have the right to see all the papers (since the judge will order it – he’s not going to grant the payment of lost wages based on pie-in-the-sky claims, nor on old tax sheet (he could be unemployed now).

No. 4

No. 5
This, I believe, should be what you pursue first. This is the key to the whole deal. If they paid NT$3,000 for their part of the total (the lion’s share being picked up by the NHI), then they are clearly not trying to be reinbursed. They just want retribution money.
Go find out if he used the NHI and how much he paid (if they will tell you the last part). At any rate, the court will want to see ALL these documents and I have a sneaking suspicion that this is why they want you to pay now, outside of court. Pretty hard to claim expenses you did not incur.

—Also, I would get a copy of the police report and get it translated so you can understand it. There may be a tidbit of telling evidence there that could eventually help you.

–Finally, don’t go to dinner with them. Sounds like they sense that you may be starting to slip off the hook and want to butter you up for another try at a shake-down. Dining with them serves no purpose. Remain aloof.