Uninsured Drivers Can Ruin Others After Accidents

Maryland Ranks High For Uninsured Drivers

BALTIMORE — Uninsured drivers can seriously harm and financially devastate insured drivers. But the WBAL-TV 11 News I-Team discovered just how easy it is for those lawbreakers to get on the road.

WBAL-TV 11 News I-Team reporter Barry Simms reported how Westminster resident Frank Tippett tries to focus on recovery following a crash that sent him to Shock Trauma in January.

“For a long time, I couldn’t lift my legs,” Tippett said.

Tippett vividly remembers the crash on Maryland Route 97 near Westminster. Simms said the impact crushed Tippett’s wrist and arm in addition to breaking his leg and ankle, requiring him to undergo surgery.

“They had to remove three feet of my lower intestine because it had been pushed behind my heart,” Tippett said.

The crash was bad enough, but what really angers Tippett is the other driver, Victor Bastida, who never should have been behind the wheel.

When asked whether he had insurance at the time of the crash, Bastida replied: “No, at that time, I didn’t have insurance.”

The 11 News I-Team has discovered that the Motor Vehicle Administration revoked Bastida’s driver’s license in 2004. But state police still have not charged Bastida with the crash involving Tippett, or for driving illegally.

“You can’t issue a citation if they are on a gurney going to the hospital, so you have to do a follow-up investigation later,” Maryland State Police Sgt. Rob Moroney said of Bastida.

“When I found out he wasn’t being charged, that was like being punched in the stomach,” Tippett said.

State police said arresting illegal drivers helps, but there really is no way to stop anyone willing to risk driving without a license or insurance.

Bastida claimed his car hit a patch of ice before ramming into Tippett, and that he was also seriously injured.

Police said their investigation continues. Simms said authorities have up to one year and one day to file charges.

Meanwhile, Tippett would like to file a lawsuit, but realizes he may not receive much in terms of compensation. Tippett’s medical and rehabilitation bills reach into the tens of thousands of dollars, and he doesn’t have enough uninsured motorist coverage to pay it all.

“It’s been a painful accident. I don’t want anybody else to go through that pain,” Tippett said.

To this day, Bastida continues to drive his car.

“I drive the truck when I don’t have no one to take me to work. I have to drive,” he said.

Bastida said he has a Mexican driver’s license, but he couldn’t produce it at the time of the interview.

Maryland Ranks High For Uninsured Drivers

A study by the Insurance Research Council ranks Maryland 13th for uninsured drivers. Tippett’s attorney, Bill Finch, calls uninsured drivers a big problem.

“Some folks look upon the car as an absolute God-given right, even though [[they]] don’t have any insurance,” Finch said.

Simms asked Bastida how he was able to get a car without insurance, to which he replied: “I buy, they didn’t ask for insurance. They didn’t ask for it.” Bastida claimed he purchased the Saturn car at a Pennsylvania auction.

Finch said all Bastida had to do was provide the name of an insurance company and a bogus policy number at the time of the sale.

“That individual used just totally fictitious information,” Finch said.

Simms reported the same could happen in Maryland because the state works on an honor system. To get a title or register a car, you must indicate you have insurance, simply by writing down the name of your insurance company and a policy number.

Initially, the MVA has no way of knowing whether that information is true or false.

“There’s a section you sign certifying that this information is true and accurate,” MVA spokesman Buel Young explained.

But the MVA isn’t able to confirm the information for about 45 days, well after license plates are issued. Simms reported the state is considering methods to address the issue, including possibly reducing auto insurance rates.

“If we can moderate the price, hopefully we can increase the number of insured and decrease the number of uninsured,” said Al Redmer, the state’s insurance commissioner.

Maryland officials are also considering a computer data-sharing system in operation in Delaware. Police can access that database from their cars to verify driver’s licenses, registration and insurance information, after which they can confiscate the vehicle tags of violators.

How You Can Protect Yourself

The state requires that drivers carry a minimum amount of uninsured motorist coverage, but the personal injury lawyer the 11 News I-Team spoke with said that’s simply not enough.

Finch suggested increasing insurance coverage to an amount equal to your own amount of liability insurance.

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