While driving north on Hiway 1 just north of Hsinchu on my 125 MS with my wife as a passenger, a young man decided to stop at a sugar cane stand. He had just passed me and I was travelling at about 60 kph. He didn't look to see if he would be cutting anybody off before he pulled into my lane, which is the shoulder area. He pulled quickly in front of me and hammerred the brakes. I was able to swerve slightly to the right and hit his right side of the bumber and fender. The collision propelled me off the bike and I hit face down on the shoulder of the road. Resulting damage was a broken nose, lacerations above my right eye and a face that suddenly looked like a ruptured watermelon. (It wasn't much to look at before but I could tell that this was not going to be a defining improvement. I was out until just before the ambulance arrived. My wife hurt her back and leg but no lacerations. A female passerby was kind enough to stop and take a bunch of pictures which I ultimately got during the investigation. The accident occurred on August 1, 2004. I spent about a week in the hospital and a couple more days recovering at home before going back to work. At the hospital, the driver showed up with two red envelopes. He handed one to me and one to my wife. I could tell by the feel that it was a very small offerring. I learned later that it was 2,000 NT each. My wife politely thanked him and returned the envelopes. We knew that you have 6 months to reach a negotiated settlement so on the first trip back to the area from Taipei, we filled out all the accident reports and the officer, as noted in the first post here, tried to assign blame to the car driver. He argued with the police but we ended up having the first, but impromptu settlement conference. I offerred to settle for a million, which I new was WAY too high for here and he offerred zero becuase he didnt have any money, he lived with but supported his dying disabled uncle, he had sold his car to live. The police explained that I must negotiate so I reduced to 900k, thinking he would increase by some amount. Nope. Again an offer of zero. Now I am being asked to again negotiate. This ended the first conference.
We were called by the police to meet at the police station for a negotiation conference. This was about Christmas. We went to the local station but I had a rep from FAP in Zhubei meet us there. After waiting for more than 2 hours for the police officer to arrive, the FAP guy left and the police got there a few minutes later. We went through another farce of negotiations and made no further headway although later the driver claimed to have offerred 40,000 each. Maybe I misunderstood but those numbers were never relayed to me. A week before the 6 month deadline, I made another appointment for negotiations. The police set the date for the evening of the deadline. I had learned that if we could not settle, the police, upon a request from either party, must transfer the case to the local court. Negotiations failed to make any headway and we asked to transfer the case. The ploice officer put together all the documents, we thumprinted the borders and left. We were denied a copy of the officer's report but were given a sketch of the scene.
Now, it's February and after waiting a couple weeks, I call the police to see why I have not heard anything. I was told that "these things take time" and that I should wait to hear from the court. Now I go into monthly phone call mode. In about September of 2005 I learned that the case had not left the police. It was still on the officer's desk. I confronted him about it and was told he would send it immediately. This went on for three more weeks. It was only after I called FAP again that they were able to pressure the police into actually sending the documents to the court.
We finally got our first summons to appear in the Hsinchu court. The FAP again were great. A rep met us at the court and helped with translation. My wife is Taiwanese so she understands but is hesitant about translating for me. She tries but is very disturbed because she's afraid she will make a mistake. We all made statements on the record. The negotiations were also explained. In the driver's statement he announced that he has offerred 200,000 each plus the insurance for medicals but that we had refused. The judge ultimately sent the case to an accident reconstruction company and we each paid an additional 1,500 NT for the service. At this point, I am out of pocket about 150,000 and my wife is out about 50,000. But now I am pissed so anothr 1500 goes down the toilet. We finally receive a summons to appear before the reconstruction board. The FAP guy couldn't make it so I was a bit unsure about the language barrier but accepted my fate, determined to do the best I could. The board turned out to be a group of highly educated and English speaking professors. Nice change. They made short work of the nonsense and pronounced the other driver 100% at fault. They explained that I would hear from the court in about a week. Well, I heard from the court last week. They have ordered the other driver to spend 6 months in jail or buy himself out at the rate of 500 NT per day. (Total of 90,000 NT) The hearing date is yet to come and I have not heard from the defendant. We have the option of appealing the decision, as does the defendant.
EDIT: My wife's family attorney agreed to file the suit for us. We met yesterday and made the copies of receipts, gluing all to A4 paper. He had the complaint drafted and we signed. I did not mention before that the 90,000 NT fine by the court is exactly that - a fine and retained by the government. I simply do not feel that anyone with financial means to pay a judgment obtained in the suit would spend sx months sitting out the fine. To keep family harmony, it seems am destined to spend several more days over the next few months travelling to Hsinchu and sitting in court rooms. Bottom line - I will be greatly surprised if this guy ever pays a dime and the damn thing is occupying too much of my time and energy. Never-the-less, I must see it through to ever have any peace at home. Such is life.
From talking with others about their experiences with indigent drivers, I think you can expect about the same course of events. The bottom line is - BE CAREFUL. You can get through the mess but there was at least a few people that did not think I would be in Taiwan long enough to see this through. I will be. You may not be. It is now going on 18 months!
Edit: I want to thank Mordeth for the observations posted subsequent to my original post. perhaps in hindsight it would have been better to file the suit immediately but we were hopeful that with a determination of fault by the reconstruction board and some jail time looming that some family member of the defendant might step foreward to lend him some financial assistance. Even if we had filed early, there would still have been the issue of fault and proof to offer in the court. Again, just be careful.
Edit February 24, 2006
We received the most recent summons last week. Rather I should say that my wife received one but I did not. No one can tell me why I don't get the documents from the court. In any event we both went for our scheduled appearance at the Summary Court in Zhubei. The court was, as expected running an hour or so late. No problem. I understand how that goes. What was surprising was that the investigating officer had also been summoned. This time we had a no nonsense judge who immediately strated questioning the police officer about any familial relationship with the defendant. He answered that he did not but she was clearly perturbed that he had taken a year to transfer the case to the court after our request that he do so. I had always wondered why the first officer to arrive was not the investigating officer. I know that sometimes happens with an inexperieinced traffic investigator but now, combined with the officer's recalcitrance, delays, etc and his taking the case over from another officer, I rather wonder about who is related to the defendant. The officer was rather sheepish under questioning. I was again asked the course of events and replied in English with my wife translating. The court adjorned with the judge telling us that we should go into the hallway and settle the matter. Since we had already filed the civil suit we contacted the family lawyer who suggested that we demand our bottom dollar and stick to it and to settle with the insurance company for "out of pocket" or special damages. We made our demand and stuck to it. We again heard the diatribe about his dying disabled uncle/grandfater (the story changes depending on the day of the week). We held our guns and left the court with a promise that he would consult his family and let us know no later than the following Tuesday. We'll see.
Edit: March 2, 2006
Still no word from the defendant. My wife received a notice from the defendant to appear again in Hsinchu on the 15th of March for a mediation hearing. The family lawyer has told us to disregard the notice as it is optional and will do nothing except cause us another trip south. He has also done a 3,000 NT survey for assets and found only salary and a car of little value. He has now informed the defendant that any further mediation will occur in his office and at his convenience. I think the wife is starting to smell the roses. She reminds me of a pit bull with a meatless bone locked tightly in the jaws. No meat but she isn't letting go. I wouldn't want her pissed off at me.