HUMANIST.TV Founder Hit by Car!
AAA Insurance Adjusters Defend Reckless Driver & Blame Innocent Victim in Attempt to Refuse to Pay Reasonable Damages
HUMANIST.TV Founder, George A. Titsworth IV, sustained injuries after being hit by a speeding car while riding bicycles with his daughter, Alicia, in a highly pedestrian part of downtown Santa Cruz, California on October 30th, 2012.
George Titsworth's left leg after the "accident"
According to witnesses, the driver sped up suddenly and rammed Mr. Titsworth from behind with his car's right fender, causing Mr. Titsworth to tumble to the ground violently, and become painfully tangled up in his bicycle.
George A. Titsworth IV
As if being run down by a car wasn't bad enough ...the driver, Jerry Barnes, followed up by jumping out of his car and verbally attacking Mr. Titsworth while he sat dazed on the street!
The driver proceeded to angrily explain to the first responding police officer ...that he believed he was legally justified in hitting Mr. Titsworth ...because Mr. Titsworth had refused to move over to the right when Mr. Barnes honked his horn while driving toward Mr. Titsworth at a high rate of speed.
George Titsworth's left arm after "accident"
Mr. Barnes told police that he believed he was within his legal rights to hit Mr. Titsworth with his car ...because just prior to hitting his gas pedal, he'd noticed both bicycle's tail lights next to each other, leading him to believe that George and his daughter were riding side-by-side ...rather than single file ...as Mr. Barnes feels that bicyclists should ride.
So Mr. Barnes claims, for this reason, he made a conscious decision to aggressively use his car to force Mr. Titsworth to move closer to the right side of the road.
Mr. Titsworth explained that he rides on streets only when laws forbid riding on the sidewalks ...and when forced to ride on the street he makes it a habit to ride behind, and two to three feet to the left of his daughter ...in an attempt to inspire motorists to give her an extra safety margin when passing.
When asked why he didn't move over immediately after Mr. Barnes honked and revved his engine ...Mr. Titsworth said when he first heard the engine revving he was afraid an aggressive driver might not see his daughter if he immediately moved over ...so he felt that this was a situation in which it was especially important to attempt to make sure the speeding car could see him and to try to get the car to move over far enough to ensure his daughter's safety while passing her.
Scene of the "accident"
Mr. Titsworth went on to explain that it was his intention to use the traffic light at the end of Cooper Street to take a left on Front Street before jogging right into the parking lot behind the Regal Riverfront Cinema.
So Mr. Titsworth says he started to move out into the middle of the lane to claim his position in line at the traffic signal ...and when he heard Mr. Barnes rev his engine and honk ...Mr. Titsworth looked over his left shoulder to make sure Mr. Barnes could see that he was using the lane.
When Mr. Titsworth saw that Mr. Barnes was accelerating toward him at a high rate of speed as he honked ...Mr. Titsworth says he instinctively attempted to dodge to the right at the last second but was unable to avoid being hit by the approaching car's right front fender. Mr. Titsworth tumbled to the pavement at approximately the location of the bicycle shown leaning next the tree in the picture above.
Traffic normally moves at bicycle speed on Cooper St
According to witnesses on the scene, Mr. Barnes angrily insisted to the responding police officer that hitting a bicyclist with his car was legally permissible ...if a bicyclist didn't stay far enough to the right ...to avoid being hit by an approaching motorist!
Mr. Barnes initially told the police officer that the reason Mr. Titsworth was hit was because he had swerved to the left ...but Mr. Titsworth says any movements he made to the left were well in advance of Mr. Barnes hitting him ...and that he was riding straight up the street by the time Mr. Barnes gunned his accelerator and struck him with his car.
Two eye-witnesses verified Mr. Titsworth's side of the story to the police officer on the scene, after which the police officer began shaking his finger in Mr. Barnes' face and loudly saying, "YOU ARE WRONG!" to him over and over until Mr. Barnes finally quit trying to dishonestly justify his actions.
Indeed, part of the problem with Mr. Barnes' story is that ...it's inherently reckless to pass on Cooper Street ...because passing entails racing for a short distance before breaking hard while cutting back over before reaching Front Street. The pictures above show that there's simply no excuse for passing anyone on Cooper Street unless they're stopped in the road ...in which case the law requires motorists to proceed slowly and take special care not to hit the vehicle or person stopped in the road.
George Titsworth's left ankle after "accident"
This "accident" left Mr. Titsworth with painful bruises and abrasions all over his body. As well as a torn tendon in his right elbow which took 14 months to heal (along with less severe tendon damage to his left elbow) ...and a permanent impairment resulting from a torn meniscus in his left knee, which is something that doctors say will never heal, and can't be repaired with surgery.
George Titsworth's right hip after the "accident"
So it would be reasonable to assume that Mr. Titsworth would at least be able to expect to be reimbursed for the cost of his medical treatment ...as well as his lost wages while on doctor's orders not to work ...and maybe a little extra for pain and suffering ...right? Wrong!!
Mr. Barnes was only covered for the legal minimum of $15,000 (according to two AAA claims adjusters) ...and Mr. Titsworth's doctor ordered him to not use his right hand at all and strictly limit use of his left ...no turning screwdrivers, no lifting over 15 pounds, very limited typing ...making him unemployable in his area of expertise ...for 14 months.
As if all that isn't bad enough ...Mr. Titsworth's doctor told him to avoid kneeling for the rest of his life!
Mr. Titsworth was in the business of bidding and installing solar systems, and other building mechanical systems at the time of his injury. $15,000 is a mere fraction of what Mr. Titsworth would have otherwise made in 14 months.
So ...all that's a bummer ...but at least Mr. Titsworth can expect to be paid $15,000 by Mr. Barnes' insurance company, right?
After all this the AAA insurance adjuster is excusing Mr. Barnes' actions ...questioning liability ...and only offering Mr. Titsworth $10,000! Basically an amount calculated to make it not worthwhile to sue for the full $15,000.
Incredibly ...the AAA insurance adjuster is invoking the "Jerry Barnes" defense ...blaming Mr. Titsworth for his perfectly legal attempt to use the traffic light to turn left ...and actually made excuses for Jerry Barnes' inexcusably dangerous driving.
According to AAA claims adjuster, Robert Pereira:
"As far as the loss itself, I continue to question liability in that our insured claims you were riding in the middle of the lane, and he honked his horn before passing you on the left. He claims that you turned left into his path when you looked over your left shoulder. The police report mentions in your statement that you admitted turning to the left and you also admitted that you were riding in the middle of the lane instead of to the far right, as vehicle code requires."
Looking over your left shoulder ...pulling over to the left ...and riding a bicycle in the middle of the lane ...are all proper "vehicle code" procedure for a bicyclist preparing to claim a place in line for a traffic light in order to turn left.
See the second provision in this excerpt from the California Vehicle Code below...
Operation on Roadway
21202. A. Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:
- When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
- When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
- When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a "substandard width lane" is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
- When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
...now check out provision number three above. And look at the scene of the "accident" in the picture below...
According to actual "vehicle code" requirements, Mr. Barnes was required by law to give Mr. Titsworth use of the entire lane ...required to pull completely over into the oncoming lane as if passing a car (or to simply slow down for safety's sake) ...because there is not enough room for a bicycle and a car to safely travel side by side within the lane with cars parked on the side of the street (as they were that evening).
California Vehicle Code indicates that a bicyclist is entitled to the entire lane on roads like Cooper Street:
"When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a "substandard width lane" is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
According to California law ...if there are cars parked on the side of a road like Cooper Street ...bicyclists are supposed to be given the use of the entire lane ...because the lane becomes too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane ...and any car that wishes to pass must use the oncoming lane to do so. For the sake of safety, a bicycle must keep far enough away from cars parked on the side of the street to avoid suddenly opened doors (or else ride really slowly).
As long as a bicyclist stays within the right lane ...there is simply no excuse for any motorist who hits a bicycle on Cooper Street. To pass at a high enough speed to cause injury ...and to hit a bicyclist traveling within the right lane during this (supposed) attempt to pass ...is an open-and-shut case of reckless driving ...in this case also vehicular assault.
Mr. Barnes admitted to seeing the tail light on Mr. Titsworth's bicycle ...and Mr. Barnes admits that Mr. Titsworth was in the middle of the right lane on the part of Cooper Street pictured above when he hit Mr. Titsworth with his car ...Mr. Barnes admitted to feelings of rage at Mr. Titsworth for using the middle of the lane ...Mr. Barnes admits to honking his horn while accelerating to "pass" closely enough to intimidate ...which ultimately resulted in Mr. Titsworth being hit and seriously injured by Mr. Barnes' car.
And after Mr. Titsworth had been injured as a result of Mr. Barnes' enraged driving, Mr. Barnes continued to express his rage by getting out and verbally attacking Mr. Titsworth.
Elbow, arm & rib bruises after "accident"
Yet somehow the Santa Cruz police report ends up being written in such a way (according to Robert Pereira) as to blame the injured victim for this "accident" ...indicating that Mr. Titsworth's lawful attempt to use the upcoming traffic signal in accordance with California Vehicle Code/Bicycle Law ...somehow absolved Mr. Barnes of blame for driving his car into Mr. Titsworth's lane and striking him hard enough with his car to cause permanent injuries?
George Orwell would probably roll over in his grave if he could hear this insurance adjuster portray someone confessing to vehicular assault as simply trying to lawfully "pass" a bicyclist ...while simultaneously portraying a father trying to protect his daughter as a reckless lawbreaker who deserved to get hurt!
Mr. Titsworth's actions were clearly within the law but he was deemed in violation of "vehicle code" and deserving of the injuries he sustained? ...Mr. Barnes entered Mr. Titsworth's lane (unlawfully) while "passing" with a stated intention of coming dangerously close at an intimidating rate of speed ...and he ran a bicyclist down with his car ...and Mr. Barnes' behavior is being excused by the Santa Cruz police as well as by the AAA claims adjuster who's been assigned to decide what compensation Mr. Titsworth should get for his injuries?!
"As far as the loss itself, I continue to question liability in that our insured claims you were riding in the middle of the lane, and he honked his horn before passing you on the left..." "...you also admitted that you were riding in the middle of the lane instead of to the far right, as vehicle code requires." - Robert Pereira AAA claims adjuster
But again ...in reality ...vehicle code required Mr. Barnes to give Mr. Titsworth the entire lane. A bike riding in the middle of the lane gives a car plenty of space to pass using the oncoming lane ...much more space than another car pulled over as far as possible to the right in fact.
And, in yet another Orwellian twist of the language, here's AAA claims adjuster Robert Pereira's idea of "fair" compensation for the losses Mr. Titsworth has suffered do to the injuries Mr. Barnes gave him...
"I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your additional medical records and reports. After further review, I feel our offer of $10,000 is fair."
There you have it. $10,000 is what AAA considers to be "fair" compensation for losses suffered by an injury victim who couldn't work for 14 months due to torn tendons.
And even $15,000 doesn't come close to being a truly fair settlement for someone who will suffer knee pain and inability to walk very far for the rest of his life as a result of the biggest cartilage in his knee suffering a complex tear.
But as it turns out ...there was not actually a $15,000 limit on Mr. Barnes' accident coverage. That was a bold faced lie told to Mr. Titsworth by his first insurance adjuster ...a lie Mr. Pereira covered for by refusing to show Mr. Titsworth the details of Mr. Barnes' insurance policy.
Mr. Titsworth found out about this lie as a result of complaining to a AAA mediator about the terrible treatment he'd received from AAA claims adjusters. The AAA mediator let it slip that there was not actually a $15,000 limit on Mr. Barnes' accident coverage (Mr. Titsworth caught her confession on an audio recording).
So after catching two heartless AAA insurance adjusters twisting facts (and lying) to cast blame on the injured party ...and after defending Mr. Barnes' indefensible act of vehicular assault ...Mr. Titsworth was finally offered $15,000 if he would agree to not ask for the details of Mr. Barnes' policy limit that could be used as proof he'd been lied to.
Upon discovering that Delores Hobaugh had let it slip that Mr. Barnes did not actually have a $15,000 injury reimbursement limit on his liability insurance policy, Mr. Pereria wrote:
"Dear Mr. Titsworth,
I understand you spoke to Dolores Hobaugh with our corporate office. This is to confirm that our position remains the same in that I can pay you $10,000 for a settlement of your injury claim. If you would be willing to accept $15,000 as you have been demanding, and we agree that we will not provide you with a copy of our declaration page, I will consider it. Please respond today, as I will be out on vacation starting tomorrow..."
This amounts to a cynical "black hat" negotiating tactic too. Because by forcing an injured party to sue to find out what the insurance policy will pay for injuries, the injured party risk paying more to lawyers than the policy will reimburse.
Mr. Titsworth figured after all that ugliness from AAA he risked spending more money on legal representation than what Mr. Barnes' real policy maximum might be ...so he decided to cut his losses and take the $15,000 offer.
Americans are forced by law to pay a lot of money for auto insurance ...presumably so that if anyone is injured the way Mr. Titsworth was injured they won't suffer financial hardship as a result. But what the law forces us to pay often ends up mostly paying to employ people like the AAA insurance adjusters Mr. Titsworth encountered (and the wealthy executives who hire these ethically questionable people).
Seems like in a case like Mr. Titsworth's bicycle "accident" ...a truly ethical insurance company would pay the policy maximum and apologize it wasn't enough to fully reimburse an injured person's losses ...and then simply raise the premiums a reckless driver like Jerry Barnes have to pay to obtain the insurance coverage necessary for this kind of hostile driver to retain their driving privileges (or ideally seek to cancel their driving privileges). Increasing what it costs for dangerous drivers to drive will either force them to drive more carefully in the future ...or make it too expensive for them to drive if they don't shape up.
Both scenarios keep us all safer.
But instead we allow insurance companies to portray people who requests reasonable reimbursement for their real losses as being greedy people who are causing all our insurance rates to go up.
And what about Jerry Barnes? Not only wasn't this guy charged with vehicular assault, or for giving a false statement to the police ...but he apparently still has a license to drive and is still insurable.
What if Mr. Barnes decides to teach you a lesson someday for something along the lines of trying to create a safety buffer between your daughter and passing cars while you're out riding bicycles?