Millions of dollars. That is the amount Timothy Brown* believes he has lost in income for the past 15 years. He has not able been able to hold a full-time job since surviving a motorcycle crash back in 2008.
Brown may have survived, but he did not walk away unscathed. He walks with a severe limp because of the crash, and he still feels pain in both legs on occasions. The Westmoreland native was riding to work on his motorcycle one morning when he collided with a car travelling in the opposite direction. That accident was a turning point for the former security guard, who is now unable to hold jobs because of his inability to stand or walk for long.
“I was riding to work one morning when I overtook a car and misjudged the distance between myself and the other vehicle travelling in the opposite direction. I collided with the vehicle and was thrown from my motorcycle. I wasn’t wearing protective gear or a helmet, so I ended up sustaining head injuries. Both my legs were broken and huge chunks of flesh were missing. I also had scrapes and scratches on my hands,” he said.
“I was 22 at the time and the main provider for my family. I was in the hospital for three months and lost my job. I also used the motorcycle to carry goods for small shops in my community and I lost that income too,” he added.
Brown said after being discharged from hospital, he received a bill for $47,000 for the pins in his legs and a whopping $700,000 for another round of surgeries to correct the limp he now has.
“I did not pay for the hospital bill. However, my family struggled to find the money. They spent an average of $700 per day on meals when they visited. My medication was $70,000 in total which my family struggled to afford. I was also required to do physiotherapy, which cost $5,000 per session. I only did about six which was $30,000 because we could not afford it,” he said.
“I was told I would require surgery to correct the limp, which was $700,000. I could not afford it because I wasn’t working and my sister who was now the family breadwinner could not afford it either,” he added, choosing instead to live with the pain and disability.
Brown aid the income lost and cost of treatment has run into the millions.
“Job-wise, I have probably lost about $6 million and with the accident I am looking at even more money. I can’t find full-time employment and so I have to do odd jobs to care for myself’” he revealed.Brown said he is thankful he has no children, but, his sister Marie Smith* added that caring for her brother has been challenging.
“It has been difficult looking after him and the wider family because my income can’t stretch sometimes. He does a little work here and there but it is not enough to sustain him so I have to assist where possible,” she revealed.
Owen Smith, General Manager, Jamaica Automobile Association, said Brown’s expenses to aid in his recovery is in line with the findings of the Cost of Care Report, a report commissioned and funded by the United Nations and the JN Foundation in 2017.
“The UN and JN Foundation Cost of Care Report presented the case of a 24-year-old motorcyclist who was hit by a motor car. The report said at the time it cost approximately $9 million to treat him. Consider that report was compiled roughly about eight years ago when things were less expensive. Also, when you consider the salaries of the nurses, doctors, ward assistants, things like soaps and other costs associated with the victim’s stay in hospital, you’re looking at probably close to $15 million,” he surmised/ guesstimated.
Mr Smith continued: “In Mr Brown’s case, where he was the breadwinner, you’re looking at a family that has found it even more difficult to survive economically over the past 15 years. Therefore, we need to emphasize to motorcyclists especially, the need to wear protective gear such as helmets. There also needs to be messaging about responsible road usage such as adhering to the road code, paying attention to road markings and traffic signals.”
The General Manager added that the economic and social impacts of road crashes on families and the country are the main reason the JAA has remained a major advocate for road safety. He explained that up to November 23 there were some 367 road fatalities from 333 collisions. Of that number, 115 were motorcyclists.
He added that in an effort to reduce the number of road crashes and fatalities among motorcyclists, the JAA has been encouraging bikers to wear helmets when riding. He said the Association recently partnered with the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) to donate 700 helmets to bikers, through his organisation, and more will be done to advocate for helmet wearing.
“The donation of the helmets reflects a part of FIA’s commitment to road users; and as FIA’s key partner in Jamaica for almost a century, the JAA has always been committed in advocating for best practices as it relates to road use.
Marlon Fletcher, former president of the Jamaica Motorcyclists Association, added that motorcycle enthusiasts locally should wear helmets because they save lives.
“Riding a motorcycle without a helmet is like exposing yourself to a contagious disease without taking the necessary precautions,” he said. They have been shown to reduce the risk of serious injuries with the only disadvantage being that it can be hot inside them. Helmets save lives and so bikers should invest in them. They can cost anywhere from $7,800 to $46,800 so affordability should not be a deterrent,” he pointed out.
“Also, some of the riders spend more money per year on their bikes than they do on purchasing a helmet. The key thing in purchasing a helmet is to make sure it is certified by the United States Department of Transport or another equally relevant body. They save lives, so bikers should not be afraid to wear them,” he said.
Names changed upon request*