Hundreds of thousands of drivers in Pennsylvania are driving without car insurance.
That means they are breaking the law as soon as they get behind the wheel, and when they’re blamed for a crash, their action can break the bank accounts of their victims.
It is worse when a victim needs medical attention.
Eight-year-old Destiny Miller was walking with her cousins outside their mobile home park in Bradford County in July.
Neighbor Ronald Chesla was driving home in his girlfriend`s car when he took a turn too wide and plowed into the children.
“People are running up to the house, scared,” recalled Destiny’ mother, Kathy Miller. “(They screamed) ‘Destiny just got hit, Destiny just got hit.’”
Destiny’s cousins had minor injuries.
Emergency crews flew her to Geisinger Medical Center near Danville where was unconscious and in critical condition. She survived after days in intensive care.
About the time medical bills started coming, the Millers learned Ronald Chesla was not insured to drive the car that hit Destiny.
“I stopped counting her bills after $120,000,” Kathy Miller said.
The Miller`s own insurance paid a fraction of Destiny`s $29,000 bill for helicopter transport to the hospital.
Their insurance pays a portion of Destiny’s physical therapy for her injured back, and about half of the $200 a month for Destiny’s prescriptions.
“She has to take medication because her headaches are so severe she throws up,” said Miller. “She doesn`t sleep.”
An estimated seven percent of Pennsylvania drivers, drive without insurance That`s one in 12 drivers on the road.
“When they choose to not pay for insurance, they can find themselves in a more dire situation,” said Anita Wasko, Director of Pennsylvania`s Bureau of Motor Vehicles. She said people caught driving without insurance can have their license suspended for three months.
“I’ve received letters from customers and folks who say they can`t drive to work now. They can`t earn a living.”
Ronald Chesla wasn’t home when Newswatch 16 wanted to ask him about the consequences of driving without insurance,
He pleaded guilty in November to four traffic violations and paid $440. 50 in fines.
“He got away with it, nothing,” noted Kathy Miller. “A few fines, big deal.”
Kathy Miller hired a lawyer to sue the Chesla, but in addition to not having insurance, the driver didn`t appear to have any assets.
The lawyer told the Millers going to court was fruitless, because there would be no money to collect.
Now the family gets daily calls from debt collectors while Destiny continues her recovery.
A bill before the Pennsylvania legislature promises a crackdown on drivers caught driving without insurance. They would be jailed for their third offense.
Last summer’s accident was only the first time that Ronald Chesla was cited for driving without auto insurance.