There are few more difficult situations for accident victims and their families than a hit-and-run crash. Not knowing who harmed you or a loved one can be excruciating, especially when it comes to paying for the resulting medical bills -- or, in the case of death, the funeral and associated costs.
Two San Jose, California, parents have endured this agony for the past 16 months, ever since their teenage daughter was critically injured by a hit-and-run driver. A traumatic brain injury has left her in a coma since the accident and although she's shown some slight improvement, her parents describe her recovery as a waiting game.
The accident happened in January 2011 as the girl, then 15, and her boyfriend were walking home from a party one night. As they were crossing a street a black SUV hit her and left the scene without stopping. Police have vigorously investigated, but they admit they have little to go on beyond a grainy surveillance video from a nearby store.
In the meantime, the teen's medical bills have continued to pile up. In the first four months after the accident, her medical bills came to $1.3 million. Insurance covered some of the cost, but her family is having trouble keeping up with out-of-pocket expenses and care that isn't covered. They've had to rely on donations from friends, family and well-wishers, some of which came through benefits held for her.
The former cheerleader's parents describe their daughter as a happy, fun-loving girl with a creative side and a penchant for colorful clothing. At times she's shown emotion even as she remains unconscious -- for example, the time tears came out of her eyes as her grandmother sang "Que Sera Sera (What Will Be, Will Be)" to her. Her close friends also continue to visit, holding her hand as they update her on everything going on in their lives. They realize she should be sharing these days at school, talking about prom and applying for college. But her friends say it's all the good memories they have that keeps them optimistic.
Her family has kept their expectations for her recovery realistic, but they can't help but wonder if the driver who critically injured her will ever be found and held responsible. Until that happens, they'll continue to rely on the kindness of those around them to cover all of the costs of their daughter's care.
Source: Mercury News, "Shea Shaw, 17 - still in a coma sixteen months later - still bravely battling for life," Joe Rodriguez, May 7, 2012
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