It was the last day of school, a warm, sunny June day, and 16-year-old Ben Budesheim was racing down a long hill from a friend’s house on his tricked-out BMX bike, headed for a festival in Sand Lake.
“In those days, he used to routinely ride 20 miles on his bike,” Ben’s dad, Edward remembers. “It was nothing to him. Being 16, he wasn’t required to wear a helmet, and of course, he was too cool to put one on.”
A car, driven by an 18-year-old neighborhood girl, suddenly came out of a side road, straight into the teenager.
“She hit him square in the left femur with the right front corner of the car, and he went flying up over the windshield,” Edward said. “When we finally got the bike back from the police, it looked like a pretzel.”
When the ambulance arrived and paramedics found Ben where he had been thrown about 25 feet from the impact site, they immediately called for a helicopter to fly him to Albany Medical Center. He was placed in a medically induced coma.
“My femur broke off at the hip and the knee and six places in between,” Ben recalls, although he can remember precious little else about the accident. “My right lung collapsed and my head split open. I had road rash all up my back and legs.”
Edward adds: “What they were really concerned about was the swelling of the brain.”
The police told Edward that the thing that probably saved his son’s life was Ben’s backpack – stuffed with clothes – that absorbed a small amount of the impact before his unprotected head hit the pavement.
As the Budesheims’ held vigil at their son’s bedside in the intensive care unit, the realities of the situation began to crowd in. The driver’s insurance carried $100,000 worth of No-Fault coverage, most of which was gobbled up in the first couple of days of emergency treatment.
“The MedEvac alone was in the area of $26,000 for a five-mile helicopter ride,” Edward said. “The bills were getting up in excess of $200,000 by the time we were able to bring Ben home, and there were huge amounts of lost wages between me and my wife. We’re both self-employed, so if we don’t work, we don’t get paid. My wife talked to our health insurance company, and they said they didn’t have anything to do with it because it was a No-Fault thing.”
A friend recommended the family contact George LaMarche at LaMarche Safranko Law.
“It was very stressful,” Edward said. “I had a kid who couldn’t walk, and my wife and I couldn’t work. We were being threatened by so many things by the hospital.”
As Edward remembers that first phone call, George LaMarche said, “‘You just give me those bills and I’ll get them taken care of.’ That guy went above and beyond. He was able to handle a lot of the information very quickly.
“He got us a 100 percent of what could be got,” Edward added. “In a different circumstance, we maybe had a million-dollar lawsuit, but those people didn’t have any money. George helped us understand that it would cost more to file a lawsuit than anything we would ever get. He explored every avenue. I can’t be happier with George.”
Three years later, Ben is 20, working full-time as an auto-body technician and part-time at a supermarket, plus playing baseball for fun. He’s more interested in cars these days than being a BMX star. When it’s cold or about to rain, he can feel it around the titanium rod that replaced his femur, but otherwise, he feels pretty whole.
“What I will say,” Ben laughed, “is there’s no time to be too cool to not wear a helmet.”