Calgary couple facing mounting hospital tab after Thailand motorcycle crash

Renters need Class 6 license and international drivers licence to rent and be covered by insurance

Matt and Ashley Stortz are recovering in hospital after a nasty motorcycle crash Nov. 27. COURTESY GOFUNDMEN

(Editor’s note: This article has been updated with information directly from Ashley Stortz)

Insurance troubles have left a Calgary couple recovering in a Thai hospital with mounting hospital bills after a motorbike crash earlier this week.

Matt and Ashley Stortz had travelled to the southeast Asia country where Ashley was attaining her Advanced Open Water dive certificate. They had rented a motorbike to travel to one of the dive sessions the day after a rainstorm, according to close friend Jen Johnson.

Matt was driving with Ashley aboard in the Koh Lanta district, travelling at about 50 km/h when they approached a massive a well known 18-foot wide pothole traversing the road. The potholes forces southbound traffic to veer into the northbound lane. A car travelling in the other direction was coming right toward them and Matt had to navigate a two-foot wide section to avoid a head on crash and that’s when they hit a patch of gravel and sand left there by the previous night’s storm. The couple crashed, sending them skidding along the rocks and pavement, Johnson said.

“They hit the ground pretty hard,” she said.

A fellow diver headed to the same dive that day was in a car along the same route, so they were able to receive medical help right away in Koh Lanta and were transported to hospital in Trang – roughly two-and-a-half-hours away.

Once they arrived in hospital, the couple were treated and wounds were dressed right away. They had to wait for the debridement surgery as the hospital had difficulty connecting with the couple’s insurance provider due to some possible miscommunication.

They eventually did reach the insurance company.

“But they told Matt that because he didn’t have a motorcycle license, they’re not going to cover any of his medical costs,” Johnson said.

Johnson said frustrating part is that they were there as a group last year and they rented similar motorbikes and the rental company didn’t ask for a motorbike license – they just wanted to see your regular license.

Johnson later looked at the World Nomads website and it states that a motorcycle license is needed to in order to receive coverage.

“I don’t think that most people who go to southeast Asia realize that they need a special licence or their insurance is void,” Johnson said.

“If the company itself just rents it to you, you’re like OK, they’ve got my passport, they’ve got my license, what you don’t realize is that it’s actually illegal.”

The World Nomads (Matt and Ashley’s insurer) website dedicates a full article (from 2015) to the topic of travel coverage for motorcycle transportation. While the requirements differ from country to country in southeast Asia, most require some version of an international permit, motorcycle license from home country, helmet rules and more.

“It‘s pretty straightforward; no valid license in the country where the accident happened means you‘re riding illegally and you‘re not covered,” the World Nomad webpage states.

It goes on to say that motorcycle accident is one of the most common World Nomads claims.

Ashley told LiveWire via email that none of the above information was made clear to them when you apply for insurance. She said they ticked the box that said they’d be riding scooters, and there was a small paragraph below saying to make sure they had the proper licencing, which they assumed they had.

The insurer has agreed to pay for Ashley’s claim because she was a passenger.

The couple has already racked up more than $13,000 on credit cards to pay for the costs, and the daily debridement surgery (wound cleaning under anesthesia) is costing $2,200 per day.

The injuries are severe enough (no broken bones or head trauma) to keep the couple in hospital for the next week. Matt’s elbow is rubbed down to the bone and Ashley’s got a severe gash on her knee. Johnson said they’ve been told they can’t stitch the wounds until they’re clean. There’s no set date for the couple’s return as the physicians in Thailand are assessing their wounds daily.

Friends back home here in Calgary have started a GoFundMe campaign to help cover Matt’s expenses. Last check it was nearing $10,000 with a goal of $15,000.

“Definitely from far away you do feel quite helpless,” Johnson said, noting the couple can’t fly for at least two weeks and even then they’ll need upgraded seats so they don’t have to suffer through economy air travel with the serious wounds.

Both Matt and Ashley are servers in the city. Matt works at Winebar Kensington and is something of wine connoisseur, while Ashley serves at the Milestones on Stephen Avenue.

Give a stranger a smile today. It will make them wonder what you are up to.
About Darren Krause 150 Articles
Journalist, husband, father, golfer, writer, painter, video gamer, gardener, amateur botanist, dreamer, realist... never in that order.

9 Comments

  1. I live in Chiang Mai, Thailand and we get a heap of international tourists here, and almost everyday I see some guy or gal hobbling around, a leg or arm swathed in bandages from coming off a hire motorbike.
    Two things, get a IDL, international drivers permit, it covers you when the police check you at a stop and should cover insurance requirements, better if you have a actual endorsement, but.. hire motorbike companies should ask you but they never do, if you stack one of their bikes, they have your passport details and possibly your credit card so they’ll just tack on the damage, whether you actually did crash or not, to your card. Always do a workaround with the guy and take plenty of photos of scratches and dents, hopefully with the guy standing there in the photo.
    Always read your travel insurance rider as to whether you’re covered, sometimes easier just to either take public transport or hire a taxi, especially in bigger cities, it’s not worth the stress to try and negotiate unfamiliar and chaotic traffic.
    Thais do not drive like what you’re used to, unless you live in other SE Asian countries, they are unpredictable, and have no sense of anyone else but themselves, they never look when they come into a road, rarely indicate turns, use whatever part of the road they feel like, including coming at you in your lane, and red lights are a suggestion. There is a good reason why around 24-28,000 die on Thai roads each year.

  2. First off, I hope that they get everything sorted and healed.
    Secondly, where in the world would you ride a motorcycle without a valid motorcycle licence and expect insurance coverage ? It’s like expecting a valid PADI Open water qualification from an unqualified instructor.

    • I think the issue is that these scooters aren’t advertised as “motorcycles”. They are less powerful and therefore the rules seem different. Many, many tourists rent scooters in other countries without knowing the proper licensing is required to ensure their insurance is valid. These aren’t motorcycles as we know them in Canada, they are scooters. The companies that rent them do not ask for a motorcycle license so most people assume their regular license is fine. More people need to be aware that a motorcycle license is required.

  3. I’m from British Columbia Canada and was hospitalized ( week with C/T scan/ultra sound med;s etc. etc.) in Chiang Mai Thailand–I paid with my Visa THEN downloaded+ printed a BC medical form and sent it off to Vancouver (within 90 days) and when I return to Canada a fat cheque for all hospital bills( minus food and take home extra meds) was awaiting me!!! I imagine Alberta has the same thing–I hope! cheers!
    Canada’s Medical Insurance System ROCKS!!!!

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