Sunday, July 22, 2007

Caveat Piaculum

Thank you for all the well wishes, both in comments and in email. It really helped those first couple of days when everything was so overwhelming.

At my follow up visit with the doctor, I was diagnosed with a sprained back. The sprain is causing swelling, which in turn is putting pressure on the spinal cord. It's not the kind of pressure that would, say, cause you to become a parapalegic, but because there are so many nerves, it is causing a lot of pain.* So now I am in physical therapy, which is supposed to help reduce the tension, control some of the inflammation in conjunction with the 800 mg ibuprofen horse pills I've been swallowing, and hopefully help the muscles to heal correctly so that there won't be any lingering problems. It seems like I was lucky and the joints were not affected, just the muscles. The general consensus seems to be that it will be a good month before I'll be back to something like normal.

Unfortunately, things are NOT going so swimmingly with the Other Driver's insurance company. I feel like I've done nothing all week but fight with the various people working on each tiny piece of my claim, and it's pissing me off royally. I bore NO FAULT whatsoever in this accident, and I bore the brunt of the injury, both physically and financially. I am not unreasonable, but I want to be put back into the position I was in before Little Miss I-Speed-And-Don't-Pay-Attention-To-The-Traffic came into my life.

Actually, what I want, what I really want is to transfer my suffering onto her. I want her to wake up every morning in pain, I want her to be unable to carry a basket full of laundry to the basement, I want her to be unable to sit or stand or lay in any position comfortably. And I want her car to be destroyed. Then I want her to have to deal with the jackassery of her insurance company while juggling work, doctor's appointments, and the search for a replacement car, all while being exhausted from being in pain all the time. Oh, and I want her to find that she will be unable to replace her vehicle for anything like the money the insurance company claims her car is worth on the open market.

The best part of the week-- and by "best", I mean "the part that nearly made me lose my shit"-- was when I went to the body shop where they towed the wreckage of my car so that I could get the rest of my personal items out of it before they haul it off to be junked, and the stupid cow who caused the accident was standing there on the steps, talking on her cellphone, bitching to someone about how the insurance company was taking away her rental car, but her SUV wouldn't be finished for two more days, boo freaking hoo. She saw me and fell silent, watching me walk past. I did not acknowledge her in any way, but I wanted to punch her stupid face in. Especially because her insurance company had also ordered me to return my rental car on the basis that they'd determined the value of my car, so...

The second best part of the week was when I got to yell my way up the chain of command about that. I guess I'm just not understanding how it is that I am deprived of my means of transportation due to the negligent action of Stupid Cow-- the means for me to get to work and to the doctor's appointments that are necessary thanks to that selfsame negligence on Stupid Cow's part, not to mention the means by which I would be able to conduct the search for a replacement for the car that she destroyed, but it's not her (or, by extension, her insurance company's) responsibility to provide me with a replacement for the duration of the time that it takes to resolve this situation. It was only after I moved through five different people that I was able to get a temporary reprieve-- a three day extension. I still have to turn my rental car in tomorrow. Now ask me if I've received a check for the car. That would be a big negatory, good buddy! So how am I supposed to replace it? Well, Erie Insurance sure doesn't give a rat's big fat patootie! That's MY PROBLEM to resolve! Screw the fact that STUPID COW WAS AT FAULT, NOT ME.

Then there's the method they used to value my car. I guess I should be grateful that they weren't using the blue book value. Instead, I was told that they would use a database of actual cars listed for sale by dealers and private sellers and pull a list of 1999 Toyota Corolla CE with mileage within the 77,000 that was on mine at the time of the accident. They would then calculate two averages, one national and one local market, and pay the average of those averages. Seems fair enough on the surface. Except when I actually got my copy of the valuation, the fourteen cars listed on it included a) the lesser version of the Corolla (the VE), which cost quite a lot less at the time I bought my car, but which included significantly less in equipment and features, b) several cars with well over 100,000 miles on them, and c) several cars with no mileage specified in the ads whatsoever.

When I performed a manual search of about seven big online classified listings like, I found a grand total of ten 1999 Corolla CEs with between 71,000 and 82,000 miles on them in the entire country. One had damage on the driver's side door and was selling for $5,800. The others all ranged between $6,495 and $9,599. The average price worked out to something like $7,900. The insurance company's average figure? $5,400. The amount they bumped that for the brand new, just installed in January tires? $10-- $5 for the rear tires and $5 for the front.** We argued. Long and loud. They are doing a second search. I hope that it reveals a much better result, but obviously I'm not holding my breath.

Look, I understand that it's their job to settle my claim for as little money as possible, but that really shouldn't mean acting unfairly. Yes, please do an accurate inspection of my car and please also do a proper valuation based on the actual value of the car, not just what I think it's worth. I'm not asking for them to buy me a brand new Prius*** or pay off my law school loans. In the words of Sally, All I want is what I have coming to me".

Tomorrow is another day. Full of arguing with the insurance company. If I'd wanted to do this sort of thing, I would have sought a job as a personal injury attorney. I'm really starting to wonder if I need to seek out the services of just such a person.

*I probably just mangled that explanation. But we're not in court, so meh, close enough.

**I really,
really want to know where they buy these tires that cost $2.50 each. That could totally come in handy down the road!

*** That would totally be sweet, though.


At 12:08 PM , Blogger Pei Ling said...

Katze - so sorry to hear about the accident, but yes, thank goodness you're ok and hopefully the back pain will go away as the dcotors say.

DO get a PI attorney - get one that works on contingent - b/c it IS worth it for someone else to fight the battles for you in a situation like this.

My sister got one after she got into an accident - no fault on her part - and this was even AFTER the woman who hit her admitted it was her own fault.

So I can only imagine the run-around they're going to give you b/c stupid bitch cow won't accept basic responsibility. And if I were you - I would sue her sorry ass for pain and suffering - seriously!!

Hang in there!

~ Pei

At 1:28 AM , Blogger pacatrue said...

You can't get a go cart tire for $5. Maybe a Hot Wheels?

At 8:58 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some advice from a former insurance adjuster (NOT legal advice - you hardly need that from me - ONLY advice based on my adjusting experieice):

It sounds like you have already done this, but demand copies of all vehicle valuation materiels, and argue any points that go against you individually. You can wear down most insurance adjusters (not me, though; you'd have been screwed). :-P

Insist that they remove unfavorable comparison vehicles from thier averages, focusing on the things that cannot be compensated for by tables contained in the Blue Book or NADA guide. For example: the valuation books have determined that two otherwise identical cars, one with new and one with average tires, will sell for only slightly different amounts. Somewhere there is data to back this up. However, they cannot compile such data on variable body damage (though one company, I think State Farm, is trying to). So they really don't have anything backing them up if you want them to drop the body-damaged comperable from thier calculations.

Check the PA insurance commissioner's website to see what the local bad faith insurance practices complaint procedure is. In OR and WA this was not a magic bullet, but someone who credibly threatened to file such a complaint generally got a few more days of rental car.

Remember that insurance merely mitigates a loss. I used to joke that I was going to open "Godfather Insurance," because most people do not actually want to be compensated for thier loss. Rather, they want the righteous hand of god to smite that bastard that hit them. "At Godfather Insurance, your deductable isn't what we deduct from our payment to you, it is what we deduct from the other guy: set your deductible level at 'pinkey,' 'kneecap,' or 'first born!'"

Luckily, the righteous hand of god still exists in the form of the tort system, as Pei suggested. Hardly a cure all, but even if you don't get more money by hiring a PI attorney, this can nevertheless have two pleasing effects:

1) Bad drivers are terrified of thier rates going up; every step you take to escalate things will likely panic that neligent bastard (Really. They freak like you would not believe. Make sure she knows when you hire an attorney, make a demand, file suit, etc. Try to scheduale these events so that she finds out about them on Friday afternoons, thereby ruining a weekend in which she cannot get ahold of her insurance agent/adjuster for reassurance. It's like a game!).

2) Everyone is terrified of being served with a complaint. Takes a year off your life. The PI attorney won't want to do this when negotiation and settlement are possible because it's not worth her/his time. But YOU could! For the reasonable price of a filing fee, you can cause a Sherriff to arrive at her home and instantly convert her into a lifelong advocate of tort reform (wait... on second thought, that's bad for me...).

Seriously though, if you have insurance questions, call me.


At 9:18 PM , Blogger Rebecca said...

Oh Katze, I'm so sorry to hear about the accident. I'm glad you are ok, and hope you are in less pain. I completely agree with Pei, a PI atty sounds like a great idea and will at least put stupid bitch cow through a little bit of trouble, which she greatly deserves.

Take care, and when you are back in town and have an extra few hours look me up...I'd love to have lunch.



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