Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Point of Clarification

As I continue with the story of my wife’s brain I want to address something that has come up a few times in the comments section of the previous post regarding the accident, our attorney, and the arbitration hearing.

On the night of the accident, police responded to the call, and assisted in directing traffic in order for Kristin to turn her car around because the impact had caused her to spin 180 degrees. Once she cleared the intersection, the officer indicted that an accident report wasn’t necessary because no one needed immediate medical care and both parties agreed to exchange insurance information. Unfortunately this left her without an objective report and no documented witnesses. As a result, when it came time to report the facts to the adjustors it became her word against his.

For reasons still unknown to us, his company denied all responsibility for the accident so the case was sent to an third party arbitrator to determine the level of fault. This is common practice in Minnesota when the two parties disagree. At the same time we had contacted an attorney, as a safeguard, in the event we needed one, but at the time we had no plans to move forward with litigation. The attorney indicated that we should wait for the results of the arbitration between the insurance companies before moving ahead with any legal action. Again, common practice.

When the arbitrator came back with an 80-20 judgement in his favor, our insurance company was bound by that decision, and therefore was unwilling to pay for anything beyond what is provided by our no fault coverage ($20,000). They also refused to refund our $500 deductible on the car repairs. Since the decision was so lopsided against us, and we were facing a fairly uncertain medical future, the attorney stated that it would be nearly impossible to make any claim against the other driver or his insurance company. He advised us against proceeding with legal action, which at the time was a wise decision.

I think it will become clear as we move forward with the story, that our attorney is perhaps one of the few reliable people in our corner and has since reopened the case. For the last few days Kristin and I have been reviewing a memorandum written by him detailing the facts of our case and outlining our claim against the other driver, his insurance company and ours. In fact he has indicated several times that he is willing to file suit if need be. And no, Nikki, we are not paying him a dime unless we receive a settlement.

So the lessons thus far are:

*Always call the police and be sure they file an accident report. It is essential that the facts are documented at the time of the accident, because, as I think is the case with the other driver, memories change over time. Also, be sure you have witnesses.

* Never admit any responsibility, even if it is your fault, when talking to the other party or their insurance company. Kristin and I have disagreed on this and had many “discussions” about it at the time. She is a decent, reasoned and rational person, who tries to see things from the most objective perspective. And unfortunately that is simply not the way the insurance game works. I believe, in her attempted to find the truest understanding of the facts she may have given away something that led the other insurance company, and subsequently the arbitrator, to rule against us.

Finally, I want to say thanks for the kindness and support you have shown, through your comments and simply by reading these posts. I welcome the questions as well. I am finding that the more I tell this tale the more there is to tell and I inadvertently leave out essential pieces. So please ask away.


Attila The Mom said...

I'm going to print out your lessons and tape them to the Big Kid's door.

He's going to get his license soon and this scares the crap outta me.

What a nightmare! I'm so sorry you guys are going through this!

kim said...

grrrr it pisses me off that good decent people who try and do the right thing have to fight all these big corporations just to get what they deserved in the first place !! this country is going to be a great f'd up mess for our kids
grrrr some more !!

Nikki said...

I wish your family the best Sven, really I do. What a nightmare for you all.

Sophia said...

What an ordeal. But healthy that you're writing about it.

I wish you guys all the best too.

Shopping Diva said...

I haven't been keeping up with my favorite blogs as much as I should be lately, so I am just now reading this. This so sucks for you both! Your experience will help other people.

You are right on with the accident reports and such. My husband and I were hit by a girl running a red light. She had had her license for TWO days. She was sweet and knew that she had messed up. Thank GOD she didn't have any passengers or they would have been seriously injured. We were in our Suburban, so we didn't really get hurt.

The problem was that after a cop FINALLY showed up, he really didn't want to bother with an accident report either. The girl's parents showed up and we did exchange insurance information. They and their insurance agent decided that the parents should just pay to repair our suburban so that their rates didn't go up. We were ok with that. The suburban was repaired, and they paid for it.

The problems came two months later when weird stuff stared to happen to my truck. The computer that runs the brakes went out while I was driving it with my three kids in the back. I was lucky I happened to be coming up to a stoplight and was going slow. We had to tow it to the dealership and have the computer replaced. We were told that it was damaged in the accident and would never have needed to be replaced otherwise. Since we didn't go through the insurance company, we had no way of getting this taken care of so we had to pay the $700 to fix it ourselves.

Then the dealership discovered that there were some problems with the frame that should have been fixed. The bodyshop that fixed the truck felt that they had done a good job and didn't feel that they needed to fix it. We were stuck again.

So the lesson is, DO NOT be nice and accomadating to ANYONE. We should have insisted that the lazy cop do an accident report. We shouldn't have been so nice to those parents and kept this accident off of the books. They were stupid enough to give their inexperienced daughter a lexus, they should have been prepared for her to be in an accident and face the higher premiums. We were too nice.

Your wife is so nice, I can totally see how she would want everything to be fair. It's so sad that we have to cover all of the bases like we do. BUT WE MUST! I am so wishing for her to feel good every day again. I am rooting for you guys wholeheartedly! I am so sorry you both have to deal with all of this crap!

Sven said...

Diva: "Your experience will help other people."

I hope so. I've been watching my sitemeter for how many people find this blog via a chiari related google search. I hope they find it helpful.