Friday, October 28, 2011

2nd Accident, Hateful Insurance Companies

After being hit by a car earlier this summer I was still resolved to commute around Pittsburgh once the fog of the concussion lifted and I had the opportunity to adjust and build up a spare bicycle I had purchased from a friend a year before. 

Needless to say the accident before made me much more careful of how I conduct myself on the road, the risks I'm willing to take, and the attention I pay to others on the road. 

On one such careful commutes to school from my home I was sitting at a red light in a very busy intersection (actually approximately 2 blocks from the previous accident) and preparing to cross. This red light is particular because it is on a very busy road that is also between two university campuses. In order to allow pedestrians the ability to cross said road without having the potential threat of being struck by a turning vehicle the pedestrian walk sign lights up 10 seconds before the green light for vehicles headed in the same direction. 

At one such moment, sitting at the red light, I looked at each light in turn making sure all reds were illuminated as with the pedestrian light. I saw no vehicles in the intersection. I started pedaling into the intersection. I hear the roar of acceleration coming from my left turning just in time to see a red Suburban slamming into me and the tanned, chubby, blonde-hair ringed face of the driver staring down at me as she attempted to brake. She failed to run me over, and I looked up at her weepy face and yelled, "not another time this fucking year!" I limped to the corner dragging my bent (steel frame bicycle) behind me.

The driver parked and ran up to me weeping and shrieking to see if I was ok. Other drivers and bicyclists stopped and circled around checking on me, calling the police, and helping get the driver's insurance information. The Pittsburgh police did their usual bang up job by insisting that they were not going to write a report, nor were they going to issue the driver a citation for running the red light and hitting me. They were instead much more interested on whether or not the driver who was helping me was properly respecting their authority. (This is no shock as the Pittsburgh police are known to have a hefty history of violating resident's constitutional rights

The driver continued to hyperventilate and since I didn't detect immediately any broken bones and any real emergency, I was surprisingly lucky, I limped to my office to call the driver's insurance company and start the claim process. During the call I notice my left ankle swelling more and more, turning blue. The student health center determined that I had no significant bone breaking, mostly soft tissue damage, and eventually an injured tendon. 

Although I know I probably could have sued this woman's insurance company I didn't really have the time and emotional energy to get into a legal battle. So I gave the insurance company my statement expecting at least some sort of minimal recompense besides the medical costs associated with the accident. That was a semi-delusional attitude, as I later learned, moreover, NEVER GIVE AN INSURANCE COMPANY A STATEMENT IF YOU EXPECT THEM TO GIVE YOU A DECENT RECOMPENSE FOR THE SHIT YOU GO THROUGH, OR DESTROYED PROPERTY. First, speak with a lawyer, that is if you are certain you are not at fault. 

The insurance company gave me the run around offering me at the end around $500 for future medical costs, and for my destroyed bike because the frame was older. Little did they know or care was that the frame was a very sturdy 30 year-old frame which I had augmented with newer parts. I had to argue with them and suggested a much higher amount of a few thousand dollars. After hearing my objections they tacked on another couple of hundred dollars which frustrated me, and I started to object to which the agent, replied by insulting me. She insisted, "I know you got in another accident earlier this year and this makes me wonder..." Because I didn't want to hear the bullshit insurance company logic that dictated this incredibly soft-voiced, soprano midwestern woman I suggested that I would seek legal action and then hung up. I was in a rage for hours following that interaction, the notion that I would just liberally ride my bicycle in the way of cars only to wheedle money out of insurance companies had to be the largest deposit of feces I had ever been asked to ingest. Why the fuck, I thought, as a PhD student just recovered from a concussion would I ever risk my brain like that again? For a few hundred bucks? That is insane.

In the end I gave in. I have a prospectus to write, mounds of grading, and at the time a controversial argument to write for a panic inducing bilingual conference. I took the money so that I could eventually get a new bicycle and get on with my life and not endure anymore of the insults leveled at me by this woman, who for a second, almost got me to question my recollection of the collision itself. Fuck insurance companies. 

(Part 2, coming shortly, discusses the uselessness of university administrators in cases like these).

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