Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Let Me Tell You A Story...

So, when I did my This 'n That post a week or three or so back, I didn't quite tell you about all the major stuff happening with me. I left something out, and it's not a good thing.

You see, on June 5th, I was driving home from a doctor's appointment I'd taken my son, Tristan to. It was early evening, and we were headed south on Interstate 5 in Olympia, maybe a third of the way between the Capitol Way exit and the Highway 101 exchange. Now, I've lived in Olympia for a while now, and like most intelligent people, I've noticed that in the area I live in, there are certain traffic patterns that occur on a regular basis. In this case, this part of I-5 has a tendency to slow down greatly, and often stop, during the evening commute.

Such was the case this time. We were in the inside lane, as Hwy 101 is our exit, and traffic slowed down ahead of us (and I followed suit), and the stopped, as did I. Tristan, sitting in the back seat, asked why we had stopped, and I said because of traffic.

Next thing I knew, I heard a screeching of tires, and before I could even look to see where the sound came from, there was a crash as we were struck from behind.


Naturally, my first thought was to ask Tristan if he was okay, but all he would say was, "Why did someone crash into us?"

I started the engine of the van again (it had quit on impact) and pulled off of the freeway onto the shoulder, so as to not cause any more traffic problems than I had to, and then immediately dialed 911 to report the accident. Tristan was starting to complain that his neck was hurting by this time, and I told that to the operator. As soon as I got off the phone when the operator, I texted my wife about the crash, then called my insurance company. While I was on the phone with them, I started getting information from the person who hit us.

It wasn't very long before emergency vehicles had arrived, including paramedics and an ambulance. The paramedics talked to Tristan and tried to examine him as best as they could, given his position in the back. I had tried opening the hatchback in order to assist in getting him out, but it was jammed, neither opening nor closing completely.

Needless to say, this was a very stressful situation already for me, but it would get worse. The paramedics got Tristan out of the fan (having put a neck brace on him for safety's sake) and got him on a gurney and then into an ambulance. Standard procedure when a child complains about neck pain in an accident is to take them to the emergency room, and I called my wife and texted her several times to try to reach her so she could meet Tristan at the hospital -- I couldn't leave the scene yet, as State Patrol hadn't arrived yet.

What felt like an hour after the ambulance left with Tristan (but it was probably less than half an hour), State Patrol arrived, and it wasn't too much time later, that I got a copy of the Collision Exchange of Information form with all the pertinent information, and then I could leave to meet my wife and Tristan at the hospital (our daughter was left at home with my father-in-law, and a friend of ours picked up the foster kids from the daycare for us).

So I started up the car... and immediately heard the "bong-bong-bong" alarm that plays when a door isn't closed. In this case, it was the hatchback. If I'd not tried to open it, maybe it wouldn't have been doing the alarm. I got back on the freeway, got off at a convenient off-ramp, stopped at a gas station (because I'd been low on gas), and went to the hospital.

When I got there, Tristan was getting VIP treatment of sorts... he'd had xrays already, and there was a problem with them (apparently they couldn't find one of the bones of his neck, and later did a CAT scan and another x-ray before someone pointed out that at his age, it wouldn't necessarily have formed enough to be visible enough anyway), and then I got examined myself while we were there.

The hospital prescribed Vicodin and a muscle relaxant at the end of the exam, but there's no way I could take those, since both of the drugs would render me unable to drive -- and remember, I have four kids to take care of here! I had to make do by taking ibuprofen. I picked up the little kids on the way home... and discovered that the backup sensors on our van had been broken to the point that when I put the van into reverse, they fairly screamed at me as though I was in imminent danger of hitting something.

Oh, joy.

The next day, we were supposed to be hearing from someone about getting a rental vehicle, because there was no way we could drive the van around with all those alarms going off all the time, and we weren't even sure how safe it was to drive. It took a call from our insurance company to the other insurance company to get the ball rolling on a rental... and at first, they tried to get us to accept a standard car.

That's right... their client hit our van, and they expected we could deal with four kids in a standard car. Uh-uh! When I got to the rental car place, I arranged to get it changed to a minivan, and drove that home. Now, the accident had taken place on a Tuesday, and we got the rental the next day.

It was Friday before anyone had come out to look at the van, and that was pretty much when it got towed to the place that the other guy's insurance was willing to get it repaired at. Unfortunately, they didn't get it looked at until that Monday (six days after the accident!) and estimated we'd get it back about the 21st. As it turned out, we got it back a week ago last Monday.

Anyway, after all this, my wife noticed that I was having a really hard time getting around... especially getting up out of chairs, and apparently I was also moving rather stiffly. Apparently, with all the stress of what had been happening, I hadn't really noticed myself what was going on with me! So I made an appointment with a chiropractor who specializes in after-accident care, and learned just how bad I'd been injured from this accident. I think that just setting that appointment helped me to destress enough to start noticing some of the stiffness and pain (it seems that I was automatically compensating for this without realizing it, avoiding certain types of movement that would aggravate it). I began getting chiropractic treatments three times a week, and getting massage therapy once or twice a week.

As of last Friday's massage therapy appointment, I'd actually started feeling pretty decent... definitely not 100%, but decent.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Between the start of treatment and last Friday, my mother-in-law came for a six-day visit, and I was working on organizing our neighborhood community yard sale... plus finalizing things with the trucking company -- remember, I'm leaving on the 21st for that school! Also, we met with an attorney to handle things on the accident for us.

Well, I'd spent Friday morning running around with Tristan and Desi in the van (which we'd just gotten back on Monday) putting up signs for the community yard sales, and then ran them home so I could get freshened up before my massage therapy appointment. I got home from that, and took Tristan with me to get some extra signs up around the neighborhood, and then we headed over to Office Max to get some price stickers for our own yard sale.

So there we were, heading down Black Lake Boulevard towards Office Max, which is near our mall. As we were passing our chiropractor's office (oh, I forgot to mention that Tristan's been getting treated there as well), I saw traffic slowing down ahead of us (logical, because there is a traffic light not too far down the road) so I started to slow... and then the car in front of us stopped rather suddenly. I was able to stop in plenty of time, because I am in the habit of maintaining a safe distance.

Then I looked in my rear view mirror, and saw what I later learned was a Honda Pilot coming up from behind... and I started thinking to myself, "You're going to stop, right? YOU'RE GOING TO STOP, RIGHT?"

Guess what? They didn't stop. They crashed right into us... one month and one day after the last idiot rear-ended us, a new idiot rear-ended us. And hit the same place on the van, too -- the left rear side! This was a bigger (i.e. taller) vehicle than the Ford Ranger that hit us the first time, so the damage was a little bit different...

...but I started noticing it pretty quickly. I could already feel that all the treatment I'd been getting had been undone. Well, once again, I got my van moved off the road, followed by the person who hit me, and we both pulled into a church parking lot. I called 911, gave them the location and description of the vehicles, then texted my wife about the new accident, and then called my insurance company.

This time, given it was on a surface street, it was the local city police who responded. Now, this time there weren't any paramedics arriving on the scene, because there were no life-threatening injuries (kids are lucky, they can get through something like this with very minor injury). Of course, having been rear-ended again, I felt pretty damn stressed out... and that stress started getting greater...

You see, the person who hit me (who had at least two children in her car with her, maybe three) couldn't provide any insurance information to the officer who responded. Oh, she claimed she'd just gotten her insurance card in the mail, but hadn't put it in her car yet. Oh, and her husband arrived on the scene a few minutes after the policeman arrived... not that he had any insurance information, either.

Now, I don't know what was going on in the officer's mind... I know he gave the woman who hit me two tickets on the scene (one for either inattentive driving or following too close, I'm guessing the latter, and the other for a nearly bald tire)... but the longer we were there, the less helpful she was about providing the insurance information.

I don't know about any of you who are still reading this at this point, but in the state of Washington, it is the law that anyone driving any motor vehicle is required to have at a bare minimum liability insurance, so that if they ram into someone else, they've got insurance to pay for it.

Well, this person claimed that she had "Allied Insurance" or something like that, but couldn't provide proof of insurance (also required by state law). The officer gave me a copy of the exchange of information (which, oddly, was completely missing the phone number of the person who hit me -- fortunately, the husband decided to volunteer his phone number to me), and said that if it turns out they don't have insurance, he'll ticket them for that. He also said the accident report should be available on Tuesday (today), and that he was going to be off for five days (he's apparently going to be back on the job on Thursday).

Thanks to the timing of all this, we weren't able to get anything really started on Friday... We couldn't get a rental vehicle (because I really hate driving the van around when it's damaged, and the rear fender on the left side was sticking out about six or seven inches), and we were told someone would be in touch with us on Monday. Oh, we also informed our attorney of the new accident, and Tristan and I went to the emergency room of a different (closer) hospital to get checked out, and I left a message for my chiropractor.

Now, Emergency Rooms are a great and wonderful thing... but they are not really in the business of doing much unless your injury or illness is life-threatening or otherwise requires immediate treatment. They took a bunch of xrays to determine that I didn't have any fractured bones in my spine, prescribed Vicodin and muscle relaxers (see note above from the first accident) and sent me home... Tristan didn't even require xrays, according to them.

Just a reminder: I'd spent the majority of the day getting signs posted for our community yard sales. I'd also been posting ads on Craigslist that included a link to a Google Map showing the locations of all the participating sites that could be printed out for directions.

Well, of course after all this, we didn't have time to get our own yard sale put together (there was no way I was up to moving tables around at all), and the next day, I was feeling so stiff and sore I wasn't even up to getting out of the house to check out the other yard sales in the neighborhood (and of course there was the whole "can't drive the van with the fender sticking out" issue... Oh, yeah, forgot to mention that this time, my brother picked up the little kids from daycare and brought them to his house for the night, dropping them off back at our place early the next morning).

So, yesterday, Tristan and I go to the chiropractor, and fortunately, Tristan wasn't too badly additionally injured from the accident (damn resilient 8-year-olds!), but I needed a brand-new exam. I'm definitely worse off than I was after the first accident, and like I said, I'm going to be leaving for school on the 21st! So, the treatment plan has been accelerated.... I'm getting a chiropractic adjustment four times a week, with massage therapy three times a week, for this week and next week (Tristan's bumped up to three adjustments a week now). By the end of next week, the chiropractor's going to have a letter for me that outlines the treatment plan, and hopefully will be able to refer me to a chiropractor in South Salt Lake City, where the truck driving school is -- and I really hope that somehow their hours will work with the school's hours, and I can come up with some kind of transportation to get there and back. Then, once I am doing the over-the-road driving training, whenever I'm going to be in any particular city for a long enough period of time, I'll try to get in to see a chiropractor there, too, for the duration of my training period. And once I'm back home from training, going back to the adjustment and massage therapy here.

I know I'm going to be in a lot of pain during the over-the-road training, and if I thought I could reasonably reschedule the start of my training, I would -- but we can't afford for me to stay out of work that much longer. I'm hoping I can deal with the pain by using ibuprofen, applying topical treatments (my chiropractor's stocking me up on Biofreeze, which is like Icy Hot cranked up to 11), and getting treatments when I can... and hoping it doesn't get to be so bad that it affects my training.

Anyway... so on Monday, our insurance company tells us that nothing can really get started on repairing the van until we can determine whether or not the idiot who hit me the second time has insurance -- because as it turns out, the insurance she claimed to have at the scene of the accident is not any kind of accident insurance, it's the kind of insurance that will pay for a vehicle that someone owes money on -- and is usually not started up unless someone's let their insurance lapse, and their creditor adds it to their car payments. The insurance company was unable to find a phone number for the woman who hit me, so I provided them with the phone number and name of her husband, who apparently promised them that his wife (who handles all the insurance stuff -- what kind of idiot doesn't even know the name of the company his auto insurance coverage is from, and doesn't have an insurance card with them or in any of their vehicles?) would call them back.

Now, we have three ways we can deal with this:

1) If this person really has insurance, it's all done through their insurance company. So far not an option, because we don't know if they do!

2) Work it through our own insurance company, where they'll try to recover the costs back from the other person's insurance company -- except that way costs us a $500 deductible, and there's only a $20/day rental car policy... plus they still need to know the other person's insurance info.

3) Work it through our own insurance company under our uninsured motorist coverage -- which costs us a lot less out of pocket -- but that also requires the person who hit us to own up to not having insurance.

Well, my wife tried calling the husband of the woman who hit our van to try to get a straight answer out of him... and he insisted again that they did have insurance, that he doesn't have that information but his wife does... and this time added some line of horse manure about how his wife works a job where she's on lockdown for 10 hours a day (or something like that) which makes it impossible for him to reach her or for her to call anyone else...

...oh, and he also tried to play the "struggling family" card on us. Really? Like everything's going to be fixed just because they're a struggling family?

Look, if someone can't afford insurance, they have no business driving at all. And they especially have no business driving a 2010 Honda Pilot (which is not a budget vehicle!), nor do they also have any business driving a nice pick-up truck like the husband arrived at the accident scene in.

Also, being a "struggling family" doesn't excuse you from paying attention to what the hell is happening right in front of you! There's no excuse for hitting someone else's car and hoping that all will be forgiven because of them supposedly being a "struggling family."

Especially since if anything, we're a struggling family... I've been out of work for 3 1/2 years, and I'm already worried that the injuries from the first accident might have an affect on the truck driving training, plus we've had our house revalued at less than we owe on it right now.

You know, I would love to sympathize with someone who's been affected by the economy, but it's really hard for me to feel sorry for someone who rammed into my car and has caused me some pretty painful injuries. And honestly, I don't know that we have any choice but to add this second accident to our attorney's caseload... we can't forgive the second accident and then pursue legal action on the first, after all.

And yes, I am up in the middle of the night writing this, because along with the physical injuries I've received, I'm having trouble not only getting to sleep at night, but also staying asleep, and it's way worse since the second accident. I'm probably also extremely irritable, and I'm experiencing sort of a hyperawareness when I'm driving, because I keep thinking there's another idiot out there ready to crash into me (it didn't help that when I went for my massage therapy appointment today, I passed by another accident that happened on the same road the second accident happened, although it was much further south, where obviously another idiot wasn't paying any attention at all and rear-ended someone else).

Anyway, later today, after I've taken the little kids to daycare, and brought Tristan and myself in for our chiropractic adjustments, I'll need to call the city police department to see if the accident report is available, so I can get a copy of it -- which I'll need to scan and email to my insurance company as well as to the truck driving school, so they'll know this wasn't my fault -- and I'm also going to try to meet with my attorney today to talk about this new accident, to see what can be done there. I'm hoping that at the very least, I can get him to call the husband as my attorney to request the insurance information, so that this can be documented. Oh, and while I'm at the police department, I might also ask them how it was that they let this woman leave the scene of the accident without being able to provide proof of insurance.

And if I have time between all of this stuff, I have to start getting things taken care of for my daughter Desi's 5th birthday party, which is Saturday... it's a pirate-themed party, and we're all going to be in costume (I'll be the stiff-moving, limping Captain Hook).

Such is my life these days.

2 comments:

  1. Jon, I am so sorry you and your family have had to go through all this! Having been through a similar set of circumstances myself, I completely sympathize with you. I hope everything works out for the best for you1

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, so far things seem to be working themselves out!

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