Friday, January 15, 2010

Profiting from Misfortune

Please imagine the following courtroom drama. Yes, Your Honor, the car came from nowhere and made a left turn right in front of me. I barely had time to hit my brakes. The last thing I remember is seeing the car a few feet in front of me and looking deep into the driver's eyes. The look on his face was full of horror, surprise, guilt and remorse as he realized that he had screwed up big time. Even though I was only unconscious for a moment or two, it seemed like days, Your Honor, before I really felt fully conscious again. I still have trouble remembering things, What was your name again? And the pain! You have no idea the suffering I have endured. My hip caused me excruciating pain for months because my left leg was nearly jerked from the socket. And my shoulder, even months after the collision, still reminds me of the incident with frequent sharp pains and stiffness. Yeah Well..... Even though this is somewhat of an exaggeration of the injuries I sustained in my accident back in July, certain attorney friends of mine said that these were the types of things I should say to any insurance company adjuster that might be interested. It was almost a personal injury attorney's dream scenario. I probably could have pursued it even further than I did, but somehow, it didn't feel right. Hell, I was negotiating with my own insurance company. But the legal and financial stars were aligned, the cage driver admitted fault at the scene of the accident and he had no insurance. This combination of circumstances might not sound good, but under Kansas law, I soon became aware that I was entitled to various benefits that I was (1) not really aware of and (2) not really all that interested in, (at the time). I eventually became much more aware of the meaning (legally) of the concept of "Pain and Suffering". Then they started trying to throw money at me. To shut me up? I was confused. What was I to do? Refuse? My attorney friends said they would be glad to help me out (30% fee). But I thought I could handle it myself and knew that If attorneys got involved, it would just take longer to close the "case". It had already taken close to 5 months. I truly was more interested in just getting healthy again. The injuries really weren't all that bad. Yeah, I was banged up a bit and pretty sore for quite awhile. At age 52 recovery from something like that takes a but longer than I care to admit. But there eventually came a point in time when I could sense that the insurance representative was speaking a little more in a posturing sort of legalese. Ever been there? Sometimes it was what she said, sometimes what she didn't say. It was getting a bit wierd. After all wasn't she supposed to be on my side? Why was I starting to get the feeling that our relationship was beginning to be a bit more adversarial. Getting the medical expenses paid was never really an issue and I even refused to do some other tests that one doctor recommended because I thought they were unnecessary. The scooter was repaired long ago, mainly just some scratched body panels to replace. But they damn near insisted that I take some money for "Pain and Suffering". And no, I am not kidding. My attorney friends advised me that I could easily ask for a little more than what they initially offered. I did ask for more $. They didn't bat an eye and agreed immediately. I really wasn't trying to screw anybody, least of all my own insurance company. Apparently though, this money comes from a pool of money that lots of insurance companies contribute to by re-insuring themselves with other companies. So, in effect my insurance company may be writing the checks, but this money really comes from all of us who have ever paid a premium. So I thank you one and all. Darn near like winning the lottery. It's really not a lot of money, I am not retiring tomorrow, but it is sort of a profit. I didn't realize that riding a scooter could be so lucrative. I would really rather that it not continue in that manner in the future. The current legal environment in this industry apparently makes insurance companies do certain things to make people go away and avoid lawsuits. Good or bad, right or wrong, it is just the way things are. I didn't anticipate the possibility of receiving this money. At the same time, it actually bothers me a little bit. The attorneys say I should take the money and enjoy it. But somewhere, somehow, in the back of my mind, I feel like I am taking unfair advantage of somebody, possibly everybody. Ahhh, the money isn't all that important. It has just been a bit surprising how the negotiations and final settlement all turned out in the end, five months later. The worst part of the final part of the process was recalling the memories of what happened on that day. It wasn't exactly fun. I really don't think the money makes me feel much different or better. Maybe I am supposed to feel better now that I have been paid off, so to speak. But somehow, the bad memories of what happened outweigh the receipt of cash. Then again, it isn't taxable!


  1. Jim, I sure understand your feelings. Lawyers are adversarial. It is an adversarial discipline. That's what they do so I'm not surprised that you sensed that coming from your own lawyer. When my brother was killed by a hit and run driver, my mother was bombarded with lawyers (literaly ambulance chasers) trying to convince her to sue HER insurance company! One even came to the house toting a bible! They tried to convince her too that it was all legal, her right, and that she too should take the money. It was her decision and she never understood the logic. And, just wanted it all to stop.

    I applaud you for sharing your dilemma, the honesty and tensions you experienced come through clearly.

    BTW, I'm a tad older than you and I can tell you, I don't think we bounce back like we used to. Occasionally, I still get a memory from the cracked ribs and broken collar bone and that been more than one year!

  2. cpa3485, I too thank you for sharing this story....lawyers in my opinion are mostly scum, so avoiding their involvement was probably a good thing in this case. The airwaves here are sometimes full of ads from "lawyers who ride" who are wanting to "help" riders who've been in accidents. I bet they ride, all the way to the nearby bank.

    I'd never read or heard about this "pool of money" that insurance companies pay into by reinsuring themselves with other companies but it makes sense...thanks for that info as well.

    Here in Colorado, when I was involved in an accident in my cage (where the idiot ran a red and ruined my cherry red 1975 560SL), you're automatically provided with a "day in court". This goes away if you accept a "settlement" from the insurance company. I now wonder what would have happened had I refused it and pushed it towards the court date. Oh well.

    Seems to me though, receiving that money to avoid litigation is rightly deserved...heck, you were injured, your body will never be the same, and worse of were deprived of riding time and opportunities!

    I hope it was enough for say a nicely maintained and broken in Beemer? : )

  3. Sharon,
    I can't knock all of the lawyers, just some of them. All you have to do is look at the phone book and see who has the largest ads. There will always be injustices in the world and you might need a lawyer for some of them, but I imagine that 80% of that personal injury world is crap and we all end up paying for it one way or another.
    And yes I understand your feelings about the soreness. My shoulder actually healed fairly quickly, my hip was the larger problem, but every once in a while I'll just slightly move my arm and feel a twinge. My situation pales in comparison to yours, I'm sure.
    But every day is better. Our bodies are really amazing, even if not perfect.

    Thanks for your thouoghts.


  4. Charlie,
    I would be crushed to lose a '75 560SL like that. Have argued with insurance companies about the value of a car before and it isn't fun, especially when there is a lot of personal feelings for the vehicle.
    Yeah, it was enough money to maybe get a used Beemer, but I am still all about commuting on two wheels rather than long distance touring. My scoot is perfect for commuting, but if my needs and desires change someday, then that used Beemer, hell, maybe a new one, would definately be on the list.
    BTW, Sharon and I are real jealous of that 3rd wheel you now have. LOL, Maybe there is a trike in my future.
    Thanks for visiting and have fun on that Ural,


  5. A well told story and a very mature decision. Money is nice, but there are other things like one's principals and integrity that are ultimately more important.

  6. Jim, thanks for posting this. I think you handled this very well.

    But, you could have asked for more, and here's my legal theory on it - I'm gonna call it "imputed pain and suffering" - this would consider all of your readers' pain over knowing this happened to you. Sort of a class action thing. I should have been an attorney!!!!

    Seriously, I am glad you came out of this OK.

  7. cpa3485:

    Jim, you were injured through no fault of your own and endured pain and suffering. While it would be nice to adhere to your ethics and accept nothing, then who would be the fool when it is provided for and is the accustomed practice of the insurance industry where everyone follows the same procedure. If the subsequent responses were so quickly agreed to, then the amount was too low.
    Pain and suffering is a continuous process throughout your life and will come back to haunt you in your later years. consider it a prepayment for those occurrences.
    When I was much younger a car ran a red light and T-boned us. I didn't realize that I hit my arm very hard. It didn't seem to hurt much at the time so I signed the insurance documents not wanting to drag it out. Now nearly 40 years later it still aches when it rains or during a change of weather. I can't lean on my elbow for very long before it starts to ache. JMHO

    NOW, don't feel so guilty. Take some of the $$, fly to Hawaii where there is an abundance of Pink Crocs and bring them back to Kansas, after all, why buy on-line when you are rich

    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

  8. Bottom line is that you seem to be doing all right. Makes me almost want to go out and crash! ( joking, joking!)

    Don't listen to bobskoot. You need to buy only one pink croc and wear a sandal on the other foot. Then you, too, can get shut out of volcanic crater attractions!

  9. Dear CPA3485 (Jimbo):

    Bobskoot is absolutely correct in this matter.

    Your body will have a much longer memory than that portion of your mind tha remembers incidents, and insurance settlements. As you grow older (hopefully), your 56-year-old hip may remember how badly it was twisted that afternoon, when the cager ran into you through no fault of your own. And it may remember the incident so well, that you may not be able to ride on damp or rainy days.

    And your insurance company, which made billions of dollars last year in a verticle cash vacuum, will never shed a tear. I sincerely hope you do not discover they have raised your rates next year to cover their losses. The pain and suffering issue is to compensate you for the riding tme you lost, the value of your leisure time, and any inconvence you experienced as a result of the collision.

    In my crash, the other party -- issued a ticket for making an illegal left turn — was insured and I pressed the case myself, bypassng my own insurance company. The other company offered me $900 for a 1986 BMW K75 with a Sprint fairing. I politely told them to shove it up their ass. I got their letters, their assessment, and copies of various legal statements that spelled out their legal obligations.

    I politely told them to shove these up their ass too. Then they sent me a statement of charges for storing my wrecked motorcycle at their pound. Then it was my time to talk. When we were through, the final cash settlement for my 21-year-old K75 with 32,000 miles on it was $5,000. It took 18 months.

    Then it was time to settle the medical issue, and the pain and suffering. That came out to another $10,000, or $5k over my hospital expenses. No lawyers were involved... No court action was taken. No strong arm tactics were called into play. A good lawyer may have gotten me double that. The $5 grand for pain and sufering was alleged to cover the three summer months I couldn't ride, the loss of my annual vacation time, and the time spent on finding another bike.

    How much is my leisure time worth? About $5 million a second. Because I can't get any of it back. Yours is worth about the same. Don't even think of buying a BMW unless there is a dealer within 70 miles.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads