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!