In April of 2001 and living in Duvall, I was waiting to make a left turn in my old Prelude when I was creamed from behind by a teenage girl. I banged my head, knocking myself out, and when I came to, I thought “Hey, my turn signal’s off. And my engine’s stopped.” I went to restart it and then stopped. I felt like I’d been struck on the back of the head. I stumbled out of the car, called 911 (hold!) and then my future wife. I was almost totally incoherent, telling her I was at “that place where you turn in to go home”.
Skipping the ambulance ride and my long, awful time in the ER strapped to a board while trying to remain conscious… the next day, I have to see my doctor, as the ER doc told me. I call my doctor and they won’t see me, because it relates to an accident.
Which is ridiculous bullshit. I don’t care what kind of arguments you want to make about malpractice or not wanting to take time off work or whatever. I got banged up, I needed a doctor, and suddenly I didn’t have one. If you’re going to do this to patients, I think they deserve some kind of warning about it. “Yes, Dr. Bob is accepting new patients, but he’s going to flake out on you when you really need him. Can I make you an appointment?”
Short version here: I found someone who would see me even knowing I’d just been in an accident. She was a practicing nurse and was cool. I ended up doing a lot of physical therapy for my neck and back. I worked my butt off in physical therapy over six weeks, pushing for more stuff to do, focusing on aerobic exercise that didn’t aggravate my back or neck (like the pounding of running meant I gave that up entirely — this is where I started getting back into cycling). I was off work for a week entirely, and after that I started coming back a little at a time starting working only an hour or two from home and then coming in, trying to keep stretched out, but there was a point where my back or neck would start to seize up and I’d have to call it a day, get down to the YMCA and go through my stretching and exercise regimen.
Farmers then fought me for four years.
Their reasons for continuing to fight over those four years:
- I didn’t see a real doctor
- I didn’t miss work because of a doctor’s orders
- sick time taken doesn’t cost me anything (this is easily refuted, but they made it)
- if it only took six weeks of physical therapy, it must not have been that bad
… and so on.
Farmer’s, along with some other major insurance companies, is engaged in a wide-scale war against claimants in these kind of cases where there isn’t clear harm — I didn’t lose a limb or an eye, for instance. Their strategy is to fight them all tooth-and-nail, across the board, and force claimants to trial. Thier objective is to make people more reluctant to fight them. Lawyers are less likely to take on these cases because they know it’ll be a long and pointless fight, and they don’t want to bring a case to a jury where the plaintiff didn’t miss all that much work and isn’t asking for all that much (Jury: “Who is this yahoo and why is he wasting our time?”). People hurt, like me, are more likely to give up at some point in the process, because each step can be dragged out so long that they’ll take the pittance offered them out of frustration.
I had to keep reminding myself of this to keep from flipping out with anger: Farmer’s admitted liability, and they’re not so much fighting me as I’m one person in a category. It’s not much comfort. Being treated badly because you’re a member of class isn’t any better than being treated badly because you’re you. It’s worse, if anything — at least the person who dislikes you personally is reacting to you personally. It helped me though, in seeing the long view: if I was going to get any money out of them at all, it was going to take a long time, and being ticked off about it now wasn’t going to help.
My advice to you now:
- find out if your doctor’s going to run from you when you really need them, so you can be prepared
- buy a Volvo now
- no really, don’t be like me wait until after you’re in an accident. Used Volvos are nice, affordable, safe cars, and a nice Volvo 850 isn’t even $10k which is a bargain for what is (in my opinion) one of the finest cars ever made (after that bumpy first year)
My advice to you, if you’re in an accident:
- take good notes on the accident, what time you took off, and where that time came from, as well as whether it was paid or unpaid leave
- if your doctor won’t see you, find another certified-with-diploma-type doctor
- if you need to get time off, get a note from that doctor
- be as aggressive as you can be for yourself, but don’t stop going to physical therapy until you’re totally sure that you’re ready. I went through some problems after I stopped going, and wished that I’d gone to less frequent appointments rather than going cold turkey
- if you have problems after you stop doing therapy, go back to the doctor and get a new prescription for therapy if you have to. Don’t try and power through it or anything — get the help you need.
They finally settled, and obviously after a four year fight, I didn’t end up with much money. But it’s over, so that’s good.