It was a beautiful clear day. I had a two-hour lunch scheduled, an overdue DVD that I was going to return to the library and other plans.
Then it hit me — literally. A late-model black Honda Civic rammed into my side and spun me around, burying my front bumper in the wheel well of an unfortunately parked BMW.
I remember letting out a scream and bracing for impact a half-second before the crash when I looked to my right and saw the Civic coming out of a driveway at a gallop with no apparent plans of stopping. After hitting me, the driver finally decided to stop — more than 100 feet from the crash site.
I remember a pain in my thigh as I was pushed sideways into the door’s armrest. “That’s gonna leave a mark,” I thought. I also recall spinning into the BMW and watching in slow-motion as I willed the car to stop before a second impact. The rubber bumper stop caught the rear wheel well of the Beamer and my car died.
I sat, stunned for a moment, coming to terms with the fact that my DVD was going to incur more late fees.
Then I realized that I was stopped sideways in the road and more cars were coming straight at me. Of course they saw me and were going to either stop or go around, but my addled brain did not compute that. At that moment, I was convinced that my classic 1978 Datsun 280z had become a target at a demolition derby.
It would be several hours before coherent thought processes would return. I did have the wherewithal to start my car, extract myself from the BMW and roll my mangled vehicle out of the path of oncoming traffic. I comforted the driver who hit me, telling her everything would be all right. I dealt with the police and turned my car over to a Triple A tow truck driver who had been parked nearby and heard the collision.
Endorphins are funny little critters. In times of high stress (I define high stress as situations that mandate either fight or flight responses and neither choice is available or advisable) endorphins flood your brain and they lie to you. Mine told me everything was fine.
But everything was not fine. As the endorphins wore off, my fingers, hands and wrists began to cramp up from the death grip I had put on the steering wheel. The bruise on my thigh began throbbing, pain began shooting down my right arm and every muscle in my neck and back locked up. This, of course, gave me the worst headache I had ever had in my life. While I was waiting to be seen in the emergency room, an old pelvic core injury that had been awoken by the impact said, “Remember me?”
Unfortunately, I was to be reminded over and over again of the pain and indignity of that particular malady. There appears to be no end in sight. My doctor told me I’d be hurting for months. I just refused to believe him, but time is proving him correct.
As I reflected on what from a comparative view would be considered a relatively minor crash, I was overwhelmed by the reality it represents to the 9.2 million people injured in crashes each year.
It’s been more than two months since the accident. The Civic driver’s insurance company finally sent my lawyer a check for about half of the vehicle damage. I took the check to Bank of America, the bank the check is drawn on, and they declined to cash it.
So, I have chronic aches and pains here and there, a car that can’t go to the paint shop until the check can be cashed, and the renewed lack of faith in humanity that comes from high-stress encounters with insurance adjustors.
As my saga continues, I will write more about the value of comprehensive insurance, the relative value of bargain-priced insurance, the hidden damages in auto crashes, and what it really means to be “made whole.”