12/07/2009

12-07-09 - Out of Commission

I got in a car accident on Saturday. N and I were driving to buy board games and look at the Olympics from the shore when Old Lady ran a red light and smashed into the passenger side of the car full speed.

We were stopped at a red light at an intersection, our light went green. The other car in the lane to the left of me took off, and then I more slowly went into the intersection. Just then I noticed a car to my right coming down the street at me awfully fast. This was the worst moment of the whole thing - for about one whole second there I realized that the car coming at us was not stopping, and there was nothing I could do about it. I think I said "whoah" or something which N heard. I had enough time to think "should I brake or accelerate?" and then *BAM* it smacked into us, right into the side of N's door.

We were pushed sideways into the car in the left lane, which smashed in the left side of me a bit. It seems neither N nor I are hurt, so it's no big deal. (please refrain from all "are you ok?" or "I'm glad you're ok" emails). It is a pain in the ass because the Prelude is a bit too damaged to be driveable, so now I have to get it fixed or maybe get it totalled, blah blah fucking life is such a hassle.

Picture of Smashed Prelude

One thing I realized after the fact was that the accident was so quiet. There was no squealing of brakes, no swerving out of the way. Old Lady didn't slow down at all. Normally in an accident like that you expect a last minute braking, some tire tracks, all that. Nothing. When we got out of the cars to talk after the accident she was in shock of course, I was trying to get her to say what she was thinking and she mentioned how the light was green for her. That's scary, she just completely didn't see the world for many seconds there.

A few things trouble me intellectually about the whole situation.

1. the insurance will not come close to restoring the value lost of my car. Even if they fix it "completely" it has another accident on its record which greatly reduces resale value, and god knows if the frame is slightly bent they never really fix that right. I believe technically that insurance is supposed to compensate you for lost resale value, but they never do. So even when insurance is paying out, they screw you. Also, since Old Lady is completely at fault, the compensation should be way beyond just fixing the car, there should be a penalty for all my distress and lost time.

2. I've become hyper aware of how vulnerable I am and how you have to trust the other cars. Walking across streets since the accident I keep looking at the cars coming at me thinking "he has a red light, but who knows if he's actually going to stop? he might be old, or on a cell phone, or getting a blow job, and just run right through the red and smack into me". It's terrifying.

3. Old Lady and her complete unfitness to drive is very disturbing. Our roads are plagued by old folks and other unfit drivers who should absolutely have their licenses taken away, but both the state and their families are too fucking pussy to do it. My own family and myself have failed to stop our grandparents from driving even though they are horrible dangers to themselves and others. Basically just because we're afraid of the big scene where they get mad at us. It's very sad to confront your parents about their failing abilities in their old age, but you have to do it.

4. My neck is in rather a lot of pain since the accident, I'm sure I have some kind of minor whiplash. I almost certainly won't do anything about it to get compensation, but it occurs to me that other people might. By not doing anything about it, I'm basically just costing myself money, because there's some random chance that I hit someone some day and they do claim medical damages from me. It means my net EV for collisions is negative, not neutral.

5. I have to decide whether to file through my insurance or Old Lady's insurance. Under my insurance I'm limitted by the restrictions of my policy (which is a super-minimal policy because I despise insurance). On the other hand, if I file through her insurance I'm sure they'll try to fuck me as much as possible.

6. Thank god that Old Lady was driving a Honda Civic. Because of that, her total momentum was reasonably low, even at 35 mph with no braking, and perhaps most importantly, her bumper was at the right height for the Prelude's impact absorption pillars, and her front end crumples. If she had been driving a Suburban or something like that, my girlfriend might be dead right now.

16 comments:

Aaron said...

Fuck dude. I just got in an accident Tuesday (with Jules in the car no less).

Her insurance, baby, all the way (1: you don't want a claim on your insurance, even if you're at fault, they are going to fuck you in the rate eventually, and 2: her policy sounds like it's almost guaranteed to be better than yours). When Marian got hit in SLO (other driver at fault also (high on prescription drugs)), it was OUR insurance company that did the wrangling with her and made them pay out properly, we didn't have to do anything. They even stuck it to the other lady's insurance company even though her insurance had recently expired!

I feel for you man. From the look of the picture, I'm damn glad she didn't hit back a few more feet, that could have been outright injurious.

Aaron said...

er, I meant even if you're NOT at fault.

Aaron said...

Oh and the right answer (not that you had time for it), was steer RAPIDLY into the direction the person about to hit you is going. That'll tend to make them smack into the back of you instead of the side. Almost useless advice though. Unless you sit around practicing it all the time almost no one would be able to react fast enough to do it.

My accident on Tuesday was similar. It was like hm, that guy's coming kinda fast. Oh wait wtf, something is wrong with this picturCLUNK, he just hit me?

cbloom said...

"Oh and the right answer (not that you had time for it), was steer RAPIDLY into the direction the person about to hit you is going. That'll tend to make them smack into the back of you instead of the side. Almost useless advice though. Unless you sit around practicing it all the time almost no one would be able to react fast enough to do it. "

Hmm, interesting. There's no way I had time to get my back facing them, but even if I turned a little bit it would mean it was an angled collision instead of a direct flat impact. If I could turn enough so that their momentum was reflected rather than all absorbed that might make a big difference.

Aaron said...

Yah, it gets your wheels going the right direction too, so you can roll the right way rather than skidding sideways. Not sure how much of a difference that makes on the time scale of an accident, but seems like it might make some.

In your case it probably wasn't even possible though, cuz you probably would have had to swerve toward oncoming traffic.

cbloom said...

"In your case it probably wasn't even possible though, cuz you probably would have had to swerve toward oncoming traffic."

There was the dude on my left blocking me from turning to the left.

One similar thing I've heard before is if you see someone coming up behind you at a red light and they're not stopping - take your foot off the brake. That way you just get knocked into motion. Only works if you're the only car at the red light though.

billyzelsnack said...

A couple years ago I had some old bastard take a left turn directly into me as I was passing the intersection. How the hell do you not see someone in that situation! I had a moment of disbelief. No way this guy is just going to ram right into me! I did swerve at the last second and he just clipped me and spun me out.

After dealing with the bullshit to get the car fixed I thought that you should be able to hire an insurance advocate. Basically someone that kisses your ass and does all the legwork to make the entire process as painless as possible. All paid for by the other guy's insurance of course. Why the hell does this occupation not exist?

castano said...

Ugh, I'm sorry for your car. I had a similar accident once, an old lady couldn't find the brakes and hit my car at full speed. I didn't even see it coming. Her insurance fixed my car, but after that it was never the same.

The impact was pretty scary. I lost control over my body for a few minutes, I had to really concentrate to stop trembling and start moving coherently. I guess that's partly why now I drive like a pussy most of the time, or refrain from driving whenever I can.

cbloom said...

"I guess that's partly why now I drive like a pussy most of the time, or refrain from driving whenever I can."

Yeah, though of course driving carefully doesn't help much when the other guy runs right into you.

This has, however, reminded what awful beasts cars are. They're polluting, consuming oil, making traffic, and they're deadly weapons armed by the incompetent or inattentive.

I'd love to be able to live somewhere without cars.

Michael said...

Get lawyer, go to the doctor for your neck, load up on as much PT as the doctor will give you. Your lawyer will settle it with her insurance for damages plus 3x PT costs, and expect 1x for himself.

You are correct in that not choosing this path puts you at net negative expected value - it's really easy, so rest of us do do it.

The only function of the lawyer is to keep the insurance from treating you with total disrespect.

If you need someone, I know a few who've helped me out in this fashion before.

cbloom said...

What Michael is this? email me.

Thatcher Ulrich said...

Wow that sucks. I'm glad you're OK.

@billy there are "independent insurance adjusters" that do what you describe (at least in NY). We used one for our apartment fire, he worked for 10% of the settlement. He helped but it was still a huge PITA.

If I had to do it again I would absolutely take Michael's advice and hire a lawyer instead. A major problem with not having a lawyer handle your stuff is that the other party's lawyer will only listen to another lawyer. It's like us civilians don't exist.

MH said...

Damn that sucks.

I forget what im not supposed to say.

Glad y'all are ok.

Sadly, doesnt look like enough to total the prelude.

MH said...

(but that can be deceptive)

nothings said...

I've become hyper aware of how vulnerable I am and how you have to trust the other cars. Walking across streets since the accident I keep looking at the cars coming at me

I've always been paranoid about this -- as a pedestrian I never cross in front of moving cars that I couldn't get out of the way of in time. (Obviously a stopped car could suddenly accelerate and plow into me, but presumably it couldn't be going very fast.)

If she had been driving a Suburban or something like that, my girlfriend might be dead right now.

Yeah, yikes.

Aaron said...

Yeah, your brain is gonna way-overcompensate for a while and probably make you tighten up and be a little less safe (tunnel-vision focused on single threats, not flowing quite how you normally would in traffic, just not driving how you're used to in general is all gonna make you less safe). Fortunately you should swing back to normal after a while. I'm experiencing some of the ringing effect even from my minor little accident. I keep looking at that road where the van pulled out from that hit us and wondering how it could have happened. It seems like there is so much room (he crossed two lanes on the other side, the middle turn lane, and one lane on my side, that's a lot of road!) and should have been so much time to prevent it, but yet there wasn't.

And of course, even being super careful and always trying to position yourself so you have a way out (and always checking intersections before entering them), you can still get hit. That chance is just sitting there. You can get the small chance of really getting hurt in an accident down really low, but never quite to zero.

Maybe we should come up with some safe-driving tips to try to drive the numbers down. I know I use some tricks that I've gleaned from various close-calls, but we all have our separate close calls, so a crowd-sourced kinda thing might make some sense there.

old rants