Though the K75 was stopping cleanly and honestly, the front of the van pulverized the fairing and slammed the bike to the ground. For the briefest moment in time, I became the world’s largest airborne mammal. Imagine a pilot whale instantly weightless through the gift of trajectory. The sensation ended when I bounced off the front of the van and came to rest on the ground.
The once proud "Blue Balls" with the unique Sprint Fairing...
Struck down by a left-turning mini van in Virginia.
(Photo by Leslie Marsh)
I flirted with consciousness as pressure gave way to a pain in my chest. A pain that quickly spread throughout my body. A pain that would last months after the initial impact. The excruciating pain that comes from dealing with the other party’s insurance company.
An insurance company is a vertical cash-generating instrument that promises to minimize your liability in the event you have caused injury, damage, or death to someone else; or to minimize your loss in the event you are the one being scrapped off the minivan.. The key word here is “minimize.” Insurance companies do this by paying out the “minimal” amount of money required to resolve a claim.
Insurance companies and gambling casinos have a lot in common. Everybody has heard of individuals winning millions of dollars on 25¢ slot machines. Ever met one? Likewise, we have all heard stories of people who have been awarded millions of dollars in negligence cases. Like the guy who dropped the coffee in his lap at MacDonalds. I bet you’ve never met one of those folks either. Insurance companies stay in business by guaranteeing that the cash flows in one direction. (Although this has not been the case recently where at least one huge insurance company and its investments in mortgage guarantees are concerned.)
Imagine a 50-story silo with a huge vacuum in it. The vacuum sucks up millions of dollars daily, through policies, investments, real estate schemes, and retirement funds. Insurance companies claim they must have billions of dollars, even trillions, in reserve to pay up in the event of a national disaster. For example, a tornado touching down in a metropolitan area on a busy weekday could cost an insurance company plenty, especially if they had to pay out on all the claims submitted by people holding weekday metropolitan area tornado policies.
Insurance companies have pleasant sounding names to give the impression that you are dealing with a kind of petting zoo or something. I found myself communicating with a firm whose name conjured up images of an Amish collective. Yet the lady I usually spoke with there had a voice that sounded like fingernails on a blackboard. Insurance company personnel are carefully selected from a gene pool in which Komodo dragons are crossbred with pit-bulls. This guarantees the perfect disposition for customer service. If you must meet with one, it is advisable to toss a piece of meat onto the table first. This level of distraction could work to your advantage -- unless there are two of them.
Claim representatives have a way of asking questions that imply you are either attempting to steal something from them personally, or are just stupid. These include:
• That was the closest doctor?
• Did a doctor advise you to take the rest of the day off following your release from the emergency room?
• Was your head re-attached immediately or did they wait 15 minutes?
• Have any of your previous suicide attempts on a motorcycle been this close to success?
One of their best questions is, “Are you still seeing a doctor?” The best answer to this is, “Yes, but not so much for the accident... But for the voices in my head that tell me to bite through the throats of people who trying to screw me over small change.”
When writing to an insurance company, it is important that you be concise and to the point, without a hint of emotion in the text. I accomplished this by keeping my notes relatively short (exactly as if I were writing a Valentine to a former spouse). Then I advise stapling them to a severed horse’s head before mailing. (This is how I really do communicate with one former spouse.) I can guarantee this will get you ab return call.
An insurance agent may ask for your permission to take a recorded statement regarding the details of the accident over the phone. I said “yes” to this request, then asked them to schedule a time for the call. This gave me an opportunity to rent a recording studio and to hire a sound engineer. When I gave my deposition, I had the engineer provide appropriate sound effects to emphasize the points in my story.
When I described the impact, the engineer generated the sound of screeching brakes, accompanied by a huge thud, and the tinkle of broken glass. As a nice touch, he added an elderly female voice that said, “Take that, you pile of biker shit.” In response to a question about witnesses, the engineer played mob noises from old Frankenstein movies, with actors yelling out, “That poor guy on the bike is almost dead... Was the other driver on the phone...” And the ever popular, “Is that abottle on the front seat of the car?”
Sometimes the insurance company will send you a form demanding the right to investigate your work records, previous health records, and other data that appears to go far beyond the realm of the accident. The form will be accompanied by a note that says “failure to comply with this request could delay your claim until years after you are dead.” A careful reading of the document will reveal there are virtually no limits to the information they are seeking. It also empowers the insurance company to share this data with anybody. I mailed mine back to them, unsigned, asking for the social security number of everyone who worked at the insurance company, just so I could confirm I was not dealing with convicted felons.
Never attempt to threaten an insurance company with a lawyer. This is like threatening a tiger with a bleeding gazelle. The average insurance company has 3 adjusters, 2,500 clerks, and 40,000 lawyers on the payroll. I recently visited the headquarters of the Mutually Transparent Corporation, a large insurance company based in the midwest. I had lunch with their chairman in the company cafeteria, where all of the waiters were attorneys. If you want to threaten an insurance company, tell them you’re hiring a tornado. (Tha scares the shit out of them.)
Threatening an insurance company with attorney is like
threatening a tiger with a bleeding gazelle.
(Photo from Wikipedia)
You will learn a lot dealing with an insurance company. For example, I learned the value of a flawless BMW K75 in mint condition is only $167.84. This is according to the Royal Enfield/Ural dealership they checked with in Sri Lanka. Yet if you want to buy the wreck back, they can let you have it for $3850.00. This is apparently due to the difference in the currency between Sri Lanka and the US.
It is crucial that you remain civil, helpful and polite with claims reps regardless of the way they handle your claim. I always ended each call on a cheery note, saying that they would never know just how much their efforts meant to me. Of course, they’ll figure it out if they read this story.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A shrug)