One Hot Potato

In these parts, auto insurance has become a political hot potato that nearly cost the New Brunswick Tories the government, and other governments approaching an election of their own are getting nervous. The premiers of Atlantic Canada will be meeting tomorrow, and this issue will top their agenda.

I already looked into by how much my own car insurance premium will increase once I get Homomobile Too. It’ll more than double, to about $1,250/year — this for someone who has an unblemished, 17-year driving record. Yet by law, one cannot go without car insurance.

Now for the flip side: the victims of car accidents.

Late last July, Indiana Jones was biking along a downtown Halifax street when the driver of a SUV gave Indiana Jones what we’ve come to call “The Door Prize.” That’s when someone opens a car door wide without looking first if the coast is clear. In this case, the driver of the SUV was distracted — you’ve got it! — by a conversation he was having on a cell phone. But to add insult to injury (quite literally), while Indiana was squirming in pain on the pavement, the SUV driver/cell caller merely asked if he was okay. He did NOT end his conversation to call for help.

Almost a year later, Indiana Jones hasn’t seen a penny in compensation for the accident. I suspect there are two reasons for this state of affairs:

  1. He isn’t some high-profile South End Halifax business man.
  2. His very real injury fall under the “soft tissue” category.

But in the ongoing debate on what to do to lower car insurance rates, many are proposing that pain and suffering awards for soft-tissue injuries be capped at $2,500. I do not dispute that some have abused the system by manufacturing whiplashes after a 5-mile-per-hour collision. However, I also believe the worse abuses did not occur in Canada, let alone the Maritime provinces. Yet it seems like insurance companies are singling out this relatively small market. At the same time, what I’m seeing is skyrocking rates for policy holders but a large insurance company in particular refusing to compensate justly someone who’s been badly injured.

For indeed, I’m seeing Indiana Jones in real pain. He’s had a shot of cortisone in his shoulder about two weeks ago; that has helped some. But the dulling of the pain there has brought to the fore the pain in his arm and his back, where a physiotherapist has confirmed some muscles have ceased to work. Plus, a new doctor has confirmed that some nerve in his arm is shot. When I explained to my sister, a physiotherapist for more than 20 years, the nature of Indiana’s injuries and told her that a doctor flat-out told Indiana that the pain was “all in his head,” she shook her head. On the one hand, she believed that some doctor would say something like that; on the other, she had no doubt that Indiana’s pain must be real and would be chronic if nothing is done. Anyone with two brain cells can tell when someone’s faking pain; Indiana Jones, though his colourful language could make even a sailor blush, isn’t faking it.

So imagine someone like Indiana Jones, whose means of livelihood (as an “independant” worker) at the time of his accident was to dig holes deep into the ground to find junk Haligonians and Frederictonians discarded some 100, 200, or even 300 years ago, junk which is now considered treasures. It’s very speculative work: some days or weeks are good; others yield next to nothing. And it’s physically demanding work, too; as a result, this man has muscles in places I don’t even have! In his case, coming up with a dollar figure of revenues lost is nearly impossible, let alone coming up with a figure for the “pain and suffering” of being unable to exercise his trade or ride a bike which, incidentally, has still not been repaired.

Settling for $2,500 because half his brain didn’t get splattered all over the street that July evening would be wrong, especially for the wrong-doing of a double asshole: an urban SUV driver and a user of a cell phone while driving. One size does not fit all. Dismissing ALL soft-tissue injuries as the fabrication of one’s mind fits no one.

{5} Thoughts on “One Hot Potato

  1. I’ve been doored twice while biking around Boston. Both times the drivers were terribly sorry and embarassed. Their insurance company’s paid my medical expenses and some bike repair work. But the 1st company informed me I could not sue because I did not break a bone. Beside bruises and road burns, I only got stitches on my butt from sliding on the glass of the door window I smashed through. The 2nd company informed that I was partially in the wrong because traffic was stopped and the passenger opened his door as I drove past on the right. Massachusett’s insurance rates and laws make Nova Scotia’s look practically libertarian. If I were IJ, I’d find where Mr SUV cell phone fuckhead lives and stick a long knife between the treads of all four tires. That way it will not be readily seen that the tires are slashed. Or better yet, do one tire every week for a month. Revenge is a dish best served deflated.

  2. The thing is, though, that I’d be willing to bet Mr. SUV cell phone fuckhead is already paying a lot more in premiums for having caused that accident, yet IJ is getting the runaround. Insurance companies are now widely viewed as slime buckets — worst than ever. Meanwhile, I have a 20-year-old niece who’s expected to pay $3000+/year to drive an old ’88 Nissan, and that’s coming from companies that’ll even deign to insure her. The situation has gotten completely out of hand.

  3. There is a reason why insurance companies tend t own the biggest buildings in many cities.

    After lawyers, they rank #2 in my list of social parasites.

    Is your niece living in a city, or in a rural area?

  4. I used to get hit all the time. It’s part of the reason I started driving again. I remember one day I got hit 3 times, all drivers making right hand turns across my path who never saw me. The first caused damage to my bike. She laughed and drove off when I asked for her insurance info. The police told me they couldn’t do anything since I wasn’t injured.

    The second, the lady who hit me got out of the car and started yelling at me that I would be responsible for the sizable dent in her passenger door. Fortunately, it was at the county fair and there was a police officer right there who saw everything. When she asked to have me arrested (I don’t know where that came from), he politely explianed her the error of her ways and wrote her a ticket. That made me feel a bit better.

    Later that day, city bus passed me from behind & just as it was passing me, made a right turn. This was the one that injured me. Fortunately, the city was a bit worried about being sued. They sent me to a clinic, paid for the doctor, and paid for all the physical therapy.

  5. Michael: My niece lives in Moncton when she’s studying but Grand Falls when she’s not. Her main use of her car is to drive back and forth between those two places on occasional weekends.

    I have to confess that, as a car driver, I get annoyed with bad/irresponsible bike riders. However, now I have a new appreciation for those who scream that bikers have no real rights on the road. I mean, clearly one has to be injured pretty badly for any kind of compensation kicking in. But I maintain that IJ is injured even though he had the good fortune of not having a broken bone.

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