The phone here at Castle Erickson began ringing off the hook this morning bright and early around 8:45 AM. This, in itself, is not unusual; however, the fact that the same 800 number called three times in under five minutes was. Since I was already "at work" and live my life according to the 10 o'clock rule, I didn't answer it.
For those of you who don't know, the 10 o'clock rule is that you never call someone at home before 10:00 AM or after 10:00 PM unless there is death or serious bodily injury involved...because failure to abide by the 10:00 rule will result in death or serious bodily harm. My mother came up with that rule when my sister...the devil and I were growing up in the age before cell phones and the phone would ring, loudly I might add, at odd hours. She was working her butt off earning money, going to school and teaching. So, she rightfully did not like her precious few hours of blissful sleep to be interrupted by some idiot kid trying to find one of her idiot kids.
Anyway, back to our story. The Queen poked her head in the man cave/command center that doubles as one of many remote claims offices for my company around the country a little before 9:00 to tell me that there was a message for me on the house phone. A message from a claims adjuster alleging that I was responsible for a car accident...yesterday...in Houston.
This was news to me. It'd be a neat trick to be in two places at once, but I have no memory of ever having pulled it off myself.
So, I called the claims adjuster back here a few minutes ago. She thanked me for promptly returning her call, and I immediately told her that I had been in Dallas all day yesterday and asked what this was all about. She laughed a little and said, "So, that's why you called back so quickly." Well, actually, I called back so quickly to find out if I had somehow managed to shed the physical limitations of my human body and become a being of pure light and energy capable of being anywhere and everywhere at once, but that would have made my alibi a little suspect. I wisely chose to respond with "Well, yeah."
After a brief explanation of what happened in Houston yesterday, it became apparent that the issue was that the adjuster's insured had written the license plate down wrong. It seems this unfortunate driver was the front car in a three car rear end chain accident. The driver of the rear car, who was supposedly me, got out and spoke to the driver of the middle vehicle before driving off having never spoken to the driver of the front vehicle. The adjuster for the driver of the front vehicle was forced to use the limited information at her disposal, consisting of a license plate number and not much else, to try and locate the at fault driver.
Swing and a miss.
The adjuster was very polite and promised to note the file that they did not need to bother me any further. I thanked her and decided this makes good blog fodder to get my mind off the waves of anxiety that are starting to develop now that it's four weeks to the day since Texas Wesleyan started their comprehensive review of my law school application. Seriously, I'm starting to feel like I need to be breathing through a paper bag.
So, without further adieu, here's another installment of the Insider's Guide For Outsider's To The World Of Claims Adjusting: What To Do In The Event Of An Accident.
Step One: Have an accident
Okay, this really isn't the first thing you do in the event of an accident, but it is a necessary prerequisite for everything that follows. So, that's where we're going to start. Oh, and this step should really be unintentional. Adjusters like to call intentional "accidents" things like "fraud" or "vehicular assault" which puts your insurance coverage in jeopardy.
Step Two: Yell/Scream coherent or incoherent expressions of shock and amazement (cursing optional)
It's okay. Really. We understand. Something unexpected (hopefully) has just happened, and it's natural and cathartic.
Step Three: Take a deep breath and give yourself a once over
The breath is necessary to clear your mind and replenish the oxygen you just used screaming your fool head off. Now that you can breathe again, take stock of your body's standard equipment. Check for leaks, dents and broker or missing parts. If your brain has gone through a hard reboot after an encounter with Mr. Steering Wheel or Mrs. Windshield, take a few extra moments with this step. You'll be glad you did. If you see red fluid leaking from skin or orifice, small quantities are nothing to panic about. Large quantities are cause for concern; however, the down side is that you will probably not be in a position to do much of anything about it and the problem will likely resolve itself in short order with help from someone else or through exhaustion of the supply. Yellow fluid, while embarrassing, is no cause for concern. Unless it's gasoline. If you find any dents or broken/missing parts, stay put. You're likely in pain varying from "that stings a bit" to "Dear God please let me die". It's best not to add to your troubles by moving. Unless the yellow fluid was gasoline.
Step Four: Assess your surroundings
Look around. Are you in the middle of an interstate highway or at the bottom of a cliff? Listen carefully. Is that a train horn I hear getting closer or a Mack truck? Take a sniff of the air. Is the yellow fluid urine or gasoline? Take the temperature. Is it warmer than you remember? Wetter? Is this the place you really want to be right now? If not, it's time to evacuate the premises. If your car is still operable, move it to the nearest safe location (usually the shoulder of the highway, but parking lots are better). The cops don't want you holding up traffic for a scratch on the bumper. They probably won't come out for 45 minutes to an hour for a scratch on the bumper in most major metropolitan areas, if at all, anyway. If your car is not operable, the cops will get there pretty quick because a 1000 people just called 911 to tell them that the interstate is shut down because some idiot had an accident. If the yellow fluid is on fire, you will probably make the news. Congratulations. If you are not operable, no worries. You can stop reading right here. The police and ambulance crew will take of the rest.
From here on out, the steps assume you have no leaks, dents or broken/missing parts which prevent you from walking and talking like a normal person. Or at least as well as a fifth grader who's fallen off the monkey bars at school.
Step Five: Check on the welfare of others
This may not seem important now, but picture yourself two to five years from now, sitting on the witness stand testifying in front of a jury about why you were so cold hearted and uncaring that you didn't even ask the other person(s) how they were after the accident. It's a small thing, but it matters to some people a lot. This is one of those Golden Rule moments. You would want someone to check to make sure you weren't leaking, dented or missing parts. You should return the favor. Lather, rinse, repeat as often as necessary depending on the number of people involved or how bad your concussion is affecting your memory.
Step Six: Get Information
This is critically important to the claims adjuster. We rely on you to give us a good starting point. Write it down. Everything you can. Your on an adrenaline high right now, and you are doing good to be upright and remember your own name at this point. You want to get names, addresses, phone numbers, drivers license numbers, dates of birth (or ages) and descriptions of everyone involved including passengers (you'd be amazed how many empty buses involved in accidents suddenly have 47 passengers when there is insurance involved). Ditto for witnesses if you are fortunate to have anyone step forward and say they saw the whole thing. You need license plate numbers, make, model and color of any vehicles involved. "It was a white car" doesn't help your adjuster much. Write down everything you can remember seeing or doing in the moments leading up to the accident and after. You will not remember the little details later. Was it a blue car next to you or a red car? How long had you been sitting at the light when you were hit? If Officer Friendly writes a report, get the report number.
Step Seven: Don't Admit Fault
This may be difficult for some of us who are very personal responsibility oriented, but...just don't. Leave determination of fault to someone else. It's not your job.
Step Eight: Take Photos
Everyone, it seems, has a camera these days. Digital and video even. Take photos. Lots of them. Take video if you can. From every angle you safely can.
Step Nine: Call your insurance company
Go do it. Right now. While you are thinking about. Call them from the accident scene if you can.
Step Ten: Go Home Or Go To the ER
This is pretty self explanatory.
Step Eleven: Medicate as Directed By Medical Professionals or Self
This is also pretty self explanatory.