That weekend, I left a message for my claim contact, between her bankers’ hours. Her message had said she had a few questions about the accident, so I recapped it as best I could in a voicemail message – not for the first time during this ordeal, repeating information I’d already given. I told her we still weren’t sure whether we were allowed a rental car, because as I understood it, a rental car was for use while a car was being repaired, and it was possible mine was beyond repair. In other words, we didn’t know if the insurance company would pay for a rental while we were shopping for a replacement car. Also, we didn’t know whether my car was being totaled, so I needed confirmation as soon as possible.
Just in case, we drove to a car dealership on Saturday, and looked at sticker prices. This was enough to make me hope for a large pay-off on my wreck.
All good information to know, but come Monday, none of it was forthcoming. My claim contact didn’t call me back. Tuesday came along and had almost passed when she called – while I was away from my phone. So she left a message at 4:10, asking for the same information I’d already relayed via voicemail over the weekend. I got the message and called her back immediately, knowing the clock was ticking and she would be leaving at 4:45. She didn’t answer, so I left a message.
After I disconnected, I realized I hadn’t reminded her that we were waiting for answers before renting a car, so I called back and left a second, more desperate, message. At 4:46, she hadn’t called back and I still didn’t have a rental car. Kim was being patient, but I’m sure she was sick of dropping me off and picking me up by then.
On Wednesday, I had to go downtown for a two-day summit, full of meetings that prevented me from talking much on the phone. By noon, I still hadn’t heard anything, and I was full-blown angry. So rather than call my claim contact’s individual number, I called the main number for reporting a claim. This deposited me in an infinite loop of automated options, none of which I needed. After repeated attempts, I managed to get through to a living person, who knew nothing about my claim.
He suggested I call my claim contact. I told him my claim contact wasn’t answering and wasn’t returning messages, so he told me I could press 0 when hearing her outgoing message in order to get through to another claim contact. I asked him if another claim contact would be familiar with my claim, and he assured me they would.
I got through to another claim contact, who told me he wasn’t familiar with my claim. He asked me the same questions I’d answered when I’d called the claim report number immediately following the accident.
I gave him the details and told him the two things I really needed to know were whether it was totaled and whether I could rent a car. There was supposed to be an adjuster inspecting my wreck at the tow yard; I was hoping they could answer the questions.
He told me my car had been totaled, based on input. When I asked him whose input, he said it was mine. Based on the description I had given, it sounded like my car was totaled. When I asked him if it wouldn’t make a little more sense to have one of their own people verify that, he told me someone had gone to look at it and would be getting back to us by the end of the week. I reminded him it had been five days since the accident. He reminded me it hadn’t been five business days. I guess accident victims are expected to have no lives on weekends.
Regardless, he at least confirmed that I could rent a car. There was a rental place across the street from the summit, so I could walk there at the end of the day and not require Kim to drive downtown to pick me up. This was good. He also confirmed that we should, indeed, consider buying a replacement car – the old one wasn’t coming back. I asked if he was sure, and he repeated that the adjuster had been to the tow yard to assess my car and would get back to me with this information soon.
An hour later, the adjuster called to ask me where my car was, so she could go assess it. Unfortunately, I was in another session and unable to take her call. I called back between sessions. She didn’t answer. I left a message with the name, address, and phone number of the tow yard where my car was, and asked her to call back to confirm.
That night, I paid a sad visit to the tow yard. By now we were set on losing the car, so I needed to collect my personal belongings from it. I pulled up in my rental and walked into the business office, somewhere near the makeshift bedroom in the waiting area. I asked the manager if I could head out back and get some things from my car. He asked if I wanted to “surrender” it to the insurance company. I told him if they totaled it, sure, they could have it.
The car sematary was dark and cold; this is rare for central North Carolina in November (or any time), but temperatures hadn’t gotten above freezing even during daylight. It had rained over the weekend, so the frozen ground felt even colder.
The wrecks were crammed tightly into neat rows, most of them facing outward. In the waning light, and with the damage to its front end, I actually had trouble finding mine. I had to walk behind the row, to find my license plate (which I stupidly forgot to take that night, sending me back another time). I felt a little sad and guilty that I couldn’t recognize my own car.
Once I found it, I saw that Santa Shaggy had been true to his word – they had, indeed, taped some plastic over the non-closeable window. It hadn’t done its work, however, as the front seat was still sopping wet, and the armrest and door pocket were full of water. I managed to get my injured hand wet, which went well with the metal splint, the cold air, and my lack of gloves.
I did my best to quickly gather everything from the wreck, but it’s amazing how much crap one car can gather in eight years of ownership. There were actually these things called “maps” in my glove compartment, along with countless service receipts and expired registration cards. The door pockets in back contained Lego’s and other small toys the boys had long since outgrown and/or forgotten, and the whole experience made me nostalgic and sad. Not to mention sore, as there wasn’t much room between cars, and it was tough to get in and out of that wreck.
I’m not one to get attached to an inanimate object, but I felt like I was abandoning an old friend in that lot. To drive the point home, a stray cat ran out from behind a nearby car, ran into the one well-lighted spot next to the building, and gave me a dirty look before it disappeared again.
Across town, having received my text informing them that I was stopping by the lot to clean everthing out, Matthew was remarking to Kim that it was kind of sad they wouldn’t be able to say good-bye to the car. I barely got to, as I was so cold and miserable by the time I’d cleared everything from the seats, doors, glove compartment, console, and trunk.
If you tried to guess the weirdest thing I took out of the wreck, I bet you’d never guess an oscilloscope. There’s a story there, too, but for now, suffice it to say my Dad couldn’t use it anymore and I didn’t want to see it trashed, but I didn’t have anywhere to store it.
And that was how I parted with the old car. (Except for the trip back later, to claim the old license plate.)
The next day, I left another message for the adjuster when I still hadn’t heard back from her. That was Thursday. I called her back the following Monday, while I was waiting to pick up the car I’d agreed to buy over the weekend. I kinda figured I shouldn’t leave the lot with a new car until I had confirmation I would be losing the old one. I finally got through to the adjuster this time – ten days after the accident.
When the adjuster heard it was me, she said she was glad to hear from me, because she had some questions for me. I told her to go ahead; she asked me where my car was, so she could go assess it. I’m pretty sure my BP immediately hit the same level it had hit the night of the accident.
I told her I had left that information for her the previous Wednesday. She apologized and said she’d been having trouble with her voicemail. I asked her if maybe it wouldn’t have been a good idea to call me back on general principle if she knew I had a wreck in need of assessment and she thought I hadn’t returned her call in five days. She apologized and said she’d been having trouble with her voicemail.
I gave her the information on the tow yard and stressed the importance of knowing the pay-off soon. We had made an offer on a car assuming a certain value on the wreck. She called back an hour later to say they were paying us 50 percent more than we’d thought the car was worth.
That news was the only positive aspect to my dealings with my insurance company. I suppose I shouldn’t identify them by name, so let me just say, being in their hands wasn’t the experience they’ve touted it to be….