According to the auto insurance industry, the average person experiences a motor vehicle accident once every 18 years, or 3-4 throughout the course of their lifetime. Welp, I’ve always been an overachiever, and I guess I shot for the stars when it came to vehicle accidents. Amazingly, the majority of them were not my fault. Being in so many car accidents has given me a unique insight into the insurance industry, emergency response, and vehicle repair.
My First and Second Motor Vehicle Accidents
I know it seems strange to title this section with both my first and second, but it will soon become clear why we are talking about both together. My first car accident happened when I was a 17 year-old, and I had my driver’s license for about a year. I was leaving my neighborhood, trying to make a right-hand turn at an intersection. The light was red, and the lady in front of me took off like she was going to make her right turn and go. I took my foot off the break, looked left, and rear-end the back of her vehicle. Oops.
Now, I will take responsibility; it was totally my fault. I should have been looking out and not taken my foot off the brake until I saw her totally leave. However, it was a bit of a setup. This accident was low speed. I didn’t even hit the gas, so my car barely rolled from taking my foot off the brake. Despite this, the other car’s driver hopped out and proceeded to RUN around her vehicle, SCREAMING about her neck and back. Her mother was in the passenger seat, and she got out, walked over, and proceeded to hug me as I cried. I was so overwhelmed. The driver’s husband was there faster than the police or ambulance. He took pictures of her vehicle, my vehicle, the intersection, everything.
When the police and my father arrived, the paperwork began. The other driver insisted on talking to the cops first. She claimed tons of injuries but wouldn’t let the EMTs check her out and refused a ride to the hospital. She ended up driving away from the accident after everything was said and done. It was then my turn to explain what happened. The officer accused me of lying because my explanation of events didn’t match the other driver’s. My father insists that the law enforcement looks at the physical damage to my vehicle. Surprise, surprise, the damage matches my story and conflicts with hers. The other driver claimed she hit the brakes because traffic was coming down the road that we were trying to turn onto. Yet she also claimed that we had both already turned right and were on the road she claimed the traffic was coming down; that I hit her directly square on from behind. However, the property damage showed that the right corner of my vehicle was damaged, and the driver’s side of her bumper had a dent.
In the aftermath, the other driver filed a personal injury claim with my insurance company for $145,000, claiming that the seatbelt insured her right shoulder in the accident. She had surgery, then sued the insurance company. Except, the seatbelt goes over your left shoulder, not your right. To add insult to injury, that driver was a high school teacher. This crazy lady was responsible for teaching other children who were my peers, yet acted this way when in a traffic collision.
Later That Day
I didn’t go to school that day. I was so shaken up and upset. By the afternoon, my dad insists that we go driving. If I don’t do it today, I won’t ever get behind the wheel again. I didn’t want to go. We ended up going. I decided I wasn’t ready to face the accident corner, so I was going to leave the neighborhood through the other entrance. I’m death gripping the wheel. I’m going the exact speed limit of 35. I’m on high alert doing the exact opposite of distracted driving with my dad in the passenger seat. I see a car to the left, waiting to cross the street that I’m on and enter the Publix shopping center that’s on the right side of the road. This car waited until the last second, pulled out, and STOPPED right in front of me. I slam on the brakes, but it’s no use. The Avalanche collides with the passenger side of his little car and I’m in my second car crash of the day.
My dad and I get out, assess the damage, and inquire if the other driver is ok. It turned out that the other driver was an older man, like very old. He was barely mobile but started screaming about how I was speeding, and I purposefully hit him, and he had the right of way. An officer shows up, and we explain the situation.
A witness steps up, furious at the older man, and demands that the officer right him a ticket because the accident was clearly his fault. The officer wants to make us both responsible. Then the officer starts talking to the elderly gentleman. It becomes quickly apartment that he isn’t fully aware of his surroundings, isn’t mobile enough to pick his keys up off the ground, and shouldn’t be driving. The office wrote the ticket for the elderly man. Thankfully, the Avalanche I was driving had no damage, and my father only had one vehicle to fix, my Tahoe from the accident earlier in the day.
The Third Auto Accident
Fast forward to my first summer back home after my freshman year of college. I secured a job at my local Target working in the fitting room. I loved the job. One day, I was on my way to work, sitting at a red light, minding my own business. Suddenly, a lady in a mini van drives down the turn lane and collides with me and the car in front of me. She wasn’t supposed to smoke in her van because it was her boyfriend’s. Well, she was smoking, and she dropped the cigarette butt. As she frantically leaned over to pick it up, she turned the wheel and drove up the side of my car and the one in front of me. I was stunned and heartbroken. The responding officer had to carry my fender and bumper as they hung from my car so I could drive it off the road. The lady driving the van and her boyfriend didn’t have insurance. Thankfully, I could get my car fixed through my insurance.
The Fourth Accident
That wasn’t the last accident for my little Maxima. We were safe for a few years. Then, in my second year of law school, I was coming home from class and got stuck in accident traffic on I275. For miles, it was stop-and-go traffic. We were calmly rolling along, and the accident was coming into sight. I had hoped that I would clear the accident and be home soon. Then I was bumped hard from behind. A woman in an F250 was looking at the accident and not at me in front of her. Everyone stopped, and she didn’t. Her large truck dented my bumper and trunk lid. This was the accident where I learned that the insurance company would only repair your vehicle if the repair cost exceeds a certain percentage of the vehicle’s value. Instead of paying for a new bumper and trunk lid, the insurance company wanted to total the entire car. I wasn’t going to let the insurance company win. I called around and searched and found someone willing to repair the car under the limit that the insurance company set. However, you get what you pay for. In heavy rains, the trunk lid would leak, and the spare tire well would fill with water.
The Fifth Accident
After I graduated from law school, I moved out of the St Pete area and into a family home in New Port Richey. One day, I was missing the Saturday market held in downtown St Pete on Saturdays. So, my parents and I hopped in their Avalanche and headed south. We are sitting at a red light, waiting for the light to turn green, when the entire truck lurches forward. We had just been rear-ended. We pull into a nearby parking lot and are followed by the driver that just hit us.
He was an off-duty officer on his way to work in his personal vehicle! This was my second accident in an Avalanche, and I can tell you, those trucks are beasts. Our truck had no damage from the accident. He managed to hit the trailer hitch, which tore a hole in the hood of his car. He sheepishly admitted that he was on his cell phone and didn’t see us. Since our vehicle had no damage, we agreed to not report it and let him handle his own vehicle.
The Sixth Accident
Do you see a trend with my accidents? It seems like people really like hitting me from behind. Well, it happened again. By now, it’s 2013-2014, and I’m driving to work on US 19. This road is notorious for being dangerous. It’s so bad that my car insurance went up $500 for a six-month premium when I moved from Orlando to New Port Richey for this job.
One day I’m on my way to work, sitting at a red light in rush hour traffic. The man behind me was on his phone and rolled right into the back of me. He cracked some plastics on my truck and dented the bumper and hood on his vehicle. Since the damage was minimal and I was looking to change up the plastics anyway, I told him we should pretend the accident never happened. He smiled gratefully, and I happily bought new custom body plastics for my beautiful little red truck.
The Seventh Accident
This was the most frustrating and upsetting of my traffic accidents. Motorcyclists are overrepresented in fatal crash statistics according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), so as frustrating the experience was, I consider myself lucky. Being on a motorcycle makes everything feel a lot more real and intense. I was riding down US 19 in rush hour traffic on my way to work. I was following a white truck, cruising at the speed limit. Suddenly, the truck swerves left, cutting off the car in the lane to my left. That car slams on the brakes, blocking the out that I had been maintaining for myself. Ahead, there was an SUV dead stopped. This is a four-lane road with a fifth turn-only lane. The speed limit is 50 miles per hour. I slammed on the brakes, and the back tire lifted. I let off the brakes and tried to ride between the car to my left and the SUV in front of me. There was a solid line of traffic to my right, so there was no hope of going that way. I almost made it. Instead, I hit the driver’s side corner of the SUV with the motorcycle and then my body. As I pick myself up from the pavement, I look up to see a small white car in front of the SUV take off.
In a strange turn of events, I knew the lady driving the stopped SUV. I learned from her that the small white car slammed on its brakes and came to a dead stop in the middle of the road. They were trying to turn right across two lanes of traffic and the turn lane to enter the shopping plaza where a gym was located.
The officer that showed up to the vehicle crash and tried to tell me “he’s a rider” and “he understood,” although he couldn’t tell me what kind of bike he road. I’m pretty sure a Honda GSXR 800 doesn’t exist. However, he still gave me a ticket for being at fault, despite the lady that I hit advocating on my behalf and saying it wasn’t my fault. He never asked if I was injured. He was more concerned with posturing with his Napoleon complex. I hired a car accident lawyer after meeting him for a free consultation to get the ticket thrown out. Thankfully, the judge ad more knowledge of traffic laws and common sense than the office did.
I tried to have my bike fixed at the motorcycle shop where I bought the bike from. They quoted me $8,000. Reviewing the quote, it was padded with parts that didn’t need replacing. For example, why in the world would I need to replace my custom aftermarket exhaust when my current exhaust doesn’t even have a scratch?! They had a complete set of plastics for the entire bike. The icing on the cake was a radiator replacement to the tune of $1,700 for just the radiator. If all of this wasn’t frustrating enough, what made my blood boil was the shop manager telling me that the bike wasn’t worth repairing. I should just trade it in and get a shiny new bike. There was no engine or frame damage to my bike. I wasn’t going to give up a fully paid-off bike and take on a monthly payment for no reason.
I told the shop manager I would return and pick up the bike. He said no problem, that’ll be $400 to put the bike back together. I told them to put the parts in a box, and I’ll take that. They kindly put some of the parts in a box and gave it to me. I had the bike flat-bedded home and started the long process of putting my bike back together. Unfortunately, the shop only gave me 75% of the parts and hardware. Thankfully, I was able to find the shop manual and all of the parts that I needed. My bike came out better than ever, and I customized many things along the way.
The Eight Accident
I ride a bicycle for exercise. It’s more than just a casual hobby for me. I ride 15-20 miles every day. In 2018 I was riding in my neighborhood like I always did at the time. There is a stop sign that people are notorious for not stopping at. The way I come, there is no stop sign. I had the right of way, but I always slowed down and checked for cars. A car was coming up to the stop sign, and he had stopped.
I thought it was ok to make my left. I get halfway through my turn, and the car goes. He runs right into me. I’m instantly on the ground, with road rash on my hands, arms, knees, and legs. This was one of the scariest vehicle collisions that I’ve been in. I was banged up and bruised for a while, but thankfully I didn’t suffer serious injury. My bicycle, though, wasn’t so lucky. I ended up having to get it replaced. These days, I live in a place where there is a separate path that keeps joggers and bicyclists out of the road and safe from drivers.
Staying Safe on the Road
It’s safe to say that I’ve had quite the driving history. To answer your questions, yes, I have spent a fortune on car insurance. Yes, I am OK; thankfully, I haven’t been seriously injured. But, no, I won’t stop driving. Thankfully, I haven’t experienced a traumatic accident that involved someone committing a DUI, a rollover, or fatalities. I’ve also been lucky enough to not fall victim to a hit-and-run. Despite it being several years since I have been involved in any motor vehicle crashes, vehicle safety is paramount to me and I’m always on the lookout for common causes of accidents. I’m not trying to file any more insurance claims.