Danielle B

It was around midnight on December 19, 2014 when I was on my way home from a late-night shift in my family’s two-year old Hyundai Veloster, charmingly named Jack after our late-grandfather who helped us purchase the vehicle. About ten minutes into my trip, as I cruised down the CA-22 freeway heading home, my heart suddenly leapt out of my chest as two cars raced past me, seemingly approaching 100 mph. In the brief moments that followed, as I contemplated whether or not the drivers were involved in some sort of race, Jack was rammed on the back left side and lurched toward the shoulder wall. In a matter of seconds, I scrambled to regain control of the vehicle and, luckily, was able to steer clear of the shoulder wall and ongoing traffic.

Barely drivable, Jack limped off the freeway into the nearest gas station, where the other driver, too, pulled in next to a pump. After parking, I immediately called my mother to inform her of the situation and enlist her help in getting a ride home. As I stepped out of the car to approach the other vehicle involved, the gentleman that was driving ran off. My initial thought was that he was going to get help, but I quickly learned he wasn’t coming back.

An hour later, after police statements were taken, AAA had arrived and my shaken up mother had put in her two cents, the driver who hit my vehicle was located by police at a nearby bus station. After being summoned to identify the man, I was informed that not only was he severely intoxicated, he was also driving without a license and had no insurance. My heart stopped…so many thoughts flooded my mind, as I tried to process the emotional reality of it all. Relief. Gratitude. Pain. Anger. Compassion. Resentment. I was grateful to be alive and relieved the driver had been found, yet as reality set-in, panic began to take hold.

My stomach churned as question after question popped into my mind. Was the damage covered? What happens when the other party is completely at fault but doesn’t have insurance? Am I going to have to get a lawyer? How am I going to have time to deal with the repercussions of this accident working fulltime and going to school? Are the medical costs from the injuries I suffer going to be covered?

With the onset of a neck injury and radiating pain down my left arm, the panic intensified. Having just celebrated my 26th birthday in October, I had been removed from my parent’s health insurance plan and had applied for medical insurance, but it was not set to start until January 1, 2015, leaving me without medical insurance for the duration of December, i.e. the month of the accident. Talk about inconvenient timing. Never had I anticipated such an unfortunate compilation of circumstances to occur in my life.

As I reflect on it now, two years and a five-millimeter T1 disc herniation later, this auto insurance claim remains open and my body is still adjusting to the permanent damage inflicted by the events of that night. Although it has caused quite the headache (literally and figuratively), there are a few lessons that I’ve learned from it.

(1) Accidents can happen to anyone. Prior to this incident, I was part of the “That’ll never happen to me” group and, if it weren’t for the law, I probably would not have purchased insurance as early as I did.

(2) Make sure you know what you are buying. Upon graduating from college, I purchased the lowest possible level of auto insurance a student-loan laden graduate could afford and had no clue that Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UMC) even existed; after further review, I learned my UMC ($30,000) would barely cover the medical expenses I incurred from the accident and that my policy would not cover a rental car. A little late to learn that information.

(3) Some insurance is better than no insurance. Although affording the most comprehensive coverage is impractical for most people, I have personally experienced and now attest to the importance of purchasing insurance, regardless of how little the coverage.

Having since researched, revised and purchased an upgraded auto insurance policy, new renter’s insurance and different health insurance, my family will also be purchasing life insurance as my husband enters his law enforcement career in the coming year. Needless to say, this accident will forever serve as a reminder of how important insurance is in safeguarding my assets and protecting my family in the event of an unplanned disaster, and I hope it will do the same for those with whom I now share my story.

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