Kathleen C

Last week, I got into my first car accident. Approaching an intersection between two streets, I took the green light in front of me for granted, coasting forward. A truck approached from the opposite direction, turning left onto 124th. Seeing that he was directly in my path, I shoved my hand onto the horn, pushed my foot against the brake, and slowly realized that it wasn’t enough. As we crashed, I remember watching the hood of my car, a sedan, pop off, recoiling from the trauma, and the airbag deploying right into my face, with pieces of my car flying away, like fireworks on the Fourth of July.

The two seconds that followed were long, in shock, staring at the mess in my car, the dust in the air, and the front, squished like a crumpled piece of paper. My hand lay limply in my lap, contorted in a backwards shriveled manner. My seat belt tightly gripped my chest, sure to leave bruises, and the deflated airbag drooped from my wheel. Attempting to release myself, I tried to move my right hand, finding it incapacitated by the hit. Instead, I struggled to push the release with my left hand, coughing while I stepped out. Behind me was the aftermath: my car shoved into the tire of a truck almost twice as big, exploded across the intersection.

The man stepped out of his car, unfazed. “Hi, I’m Carl.”

“Hi Carl,” I responded between tears, “I’m Kate. Nice to meet you.”

After the police arrived and surveyed the traffic cameras, they told me that I indeed had a green and the opposing vehicle had a flashing yellow. I was immediately relieved knowing that at least I wasn’t at fault. I spent my afternoon in the ER receiving a splint for my broken wrist before returning to work that evening.

Assuming that Carl would cover the accident, I returned to my normal schedules, albite inconvenienced with a padded-up arm and sling accompanying me at every turn. All my friends sent me their condolences over my disabled arm, and I’ll live the rest of my life with a three-inch scar reminding me of the titanium plate in my wrist. Another side-effect of the accident, however, was the inevitable countless stories of people telling me about their car-accident stories. Trish, the receptionist at my workplace, told me about how a girl had rear-ended her, and to avoid increasing her insurance rates, wanted to just do a cash transaction. After visiting the repairman, Trish’s total came to $1000; the girl only had $800. Then she changed her phone number.

Hearing Trish’s story made me realize how lucky I am that Carl not only had insurance but that the insurance company was going to take responsibility to, if not cover the incident, at least follow up with me regarding it. I wasn’t going to get a run-away like Trish did.

Sometimes, insurance companies are viewed as the evil guys, the ones who try to save every possible penny and benefit their profits rather than our lives. I don’t think that way. Insurance companies, to me, are companies that try to protect us from accidents of no fault to ourselves, and sometimes accidents of our fault as well. Insurance companies are the safety net upon which we can fall into and trust to handle the situation.

Every step of the way was the backstage working of my dad, calling our insurance agency, Carl’s insurance agency, and again, our insurance agency, trying to sort out this mess that was truly an accident. Insurance agencies not only saved Carl from going broke, paying for my totalled car and surgery, but also saved me the pain of having to go back and back again to Carl, hunting him down for money that he possibly doesn’t have.

So why does insurance matter to me? Before the accident, I didn’t really see insurance as an aid to life; I viewed it as just another sector of capitalism, feeding off the souls and livelihoods of good people. Those ads of some insurance company that they are “by our sides” or “friends” were something I scoffed at. But the accident and having a real experience with insurance companies has really let me know: insurance agencies aren’t what I thought they were.

The accident wasn’t my fault. Even so, who knows if Carl would be responsible enough to admit that and pay for my injuries? Who knows if I would be able to track him down again? I’m thankful to have survived the accident – my injuries could have been way worse – but I’m unexpectedly thankful that my insurance company and Carl’s insurance company are working to resolve the issue. No matter what, I will always buy insurance.

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