I parked my Suburban in the handicap parking spot in front of Wal-Mart, unloaded the wheelchair from its LARGE BRIGHT YELLOW lift on the back, and went inside. After about an hour (you know how time passes in that place), I heard a page:
Would the owner of a blue GMC suburban parked in the handicap spot right out front, please come to the front immediately!
My heart sank. I knew I was parked fine, that I’d put the handicap tag in the mirror, all of that — and so that the page meant that something was wrong.
So I wheeled on up to Customer Service, and two hopping ladies told me that someone had just run OVER my wheelchair lift, parked her car, and grabbed a shopping cart and went on. I asked them to call the police and went on out and parked myself right behind her car.
The wheelchair lift was sitting at a 45 degree angle to the car, both sideways and up in the air. :::scowls::: The entire underside of HER car was colored bright yellow.
After a good long while (because it was a non-emergency – understandable) the cops showed up. Still no lady. They went in and began to page her. After a good long while, she came out, child in tow.
“Ohhhhhh. Is there some sort of problem?” :::innocent, concerned look:::
“Yes ma’am, is this your vehicle?”
“Did you hit this other vehicle, here?”
“Oh, yeah, when I was backing up, here, yes sir, I heard it hit, uh-huh, but when I got up in the parking spot I looked at my car and there was no damage on it, and I asked that other lady and she said I didn’t hit it, and so I went on with my shopping. I knew I hit the yellow thing, is all.”
(at that point I squeaked and the officer glared at me)
“You heard it hit?”
“Yes, but there was no damage to my vehicle.”
At that point I could no longer contain myself, and said something to the effect of, “And you didn’t think it was important to come in, find the owner of the car, and make a report? Did it not occur to you that the yellow thing might BE IMPORTANT to someone? That yellow thing holds my wheelchair, and now I can’t get home. It’s a custom-made item, and to go buy a new one off the rack could cost up to $3000!”
Then she said something that made my heart momentarily sink sink sink … “You mean that’s how much I gotta pay?” (and she didn’t say it in a despairing tone because she’s poor and couldn’t afford it , she said it in such an arrogant-I-am-costing-her-money tone that I had to wrestle down the urge to slap her, and the cop actually gave her a hard look, too. Why did it make my heart sink? The first thing that crossed my mind was, “This lady must not have any insurance…yamsyamsyamsyams…”
The cops did their thing, interviewed my witness (Thank God for Lillian R. at Wal-Mart!!! Wooo-Hoooo!!! Just called her boss and told him, “Give her a raise!”). Then the cops told me that they couldn’t charge her with hit and run because she’d NOT LEFT THE PROPERTY (!!!!) but they did charge her with some other stuff, and that I should be content with that because it would turn up as her fault. Ken had arrived on the scene at that point, and ended up soothing me down enough to let the police leave without me getting snarly. The lady that hit me fled back into the store (I’m not sure whether it was “fear of Ken” because he’s such a big guy, or if it was that she’d finally acquired some shame over what she’d done, or if she was still mad at me for being there.
I sat in the car for the next 45 minutes and cried my fool head off due to sheer frustration over it all. I’ve lost my legs – literally, there’s not many places I can go without my wheelchair these days. I feel so very violated. That’s not what I expected, in all of my imaginings about “what would happen” in auto accidents. I mean, it’s only a car. But, well, this is my wheelchair lift. It’s more than “the car”. She was so nonchalant about it, so “why should *I* be responsible?”… gah.
I’d managed to maintain my cool fairly well… not sure I was a good witness for Christ through it, and that’s been bugging me. How can you, in a situation like that? There must be a way.
Honestly, I think I’d feel a whole lot different if one of two things had happened.
- If it had been a genuine accident. Hey, they happen. Sure, the damage would need to be taken care of, but I don’t think I’d be stuck with this frustration and sense of violation because of her arrogance.
- If she had just come and reported that it happened when she did it. Even if she wasn’t paying attention or didn’t see it or whatever. All she had to do was come to customer service and say, “I just hit a car with a yellow thing on the back. Could you page the owner?” Or she even could have left her insurance information on the windshield with her phone # so I could call her later. Why could she not have just been honest about it?
Ken finally got me calmed down enough to drive. We took a bunch of pictures of it, which made me feel better. He sent Bobby and I home, and went to McD’s for dinner. (Unfortunately by that point, he was all thin-lipped and I’m the one that probably should have gone for dinner!!)
And so first thing this morning, my insurance company called. For anyone out there who’s in the market for insurance – Virginia Mutual Insurance in Glen Allen, VA is who we go through… they are truly awesome. Inexpensive and RIGHT on the ball.
I told them what happened and the guy was *shocked* at what happened. He doubted that the lady even had valid insurance, given what she’d said about having to pay for it. But he called up Geico and fortunately, she’s got it.
Geico called me almost immediately thereafter to begin processing the claim. Told me they could get me an appointment to “have my vehicle repaired” at a place in Greensboro on Monday, and provide me with a rental vehicle from there. I said to her… er…. ermmm… um… “You’d best back up a couple of steps. You walk around on your own two feet, don’t you.”
I could hear the gears in her mind working. She hesitantly said, “Yes.”
So I explained that it wasn’t like this lady had smashed in the front end of my car and minorly inconvenienced us and caused some cosmetic damage. Barring injury, of course, I can’t imagine much worse happening. When I told her that the chair weighs 450-500 pounds, the light began to dawn (I’d thought our insurance guy had explained to her that it’s a power chair; either he didn’t or it got lost in translation somewhere along the process). And so I told her that not only would any rental vehicle they got me need to be a wheelchair-equipped van, but that I’d need it before Monday!!
She was SO nice about it! (I’m quite impressed so far by Geico’s response, by the way!)
Immediately she stuck me on hold so that she could make several phone calls. She set it up so that their adjuster could come out to my house to look at the damage, and also they’ve set it up so that I can get a rental wheelchair van from Ilderton’s at absolutely no charge.
The guy who built the lift in the first place says that if it’s this damaged, there’s absolutely no way to fix it – once the structural integrity of metal is violated, it’s impossible to fix: it might even shatter. So Geico’s going to work with me to replace it, I guess. I’m talking with the adjuster guy when he comes out here in a little while about how to get that.
Most people deal with this sort of mess (you know – traffic accidents, insurance claims) before they’re 20 or so. I’m blessed to have gray hair and just be sorting this thing out now 🙂
God’s going to get me what I need. I know that. And I know that He’s going to work it out for my good.
What I need right now is to be able to forgive this lady. Maybe it’s a lesson in how to forgive someone like this. Made even harder because she’s a total stranger, and I’m not likely to ever even see her again.
Well, there is good news. The car-rental agency just called, and they’re bringing the van right now. So away I go!