Okay, this article is not about what you might think— Barry P. Goldberg, as principal of Goldberg Injury Lawyers in Woodland Hills was recently in a significant car crash. I am the idiot! Why? Well, for reasons that do not make much sense, I have been handling the case myself—personally—without help—no assistance! I guess I figured that I have been handling every type of car accident case imaginable for over three decades. Surely, I am the best and most qualified to make a few phone calls and get this thing wrapped up. I was wrong—I am an idiot!
By the way, in my practice, I counsel new clients in writing to be cautious about what they post about their accidents and the aftermath. They are to assume that the insurance companies will read every word and interpret the post against you. So, I am not following my own advice. I told you that I am an Idiot!
The Car Crash
My car accident story is not particularly unique or complex. I was coming home from work after a long day of helping others with their injury cases. I was going southbound in the fast lane, straight on a major artery in my neighborhood, Topanga Canyon Blvd. Traffic was heavy, but moving just fine in my direction. Suddenly, and without any warning whatsoever, a black Mazda appeared from my left side and tried to occupy the same space as my car. Moreover, the Mazda accelerated into my lane rather than brake. I recall swerving hard to my right. Then, Bam! My drivers front came into contact with the Mazda’s passenger front. The best I can piece together is that I corrected to the left and the whole driver’s side slid along the front of the Mazda—all the way to my rear bumper, which became hooked, and pulled off! Wow! Scary!
Apparently, the Mazda was stopped at a stop sign on a small cross street, facing westbound and attempting to make a left turn to southbound Topanga Canyon. I am just going to say it like it is—this was an impossible left turn, even for the most seasoned of drivers. The Mazda had to cross two lanes of northbound traffic which was completely backed up as it approached a signaled intersection. Somehow, the Mazda made it through the stopped northbound traffic with no view of the oncoming southbound traffic—ya— that’s where I was—the oncoming southbound traffic!
After the crash, we both pulled to the side out of the way of now backed up traffic. I did try to retrieve some metal parts from the roadway. But, the drivers were not having it. The homeward-bound commuters were angry that I had the audacity to be pummeled and then try and clear hazards away from their cars! My poor car (More on this to follow). I snapped a few quick pictures of the roadway, my car and the Mazda. (Not bad!)
The Immediate Aftermath of the Crash
After I cleared the roadway, I walked up to the passenger side of the Mazda. The window was rolled down. Inside was a very nice young lady that was obviously very disoriented and upset. In fact, she was shaking like a leaf and sort of crying. She apologized over and over and said that it was her fault and that she did not see me. She then said that she is so upset and disoriented that she did not even know what to do next. I did see her parking pass for our local high school and realized that she really did not know what was going on.
My daughter-dad instinct kicked in immediately. I said, “first, everything is going to be okay. I need you to breathe.” “Everything is going to be fine. Everything is going to be repaired and you will probably never make another left turn in this lifetime!” “Second, I am a dad of two daughters and that she could not have hit a driver more sympathetic to her circumstance.” Then, I said, “this process is easier than you think. Put your license and insurance card on the seat and I will take a picture of it with my cell phone. Next, I will put my license and insurance card on the seat, and you can take a picture of my information.” Well, it worked—sort of. I guess I got distracted and left my license and insurance info in her car!
She asked, what do we do next? I looked at her car and said that I think she could probably hobble herself home because she lived nearby. However, her fender was pressed against the front tire. I could not help myself. I started prying the fender away from the tire with my bare hands. Could I have injured my low back pulling thew fender? It worked. She spoke to her parent, and she was going to try to drive home. Oh— she stopped after starting to drive away. She said, “you may want your license and insurance card back!”
Waiting for the Tow Truck
My car was undriveable. I called Auto Club, reported the accident, and requested a tow. I started taking more pictures of my poor car. Now, I have to admit this to you, I have “campaign” problems. I do not want you to feel sorry for me. But I drive my dream car. It is a Mercedes 450 SL hard top convertible. It has very low mileage and I keep it perfect. I was planning to buy it off the lease because 1. I love it; 2. Low miles; and 3. They no longer make hard top convertibles.
I called my wife and told her not to worry, but I was in an accident and would not be home for dinner. I asked her to call the local Mercedes dealership and ask who does their collision repairs. I asked her to mention that I have a very special and rare paint color and that it will matter where the vehicle is repaired.
About at that time, my mid back started “burning.” Could this be what my clients experience? I can’t make a claim. The insurers will think that I am just trying to take advantage. I waited about 30 minutes for the tow truck driver. By then, my shoulders started to stiffen, and I was getting a headache. I guess this “stuff” is real!
Next, a man approached me from the rear. “I saw the whole thing!” “She accelerated right into you!” Here is my card. I thanked him over and over again. I told him that it was very noble to interrupt his commute to leave his information. I told him that regardless of what he would say, I appreciated that he was a good citizen and was willing to be inconvenienced.
The tow truck arrived, and my car was placed on the flat bed. The driver was cool and experienced. He took my wayward bumper and jammed it into place—“where to?” We took it to the Mercedes dealership and was told that they would handle it from there. Apparently, they have a relationship with a body shop that knows what to do. I hope so!
Contacting the Insurance Companies is a Pain!
After getting home and having a light dinner, I called the young lady’s insurance company. Oh heck, why don’t I just tell you that it was Allstate? The automated system is a nightmare. In fact, there are no options for reporting an accident if you are not an Allstate insured. Eventually, I just guessed at a response and requested to speak to an attendant. I reported the accident and was told that an adjuster and claim number would be assigned. I think I needed to contact Texas or Arizona or someplace in the morning.
The next morning, I followed up with my insurer. Oh heck—you probably figured it out already — Auto Club of Southern California. I spoke directly to the handling adjuster. She was experienced and direct. We have determined that you were not at fault for this accident. I can not see a circumstance under which you were not at fault! We went through coverage, and she had already reached out to Allstate. Not bad!
I tried to call the number given to me by Allstate. It was the western coverage adjusting team, or something. After about 20 minutes, I finally spoke to a human. I was told that “Eric” would be handling my claim. Unfortunately, Eric was on vacation for a week. Nobody would be handling my claim!
When did Renting a Car get so Difficult?
Next call is to the rental car companies. Boy, I am going to get a nice car. After all I am replacing a Mercedes 450 SL! I called around. I do not get to talk to anybody anymore. There are online questionnaires and requests. I can recall calling up a rental car branch and talking to someone. Reserving a car, getting it and driving off. No longer!
After about an hour of computerized nonsense, I finally made a “reservation” with Enterprise corporate. They said a “team member” from my local branch will call me by 11 am and finalize the rental so I could have it before noon. No call. I called the local branch at about 11:30am. “Yes, we have your reservation for a premium luxury car right here.” “We did not call you.”
“I know.” “What car do you have for me?”
“We have lots of cars”
“I am sure, you are a rental car agency.” “What car do I get?”
“Come on down and have your pick of the lot.” “Just tell me what your nicest car is!”
“You want me to list off every car we have available?” “No, just the top 2 or 3 nicest luxury vehicles you have available” —— “Well we do not have any premium vehicles at the moment.”
“Okay, I give up. Just tell me, if you were me and you had your choice of any vehicle currently on your lot, what would you pick?”
“If it were me, I would definitely take the red Ford Edge. It is very clean and only has 30,000 miles. But it is very nice.”
“Okay. I will take it. See you in 10 minutes.”
“Yes, Hi, this Barry Goldberg. I will take the Ford Edge please as quickly as possible.”
“I can’t rent you that car.”
“Why not? I just reserved it.”
“It is on ‘recall’, can’t be rented out.”
“What’s the recall about?
“We don’t know. It could be that a radio station doesn’t work, or the car could burst into flames!”
“What is the next best car you have?”
“We have a very nice Jeep. We are washing it up for you now.”
I get the car and drive off. It has 66,000 miles and is in relatively average condition. I will be taking it back. It is a Piece ‘O Cr@p! It smells and I am not going to drive it for the next month or two!
When will my Car be Repaired?
I am not asking for precision. Just tell me is it going to be 3 weeks or 3 months? Well, we do not know yet! You see, we have order parts from Europe, including the special paint. The paint is not a color. It is a process. Your process will take three steps.
Conclusion— Don’t Handle Your Own Case
Sure, I did not want to bother my staff. I also did not want a colleague getting all up in my business. I did not want to take my staff away from handling your case. I do have a renewed appreciation for what my staff does. On the phones all day handling problems. One after another. Maybe I have already done the heavy lifting and wasted hours on the phone. Maybe I did a poor job?
I am now assigning the balance of the file to a professional. I should have done this in the first place. But alas—I have an idiot for a client!