Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I Am a Victim. Woe is Me!

It's a weird feeling. I feel like I'm the kind of person who's "on their toes," "has their head on straight," "keeps their eyes open," "takes everything with a grain of salt," and whatever other cliche you want to use to mean that I don't feel like I'm stupid. And yet, it turns out that I am a sucker.

It turns out that the woman who called me and told me she was from the other guy's insurance was a total scam. She had nothing to do with his insurance. I had a run in with a bona fide ambulance chaser with a heaping dose of fraud.

Please hold your outbursts and criticisms of my foolishness until the end. Humor me and let me tell you more about my run in with the quack first.

So I got to the chiropractor's office and desperately wanted to leave without going in. I don't do chiropractors. But I also have a deep set fear of fees, and somehow I was sure that I would be charged a missed appointment fee if I didn't show up. (Only later did it occur to me that the chiropractor's office itself had nothing but my name and phone number, so this possibility was fairly unlikely. See how irrationally paranoid about the wrong things I was?) From the perspective of my health, what harm would it do to go inside and talk to them. Just TALK -- I wouldn't let them DO anything!

So I filled out forms as a new patient and then talked to said jeans-clad chiropractor. Oh and for Ashley's sake, the jeans were nice jeans. They might have been brand name, I'm not fashion conscious enough to look for that sort of thing. So it's not like she looked like she'd just finished fixing her motorcycle or painting her living room or anything, but they were jeans nonetheless.

Oh, the mumbo jumbo! You know how "psychics" are "good" because they can read people and get people to divulge information without meaning to? Well, just call this gal "The All Seeing Madame Heather, Palm Reader and Chiropractor." She was admittedly good at pinpointing where I hurt when I made movements that caused me discomfort. But she was also very good at poking spots on me and saying, "You have pain right there." Then I would respond, "Um, no, not really." Then when I would clarify where and how I did hurt, she was very good at acting like SHE had discovered it, and not that I had painstakingly explained it to her, with her getting it wrong a lot along the way. Anyway, surprise surprise, she concluded that I had mild to moderate whiplash and that in addition to some muscle pain, parts of my spine were "out of line" and that I needed 11 treatments over the next 5 weeks. Does anyone else find it interesting that she supposedly specializes in the spine and yet nowhere along the way did it come up that I have scoliosis? You'd think that would get asked in the paperwork, or even more likely, that she'd notice the fairly obvious fact that my right shoulder is significantly lower. Was my spine really out of line, or did I just have a nasty case of "this phony is trying to blame scoliosis from adolescence on my car accident two days ago"? The world may never know, because I'm certainly not going back. I told them that I didn't really want the treatments. I saw a possible easy out. "After all, who will pay for all this?" At this point, they start going on about how I should probably get "legal representation." This bothered me even more than the rest of their horribly unprofessional behavior, and I think it showed on my face. So then they asked if I'd like to speak with "Brenda" (you know, scam-o-rama "I'm from the insurance company" lady). They had Brenda's phone number and dialed it for me. When I started to talk to "Brenda," she also started telling me that I should get a lawyer and prepared to give me some "referrals." Before now, my "weird-o-meter" had been timidly sending out beeps. Well, I may not be the brightest, but at this point, the "weird-o-meter" started sounding the wailing alarm. I told them I needed to go home and "think about it and talk to my husband" ( I LOVE that M and I have given each other free reign over the spouse excuse, it's the BEST!) and high-tailed it out of there.

The next day I spent a lot of time on the phone with the REAL insurance company for the other guy. Also with my insurance company, the police, and the Texas Department of Insurance. I better not get a bill for that appointment. If it comes to it, the quack is on my insurance (What? The quack is on my insurance's preferred provider list?!?!?), so I'd only pay $20 plus 10%. But this underhanded group of people in shady employment messed with the wrong soccer mom. As M put it, "Hmmm, let's see. Who should we try to scam? How about a stay-at-home-mom with all the time she needs to spend on the phone getting our licenses yanked? Maybe even one with a fairly challenging college degree lying fallow. She definitely wouldn't see us as a fun challenge to break up the nose wiping, no no."

Anyway, I feel painfully stupid that I got suckered in enough to go to that appointment. I should have known better. But another part of me thinks, but how should I have known better? She SAID she was from the right company and she knew my name and the name of the other driver. How should I have known what standard procedure is? I'm not in car accidents very frequently (in fact, this would be a first for me personally). But I know I'm stupid. She probably saw the accident report somehow. Please don't fill the comments with an interminable list of tips for avoiding this in the future. Or further reasons that I was blind to the clear signs of my impending doom. I heard it all in my head and ignored it anyway. Life is a senseless blur right now between all this accident stuff and the fact that I'm living and breathing our big church dinner on Thursday night for all the women that I'm organizing all the food for.

I'm tired of talking about this car accident. I want it all to just go away, but alas, it won't. Today the body shop finished the economic verdict on my car. Roughly $9300. It's close enough to totaling that they have to wait for my insurance to come look at it and decide if it's totaled. I almost want it to be totaled at this point, because I'm sure I'll get a working car sooner that way. Waiting for repairs is bound to take weeks. And then it will be delayed because of Christmas. And then we'll have to wait for some obscure part. Etc., etc. If it's totaled, in theory, we can email car dealerships that very day and start pitting them against each other to give us the best price on a van, maybe even from last model year (the BEST way to buy a new car!). Sure it will cost more than having it repaired, but time is money people!!! Or maybe we'll try to find a used 2 year old Honda or Toyota minivan with not too many miles. HA! As if! We already went through this 2 years ago. That's why we bought new last time. Nobody sells these things. They drive them into the ground. The few ones you do find used either have a gazillion miles on them or else they have every bell and whistle upgrade so the price is more than just getting a relatively featureless new one. Hello? I'll take the new car smell and a warranty any day over heated side view mirrors. I know you're all wondering why I don't have a rental in the meantime. Once we know the final verdict on the van, I'll decide if it's worth hassling the other guys' insurance to try to coerce them into paying for a rental. I mean, it's bound to take so much time on the phone.

Also, do you have any idea how much time I have spent on the phone in the last week? Do you remember that I HATE talking on the phone to people I don't know well? Well, I loathe it. I keep thinking that when I go through things like this or church assignments that have me on the phone all the time that it will break me of my telephobia. Like when people try to solve, say, a fear of snakes by forcing someone to spend a day in a room full of snakes. But it never works. Sometime I improve a little, and then I relapse.

Seriously, all I want to do is not think about anything to do with the car accident for a little while, so I gotta go.


Sheyenne said...

Gretchen, you are not stupid by any means. And I hope my "that was your first mistake" comment didn't contribute to you feeling that way. Really, these things don't happen often, which is why these people probably make a ton of money off of otherwise very smart and savvy people. I'm glad you saw through it, and I can't STAND that there are people who do this for a living and then go back to their families at night, probably without any sort of nagging conscience. Here's hoping your car is totaled! Ha!

K said...

Poor Gretchen! What an awful experience! I am so sorry! I can't believe that those people tried to scam you into litigation like that. That's crazy! It's good that you figured out what was going on! I hope someone can take them down. I also hope you get a new car out of the ordeal! Good luck!