Every TV spot for State Farm, Progressive, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide and Allstate show smiling people dealing with friendly claims agents and living happily ever after. The ads are, of course, nothing more than fairytales broadcast several times an hour with the intent of getting you to buy the sponsoring company's car insurance instead of some other company's policy. They are intentionally misleading about what being in a car accident and having to deal with insurance claim agents are really like.
I know from having represented hundreds of people in car wrecks that getting your life back to normal after a collision isn't just a matter of someone clapping their hands and saying a magic word. No matter what State Farm wants drivers and accident victims to believe, no insurer can make everything better in a matter of seconds. Crashes that cause injuries or wrongful death because some other driver drove under the influence of drugs or alcohol, sped recklessly or became distracted while talking or texting on a cell phone produce incredible trauma, create enormous expenses and take huge emotional tolls.
I came far too close to learning this firsthand recently. Driving near my home in Norfolk, Virginia, a giant SUV pulled onto Colley Avenue from a side street, right in front of me. The man just waved as if to say, "Oops, no biggie. Sorry I didn't see you."
Apology not accepted.
That person's negligence in not looking for my car and failure to obey safety rules about yielding right-of-way could have cost me my life. Luckily, I was paying good attention, and I managed to just barely avoid a collision.
While shaken (and angry), I was also relieved to know I wouldn't have to face the aftermath of a serious traffic accident.
First, there would have been the scare and shock of being run into and hearing the crash and the breaking glass. Then, I'd most likely have suffered the intense physical pain of a broken bone or head and brain injury caused by the wreck. Next, would come the hassle of going to emergency rooms, doctors offices, physical therapist appointments and, possibly, surgery. Despite all the medical treatments, I might still have wound up with scars, a permanent disability, brain damage or chronic lower back or neck pain. All the while, I'd have been missing time from work and worrying about mounting bills.
Add to this the hassle of waiting days or weeks for the car to get fixed -- often multiple times -- or attempting to obtain a fair payment for the totaled vehicle. The reality, then, is that physically and financially recovering from the accident could have taken months or years rather than the seconds shown in television commercials.
I have helped many people going through terrible times because of a preventable car, truck, motorcycle or SUV crash someone else caused. In practically every case, the insurance company holding the policy for the at-fault driver has tried to lowball my client's compensation or attempted to force a jury trial in an attempt to intimidate or wait out the victim until he or she accepted an unfair settlement.
So when I watch insurance companies' TV ads and see the actors' happy, smiling faces, it makes my blood boil to think that anyone could pretend that car accidents are no big deal.