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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

My experience shows why fewer than a third of Americans trust each other

Leslie Hetler
Leslie Hetler
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Friday, February 21, 2014 12:01 am
There are not many bad traits humans possess that irk and disgust me more than dishonesty. It is so important that we always do the right thing and that we are honest about it.Because of widespread dishonesty the average American does not trust other people much anymore. In a recent poll fewer than one-third of the general populace trusted the other guy. And it is getting worse as the years go by. How sad!

I recently experienced an eye-opening event that still concerns me. In May 2011 I was driving my wife home from a doctor’s appointment in stop-and-go-traffic when I was terribly distracted. I am not sure if I would react any differently if the same conditions existed again.

Road crews had covered a storm drain on the roadside and a man was attempting to uncover it with a shovel. Doesn’t sound too-out-of-the-ordinary does it? Except this man was bandaged from his waist to the top of his head with slits only for his eyes. And one arm was in a cast. I was so concerned for the guy that I hit the pickup truck ahead of me. I impaled my automobile grill on the trailer hitch on the truck. The impact was so minor that my wife did not realize we had hit anything. She had not put down the doctor’s report she had been reading. The driver of the pickup didn’t know they had been hit, either. After the accident I backed up my car, and as I walked between the vehicles I could see the driver through the truck rear window, and only then did they decide to join me.

The first thing the truck driver said was, “Do you think we should call the police?” I replied, “No” because the only damage obviously was to my grill. And how much damage can you do to a trailer hitch with an automobile grill?

We both drove off, and I took my wife home. After a close look at my grill I almost decided to not fix it, the damage was so minor. But the car was only 3 years old at that time, so I decided to have it repaired. After my car was repaired I forgot about the incident, thinking it was all over.

Two years later (May 2013) I got hit with the most frivolous of lawsuits. The unscrupulous truck driver and attorney were suing me for vehicle damages and physical injuries in amounts as high as $25,000. My insurance company attorney informed me that I had plenty of coverage, and she would handle all aspects of the case.

I told the insurance company attorney I would be very displeased if the person bringing this lawsuit received one red cent as this was as ridiculous a lawsuit as they can get.

The attorney informed me later that the insurance company had settled for over $10,000. Apparently the settlement was for physical injuries as I received a “Release of Hospital Lien” and no vehicle damage claim. The insurance company had paid over $10,000 with hardly a fight for this stupid lawsuit. Why?

This whole thing smells to high heaven. The truck driver didn’t go to the hospital with their “injuries” until the next day. Why wait until the next day if you had over $10,000 worth of injuries? And they waited the maximum of two years before they filed the lawsuit.

I called the highest-ranking claims representative I could find in this insurance company and asked why the quick cave-in on this lawsuit? He said this lawsuit represents a common trend, and they just cannot do a lot about it. He went on to say they just like to get these things resolved and out of the way. Isn’t that sad? This insurance company has 18 attorneys on staff for defense only. What are they for anyway? Was this claim too small to bother with? Is $10,000 the dividing line between “settle” and “go to court”?

I was also told by the insurance company that many drivers consider auto insurance companies “one big money pot.” Because there are so many attorneys looking for an excuse to sue so they can get their “one third,” the whole system is enough to make you puke. No one cares until they become a player.

The insurance company attorney told me $10,000 is a typical average payout for physical injuries.

Now that the lawsuit is over, I can see everyone is at fault. I should have called the police immediately after the accident and made sure that the accident report listed “no injuries.” But I assumed the truck driver was honest — big mistake.

The insurance company attorney should have been much more aggressive in fighting the charges. I prodded her to do so to no avail. I even sent photos of the minor damage to her.

The automobile insurance companies are largely responsible for settling early on these atrocious claims. Rather than contesting these ridiculous claims, they merely pay them and then raise the premiums of all us drivers to pay for it. The latest premium notice on my car reflected an appreciable increase with the explanation, “The claim experience on your make and model of vehicle has resulted in an increase to your vehicle rating group for collision coverage.” What a coincidence! And this is after 65 years of driving with only one minor accident.

The attorney for the truck driver knew what the traffic would allow for this claim, and he is as guilty of stealing as much as the truck driver. This lawsuit has been one big stressful fiasco. I wonder if this truck driver realized what they were doing. I had received that big, red envelope with the lawsuit documents inside three months after my dear wife of over 50 years had passed away. It was legal stealing, selling your soul for a few bucks.

I had plenty of insurance coverage, so the $10,000-plus didn’t come out of my pocket. So why should I be griping, right? Because I think us citizens of the world are becoming more irresponsible and our moral values are declining as time goes on.

Aren’t people born with a conscience anymore? Are the attorneys we see on television looking for deals like this where you can exploit nothing more than a scratch into tens of thousands of dollars? Of course they are; honesty, scruples and plain old respect for your fellow man are out the window.


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