In between the traffic lights or stop signs we accelerate, slow for turns, watch for other cars or people and typically drive defensively. Well, we should. We use our turn signals. If it is dark, we turn on our headlights. If it is sunny and bright, we might wear sunglasses. If it is raining, we use our wipers and turn on our headlights. If it is foggy or snowy or icy, we might use our fog lights or slow down. We make allowances in the way we drive.
One day in early winter, a driver for a rental store was on her way back to the rental store. She had made an early morning delivery and picked up a load of tables and chairs that had been rented over the weekend. She and her passenger had been co-workers for a very long time and they worked well together.
Occasionally, weather comes in to play and the passenger might check for storm systems or temperatures while they are on route. On one of those days, it was gradually getting colder, and a misty fog was rolling in. The temperature was hovering right at freezing. The roads were starting to get slick, and they just wanted to get back to the rental store. The traffic on the streets was beginning to thin as the weather worsened. The co-workers had a conversation about how differently the large box truck handled in colder temperatures and on slippery roads.
As they arrived closer to the next intersection, the driver slowed knowing the light could turn yellow and then red. It had been green for a while. As she thought, the light turned red as they arrived at the intersection. The roads at the intersection were a sheet of ice. There were very large trees overhead and the sun had not shined on that patch of road at all that morning. As the weather worsened, that area became slicker. The box truck slid right into the intersection and the side of a sedan. It caught the back end of the car first and spun it around. The sedan spun into a power pole just past the intersection.
The driver of the sedan was alone in the front seat and didn’t have any passengers. The driver was wearing a seatbelt but was very shaken up by the collision. The driver complained of aching all over and having a mild pain in his back and neck. An ambulance was called, and the driver was transported to the hospital.
The box truck had minor damage and the rental store employees were not hurt. They pulled over to the side of the road and called 9-1-1 for the injured man. Then they called their manager. The accident was reported to their insurance company, and it was investigated.
The injured man’s medical bills added up over a few months. He had two surgeries and multiple treatments with a chiropractor. Physical therapy followed each surgery. His medical bills exceeded $300,000.
The injured man retained an attorney, and the file went to mediation to resolve things before it went to court. The first mediation failed to settle the claim, but in a second mediation a month later, the case was settled for just over $500,000.
Sometimes even when you plan, the weather gets the best of you. Remind your drivers to be aware of the weather and adjust whenever they can.
Mary Ann Gormly is a loss analyst for ARA Insurance, Overland Park, Kan. For more information, call 800-821-6580 or visit ARAinsure.com.