Fifty Shades of Crazed

A few weeks ago, I called my dad. Sometimes I put him on speaker phone just for comic value. This was one of those times.

We were talking about his personal injury lawsuit. Yep. Wouldn’t put it past him, right? A year ago, a woman driver slipped on a wet road and hit him head-on. He had already stopped and she’d slowed considerably.

Since the accident, my father, who’s been hunched over since the 90s, has gone from having the posture of a question mark to having the posture of an upside-down “L.” His posture comes from two shattered vertebrae. He blames it on the accident.

His car was totaled in the crash. For months, he fought with the other driver’s insurance company over a $1,000 difference in what he believed he was owed for the car. Diligently, he tallied up mileage, bluebook value, and the cost of the groceries he had in the trunk. He said he had steaks in there. For months, he quibbled over $1,000, balking at the idea that he split the difference and take the extra $500 the insurance company offered.

Finally he did take the $500, as the insurance clerk assured him he’d get the money back in the damages settlement.

So now he’s embroiled in the damages lawsuit. For months, he’s been telling me that a friend of his at the senior center got $225,000 for an accident he had, and he wants that kind of money. The love of money is the root of all evil. He also told me that the other driver was not insured for that much, and when I asked him if he’d thought about what his lawsuit would do to her financially, he said that insurance companies will pony up all the money. I tried to explain the concept of maximums but he had his mind made up and truthfully he didn’t care what his lawsuit would do to the woman. He’s never been big on caring about other people.

This week he told me he’d seen his lawyer, who’d secured a decent settlement offer. My father turned it down. He wants the other driver’s insurance maximum. He said his lawyer’s face fell when he told him, and that he’d received a packet from him a few days later. He hadn’t opened it, he told me, but he figured his lawyer was firing him (wouldn’t be the first time). I told him that if his lawyer fired him, to expect a bill. My dad said, “Why? He didn’t do anything!”

“He got you a decent settlement offer, and he did all the work to get there.”

“I don’t have to take that,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean he didn’t do anything.”

“I don’t have to take it,” he said.

This is how our conversations go. I wound up talking to him again that week because I got an emergency call from the sheriff’s department. They’d checked up on him and hadn’t gotten in touch. I told them not to worry but called him to remind him to call the sheriff when he wouldn’t be home for their call. He told me that his lawyer had not, indeed, fired him, but was going to arbitration, and the packet was preparation materials. So he was happy about that.

I’m happy about it too. Not that my dad will be milking this woman’s insurance for all it’s worth, but because my dad will hear the other side and will be forced to prove his claim. So far, all of the argument has been my dad saying that he needs money “for all I’ve been through.” It will build character for him to have to prove that all he’s been through has come from the accident. Until then, and beyond, it’s fifty shades of crazed. I’m used to it. It always is.

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