UPDATE: The column below appears as it did when it was posted on the KRCG website on Tuesday. It was forwarded to the people I've dealt with at Progressive around 3 p.m. Wednesday. Less than 90 minutes later, I received a call from Jane Doe (her name in the column) and she apologized for the following oversight --- I'm now going to receive $1,476.19 in compensation from the accident, less than $200 than I was originally promised. Coincidence?
(The following is based on a true story. Some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent.)
July 22, 2014, St. Louis.
I left the hotel to drive and get --- what else --- a Baby Ruth. In the end, I should have settled for the Kit Kat, the last candy bar standing, in the hotel vending machine.
A half-mile from my destination, an 18 year-old girl made a left turn right into my path. Estimated speed: 35 mph. Crash!
I'm quite sure she was on her phone at the time --- in all likelihood, texting --- because she immediately exited her car with phone in hand, surveyed the damage for about 5 seconds, then started/resumed texting. I really hate cell phones. And after I'd broad-sided her, Jessica Doe's car bounced into the next lane and hit another vehicle.
She was obviously in the wrong because the driver of the other car, Jack Doe, and I both had the right of way, and both of us wouldn't have made the same mistake at the same time. Within 48 hours, she was found to be at fault by the folks at Progressive insurance.
Progressive is both her company and mine, so I felt like I was in good hands. I've been on board seven years and never made a claim.
"We'll take care of it," Progressive agent Jane Doe said proudly, "and we'll get you a rental car."
They did. I later returned the car on the arranged date, Aug. 21. Jane also told me my car would be towed back to Jefferson City to the garage of my choice and that would be covered, too.
The folks at Progressive --- I don't know if Flo Doe was involved in this decision, or not --- decided they wouldn't fix my car, because it was considered totaled. This did not surprise me. It's a 1991 Honda and it received a serious bloody nose and destroyed the radiator.
Still, this saddened me on more than one level. This was my mom's car. She passed away last year, although she hadn't driven the car since 2011. It had 58,000 miles on it when I started driving it --- she put 58,000 miles on it in 20 years. I don't think she ever left the city limits.
It was still purring like a kitten, and the smart guys at the garage told me these cars could go 400,000 miles with few problems. This made me smile.
Progressive's decision did not make me smile, but I understood because of the age of the car.
$1,600. That would buy a lot of Baby Ruths, but not much of a car. But a few days after hearing this news, Jane Doe called me back.
"Got some bad news," she said. "Jessica Doe's policy will only pay out a total of $10,000, and that will have to be shared between you and Jack Doe. His total damage with $13,000, including time for lost work (oddly enough, he's a tow truck driver), which is obviously more than $10,000."
Thank you for the math lesson, Jane.
"So we had to pro-rate the damages," she continued. "Jack Doe will receive $9,000 and you will get a check for $1,000."
Good thing I wasn't driving my 2014 Lamborghini. $10,000 wouldn't have replaced the headlights.
This certainly didn't sound right, but what could I do? I went from looking forward to driving the car for five more years, to $1,600, to $1,000. But poor Jack was shorted $4,000.
Flash forward to Aug. 21 and about two hours after I returned the rental car, which was slightly bigger than a Smart Car.
The phone rang. It was Jane.
"I've got some bad news and I want to say in advance, I'm sorry," she said. "I'm really sorry to have to tell you this."
What could it be? Did someone hot-wire and steal my totaled 1991 Honda? Did Jane skip the country? Did Flo die?
"As it turns out," Jane said, "your rental car was put toward the $10,000 maximum payout, so you're responsible for it. I'm sorry. So, we're keeping the $1,000 we were going to pay you and put it toward the rental car."
This was the first I'd heard of this. Nice timing, huh? I could have made other arrangements instead of driving a Yugo for a month. During our 10-minute conversation, Jane said I'm sorry at least 187 times. This did not help my mood.
I'd gone from looking forward to driving the car for five more years, to $1,600, to $1,000 to nothing.
Progressive ... they must pride themselves on their no-claims policies.
After my initial rant, I asked Jane: "You'll still pay for my car to get towed back to Jeff City, right?"
"No," she said, "I'm sorry. That's part of the $10,000 total payout, too. I'm really sorry."
"So let me get this straight," I said. "My car was totaled by Jessica Doe, she was found responsible and in the end, this is going to cost ME money?"
My new friend Jack said the tow would cost between $250-$300.
Jane replied: "Yes, there's nothing more I can do, I tried everything. I'm sorry."
The 187th "I'm sorry" didn't make me feel any better than the first.
I'd now gone from looking forward to driving the car for five more years, to $1,600, to $1,000, to nothing, to losing 300 bucks.
Half the commercials you see these days seem to be commercials for car insurance --- and Progressive is at the top of the list. If they spent less on commercials and more on taking care of their customers, perhaps they'd be able to do what you paid them to do.
Instead, you have to pay when you're the victim.
Perhaps all insurance companies do this. My attorney friend, Mark, said Progressive is on solid legal ground and I have no other recourse than to go after Jessica, but the time and effort wouldn't be worth it.
Still, it's time to change insurance companies.
Geico has better commercials, anyway.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH SPORTS? Nothing. But I'm going to be more diversified in the future, meaning I'll be doing more news/non-sports columns. Sports will still come first, however.
Which brings us to you. First, I'd love to hear your experience(s) you've had with insurance companies. If it's a paragraph or so, you can post it on our Facebook page as a comment on this column. If it's a longer story, please feel free to email me.
Second, if you have any ideas for "newsy" columns in the future, please contact me. It can be about almost any topic --- a business doing you wrong, some level of government doing you wrong, a feel-good story about a person or group that people should know about, etc.
Lastly, don't text and drive.