What to do when you hit a Cadillac Escalade.

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Fitts Agency

The day didn't start very well for Cynthia.  She didn't hear the alarm going off, the kids weren't up getting ready for school, and she had thirty minutes to get them all dressed, fed, and loaded into her Explorer.

Rushed is an understatement.

She swore that the light was yellow when she stepped on the gas to beat the red.  It felt like slow motion watching the driver's panicked face as the front of her Explorer crushed his white Cadillac Escalade like a beer can.  One witness said that the Escalade rolled twice, but it only looked that way.  It only rolled once. That was enough to render the Miller's new Escalade useless forever, along with Josh Miller's future as a very successful medical equipment salesman.

The day before the accident, Cynthia got a letter from an insurance company saying that it could save her 15% on her auto insurance, and the phone call was free.  The person behind the phone was very polite, and in a matter of minutes, Cynthia saved $200 a year.  All of this in fifteen minutes - perfect for an on-the-go, suburban soccer mom.  Her husband, Carl, a successful physician, relied on her to manage the finances, and he always told her that every penny counts.

Cynthia had never seen Carl cry, at least not like he did that day. The verdict from the jury was excessive, she was sure.  They would have to sell their beautiful five bedroom home in order to pay the monthly amount demanded from them.  Two million dollars was a lot of money to pay for just running a red light.

No one on that fifteen minute call asked her about her life and family, or told her what she and her family might lose by not having the correct coverage on her insurance.  No one on that call asked her about all that they owned, or about their future, or about all they had worked so hard for since she put Carl through medical school ten years ago.  Certainly, no one explained all those terms like liability coverage, med pay, etc.

Cynthia did save $200 a year, but she lost $2 million because she was in a hurry, one hectic morning.

This is a true story - the names changed, of course.  You see, we've been suckered into thinking that auto insurance is just a commodity.  Something you can buy off the shelf like a can of tuna.  Cynthia certainly doesn't think like this anymore.

Had I talked to Cynthia, before she purchased her auto insurance, it would have taken more than 15 minutes.  I would have known everything they stood to lose in the event of an accident like the one she was involved in.  I would've explained, in simple terms, what all those numbers meant, and recommended a plan to protect all that she and Carl had worked so hard for.

So what do you do in case you hit a Cadillac Escalade?  Make sure you have the proper coverages.

By-the-way, on top of the verdict, Cynthia and Carl had to pay an additional $40,000 because their "property damage" coverage on the liability part of their auto insurance would only pay $25,000 for the damage to Josh's $65,000 vehicle.  (Proper coverage would have only cost her $32 a year more, and saved them $40 grand.)

To this day, Cynthia can tell you the worst 15 minutes of her life.


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Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner
Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395 - Mission Viejo, CA
Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395

We get your point....well illustrated but sad. I think we should come away with the approach of doing everything carefully and thoughtfully. I have 5 kids and a life....I have a huge umbrella policy.

May 07, 2010 02:48 PM #47
Chris Olsen
Olsen Ziegler Realty - Cleveland, OH
Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate

Driving is serious business, and with the advent of cell phones, etc., I recently had my mechanic (who has been in business for 30 years) say that when texting took off, so did his repair business.

I also think it's important for a consumer to compare apples to apples when it comes to policy limits so they are doing a true comparison.

One of my best friends from childhood was killed by a drunk driver, and I see drivers in my own neighborhood speeding down the street.

May 07, 2010 04:57 PM #48
Monique Ting
INET Realty Honolulu, HI - Honolulu, HI
Your agent under the sun

What a sad example of Murphy's Law at work! It is the minute you lower your insurance coverage that the accident happen. I also think that it was quite reckless of Cynthia to go through the yellow light in order to arrive somewhere on time... I bet she was not just late but never made it to wherever she was going that morning...

May 07, 2010 05:41 PM #49
Robin Dampier REALTOR®
Coldwell Banker King - Hendersonville, NC
Hendersonville & Western NC Real Estate Source

A sobering account of what can happen as we rush around like chickens with our heads cut off and doing everything but paying attention to the fact that we are driving a vehicle that could not only put ourselves in danger but others if we aren't paying 100% attention to the process!!  We really need to slow down and smell the roses.

No one will convince me that you can pay the attention you should to your driving with a phone glued to your head!  Many times I have had to beep the horn to get a driver to their drifting into my lane -- and yes -- there was that blankety, blankety phone to head!  Surely it would be worthwhile to pull over off the road if you must have an in-depth conversation on a phone while driving.

I've seen folks reading papers, putting on makeup, shaving, etc while attempting to propel their vehicle.

Sue of Robin and Sue

May 07, 2010 05:57 PM #50
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

I have an insurance agent like you who thinks it's important to talk about the risks and your life and lifestyle more than saving a few dollars.

May 07, 2010 06:25 PM #51
Frank Castaldini
Coldwell Banker - San Francisco, CA
Realtor - Homes for Sale in San Francisco

No running red lights for me.  There's never enough insurance when you really need it.  Sad how it happened in your story.  By the way, how could she not hear her alarm clock.

May 07, 2010 06:26 PM #52
John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA

Driving defensively and obeying traffic laws is the best insurance that you can have. When you are hit by someone who is not following safe driving principles (Cynthia) you have to hope that person has good coverage. Cynthia's coverage was not adequate for her or her victim. Sad for Cynthia but sadder yet for her victim.

May 07, 2010 07:31 PM #53
Todd Murphy
Fitts Agency - Tuscaloosa, AL

This is obviously an important subject, given so many insightful comments.  Thank you for all your comments.

I have been guilty of using my cell phone while driving, barely making a yellow light, and other careless activities while driving.  However, I realize that nothing is more important than your own life, and the life of another.

1.  Slow down.  Whatever event that requires your attendence is just not that important that you have to speed to get to it if you are running late.

2. No cell phones. The use of cell phones while driving is too distracting.

3. Don't run yellow lights.  See #1.

4. When the light turns green, count two seconds while looking to the left and the right before moving.  Some people ignore #4.

5. Drive as if you know the other person is going to ignore #1 - #4.

May 08, 2010 12:21 AM #54
Stephen Howell
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Annapolis, MD
Annapolis MD Homes For Sale 443-994-8043

Lots to think about ... makes me wonder if I shouldn't review my coverage.  Would an umbrella policy have picked any of the difference up?  Hmmm.

May 08, 2010 01:16 AM #55
Jeanne Gregory, RE/MAX Southwest, Sugar Land, TX

Man, she had to be flying to roll an Escalade.  Yes, she ran the yellow light, but in Houston, if you stop at a yellow light you could be killed.  Yellow means "gun it".

May 08, 2010 01:54 AM #56
J. Philip Faranda
J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY - Briarcliff Manor, NY

I haven't read all the comments, but I have 2 thoughts. 

1. I am going to review my policy. 

2. TEXTING while driving is killing people. Be on guard. 

May 08, 2010 03:45 AM #57
Lina Robertson
RE/MAX Solutions and RE/MAX House of Brokers - Springfield, MO
REALTOR® Serving Springfield, Nixa and Ozark, MO

Todd - It's so easy for us to cast stones in a situation like this, but I'm certain each and every one of us is guilting a gunning a yellow light at one time in our lives.  The only difference between us and Cynthia is that Cynthia got caught.  Unfortunate situation for everyone involved.  I was a trial paralegal for 12 years defending State Farm claims prior to getting into real estate.  Our clients weren't blatant lawbreakers...they were ordinary people like you and me who made mistakes and got caught.  Unfortunateky, it can be devastating to EVERYONE involved.  Great thought-provoking post!

May 08, 2010 06:25 AM #58
Mike Woods

Sad story, for all involved. Life can totally change in an instant.

May 08, 2010 07:20 AM #59
Jim & Maria Hart
Brand Name Real Estate - Charleston, SC
Charleston, SC Real Estate

It's so unfortunate that a few minutes of her time has caused her family's entire life to be completely turned up-side-down.  Just a couple wrong decisions...

May 08, 2010 07:30 AM #60
Betsy Schuman Dodek
Washington Fine Properties - Washington DC Area Real Estate - Potomac, MD

Thank you for the reminder - in our industry proper coverage is really key.

May 08, 2010 09:46 AM #61
Alexander Harb
Knights Investing - Mesquite, TX
Dallas, Texas Real Estate Investing

I agree with Lenn here everyone.....

If Cynthia did NOT run the yellow light, she would NOT have hit the other car in the first place.

The whole story would be MOOT and Cynthia would still be saving $200.00 per year.

Safe driving is a NEEDED lifestyle choice to make.



May 08, 2010 10:57 AM #62
Damon Gettier
Damon Gettier & Associates, REALTORS- Roanoke Va Short Sale Expert - Roanoke, VA
Broker/Owner ABRM, GRI, CDPE

Todd, I am to the point that I insist my buyer clients sit down and meet, face to face, with an insurance agent.  I also make sure that the agent I send them to actually quotes what they need.

This past week a client got two quotes from two different Erie Agents, one mine and one from the phone book.  Mine quoted a policy $148 more per year.  The first agent quoted a replacement value that would not replace the house, no septic/sewer backup amongst other things. Mine quoted an all encompassing policy. 

Saving tens of dollars can cost tens of thousands.

I have a $14,000 lawsuit sitting on my desk against one of my agents because of sewer backup.....sad thing for the buyer that they signed a form telling them that our agent and our company suggest septic/sewer backup.

Great post.

May 08, 2010 06:54 PM #63
Todd Murphy

Alexander, if you have ever, and I mean ever, run a red light, failed to completely stop at a stop sign, used your cell phone while driving, exceeded the speed limit, or had an at-fault accident, you are no better than Cynthia.

I make the assumption that my clients aren't perfect, and I build a programs with that in mind.  It seems to work better for me that way, since I know I'm not perfect.

By the way, let's assume that the other guy ran the red light and didn't have insurance.  With the same coverage that Cynthia had, she would have received no monetary help for injuries.

I completely don't agree with your opinion.  But then again, we all have opinions.

May 09, 2010 12:38 AM #64
Joan Cox
Metro Brokers - House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

My only accident in 54 years I caused was when I had clients in my car.     The car had to be towed, and these clients called the very next day in hopes of hitting the bricks again that day.   I had to have one day off out of my car!

May 10, 2010 04:07 AM #65
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services Inc - Gulf Breeze, FL
Buyers Agent 800-309-3414 Pace and Gulf Breeze,Fl.

This was funny till I saw the "it's a true story" I had my first accident after 50 years of driving and my insurance went through the roof.

Sep 30, 2011 03:46 PM #66
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