Bad attitude insurance

I struck a nerve with my last column.

A former client, continuing to feel symptoms from a rear-end collision that occurred years ago, inspired the topic.

She became pissed off by the attitude of a friend of hers who had just caused a collision.

Her friend’s focus was on how grateful she was for her insurance package, not on the injuries she might have caused to her innocent victims.

My former client puzzled: “It seems strange that our society is set up to make it easy on people to smash their cars into each other.”

She came up with the idea of voiding collision insurance coverage for “at fault” drivers.

One reader, a self-described “ICBC insurance agent,” referred to this as “absolutely atrocious thinking,” noting that, “The point of insurance is not to worry. That’s why you buy it.”

The insurance agent’s pitch relied on the foundation that we all drive poorly from time to time.

“Sure, it’s awful that people don’t pay attention and we’ve ALL done it. Don’t lie to me. Each and every single one of you … we’ve all done something dumb on the roads. If you feel like you are exempt from the above you are an absolute liar.”

In the view of the insurance agent, the consequences of that poor driving is really just a matter of luck.

“Some people have caused accidents because of it, some people have killed others, but some people, such as myself, have been damn lucky. I have a great driving record.”

The insurance agent concluded, “I’ve never caused an accident, but if I do, I shouldn’t be thousands out of pocket. That’s an absolutely disgusting thought.”

I have done a lot of thinking, and writing, about road safety.

In my view, this ICBC insurance agent has hit the nail squarely on the head in identifying the problem with our driving attitudes.

I am not a religious guy, but quoting from the Bible, I am certainly not “He that is without sin” such that I might “first cast a stone” at anyone.

I can identify with the insurance agent’s views because I used to share them.

Luck was on my side at times when I had momentary lapses in attentiveness, failed to drive the conditions, came close to nodding off to sleep during a long drive, and at times of other common driving behaviours that regularly occur without a crash because luck is on our side.

A particularly tragic crash, not caused by me, triggered a positive change in my driving attitude and behaviour.

On March 20, 2012, a 56-year-old motorcyclist was killed and his wife permanently injured when the motorcycle was rear-ended while sitting at a complete stop at a Kelowna intersection.

I noted the obvious in my March 29, 2012, column: “The 56 year old would still be alive today if the SUV driver had simply been paying attention.”

It was one of those “bad luck” situations when the momentary lack of attentiveness resulted in horrific consequences.

I also proposed a tool to help us maintain our driving focus, a tool that I committed to trying myself.

In a follow-up column 18 months later, I was pleased to report the tool had been successful.

The periodic “close calls” I had previously experienced had disappeared.

It’s an easy tool: commit to keeping your hands at particular spots on the steering wheel.

I use “10 and two,” but because of air bags it’s perhaps better to use “nine and three” or even “eight and four.” 

I am no expert on ideal hand positioning. The point is the commitment, not the particular position.

I found any time my focus left the road, I likewise lost focus of my hold on the steering wheel. It’s not comfortable maintaining a constant hand position, so it requires constant effort to do so.

Immediately on my hands relaxing to something more comfortable—perhaps slipping down the steering wheel or laying in my lap—that was the reminder to refocus my attention on the road.

I continue to use 10 and two. 

It is just as effective today as it was five years ago when I started. I am continuing to “create my own luck,” and you can, too.


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About the Author

Paul Hergott began practicing law in 1995, in a general litigation practice. Of the various areas of litigation, he became most drawn to, and passionate about, pursuing fair compensation for injured victims. This gradually became his exclusive area of practice.

In 2007, Paul opened Hergott Law, a boutique personal injury law firm in the Central Interior, serving personal injury clients from all over British Columbia. Paul’s practice is restricted to acting only for the injured victim, never for ICBC or for other insurance companies.

Paul became a weekly newspaper columnist in January of 2007, when his first column entitled “It’s not about screwing the Insurance Company” was published. 

Please feel free to email or call Paul (1.855.437.4688) with legal issues you might like him to write about in his column, or to offer your feedback about something he has written.

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