Earlier this month, I was in a car accident. I was one exit away from getting off the freeway when I saw the car ahead of me swerve. Once it was out of the way, I saw debris in the road. I remember seeing an upside down box blow across the lane in addition to the object sitting dead center in my lane. My first reaction was to let off on the gas to slow down as I tried to determine what was in the road. I should have guessed that if the other car swerved, it was worth getting out of the lane as fast as possible. Hindsight is twenty-twenty.

I’m sure it was only a second or two, but time moves differently in this situations. Once I was close enough to realize it was not an object I could simply drive over, I hit my brakes hard. It looked like a tv monitor to me and I new the center part of the object that rose up would hit the car. When the impact occurred, I could hear it dragging underneath my car as I slowed.

I had a second to absorb the impact of the collision and decide to slowly get off the freeway when I was hit from behind. In the corner of my eye, I could see a car fly off to my right.That was clearly the car that had just hit me. He moved quickly to pull off the freeway. I managed to shift one lane but took a little longer to get over the last lane as a couple drivers did not slow down to let me off.

The other car was a subcompact car. I dreaded looking at the back of my car. We immediately checked that each other was okay and exchanged insurance information. He also spent a considerable amount of time on the phone. What I didn’t know is that he was on the job and calling his boss to determine what to do with the cargo in the trunk. As I stood there waiting for him, more debris from the items dropped on the road were flying around as cars drove by. I was worried there might be other objects out there that could get hurled towards us or that would cause a car to hit us on the side of the road.

I called 9-1-1 to be safe. The operator indicated that others had already called in to report the debris and our two cars on the side of the road. She said CHP would be coming and asked if we needed an ambulance. Fortunately, I felt fine. The other guy has a small amount of blood (dime size) on his hand and denied needing an ambulance. It felt like it took forever for CHP to arrive. When they did arrive, they asked us both several more times but we each declined medical attention. When the guy mentioned having a headache, I did express to him that if he doesn’t go to the hospital [tonight] to please make sure to see a doctor the next day.

The officers took our statements one at a time starting with the guy. I remember hearing the officer ask him his age. After that I think I answered my phone to coordinate with my husband about what to do next, continue with my trip or come home. The interview with CHP was okay but I really hated answering some of the questions. Looking back, I wonder if I had right to refuse to answer. They kept asking me for speeds and distances. I think it’s ridiculous to expect me to be able to assess these things accurately. It makes one rethink how reliable witness testimony can be. On speed, I’m probably okay, but if you ask me to tell you how far away 500 ft is, you’ll be sorry.

CHP asked what I was planning to do. I was uncomfortable with the idea of driving given that my back end has wires and fixtures dangling. How can that be safe to drive? The object I hit turned out to be a vacuum. The CHP officer pulled back my car to removed the vacuum. I had no obvious engine damage, unlike the subcompact which was clearly leaking fluids on the road. The CHP examined my car and told me it was driveable. I really didn’t agree with them though I understand his evaluation. The car’s engine was still working.

Every moment we stood out there, it was getting darker and windy. It’s also rather frightening to stand on the side of a freeway with cars speeding past at 65+ MPH. You just never know when something really bad could happen. I decided to go home and rest to make sure that I was physically okay.

In the aftermath, you can imagine there were many conversations with the insurance company. They asked similar questions to the CHP in terms of driving speed, distances, degree of impact, road conditions and position of car on the road.

Suffice to say that they are laying blame for the initial collision with the vacuum on me. I find it very frustrating because no matter what story I could have told them, I don’t see that the outcome would be any different. If I drove too close to the car ahead of me, then I’m at fault for improper driving procedure. If I was at a safe distance, then I should have had time to change lanes and avoid the object in the road. The only way I could have avoided fault is if they could catch the person who dropped the vacuum on the road. We know that’s not going to happen.

What I don’t like is that I’m made to feel that it’s my fault. They never asked if I could have switch lanes – how do they know whether or not I even had the option? Perhaps there were cars in the neighboring lanes that prevented me from doing anything but driving ahead. Secondly, someone was bound to hit the object; I’m just unlucky it was me. When you have dozens of cars per second speeding down the road, do you really think everyone will manage to avoid it? I hate that when I talk to the insurance company they constantly have to remind me that the front end portion is MY fault. I know it’s just semantics and business, but I’m a good driver and it really wears on me emotionally to be labeled as such. This is my first “at fault” accident EVER in 25 years of driving.

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