4 days later, I had to take part in a two hour arbitration over the phone.
What I've learned from this whole episode is that that our legal system and many of the related jobs involved exist because of what I like to call The Ring of Bullshit. Example: an event occurs, police are called, witnesses give statements, police write up a report, insurance companies examine, insurance companies give estimates, they pay each other whatever they come up with, they allot money for people to get to the doctor, and then we're done....until...
I assume that The Shmuck who sued me defaulted on his mortgage or didn't have health insurance to cover some problems. How could he make some extra money? Well, he did get into that fender bender with Aviva O'Byrne. Maybe if he filed a suit in the last hour of the last day before the statute of limitations was up, he could disrupt my life just enough to make a few thousand.
Only, he didn't ask for a few thousand. He asked for 46 thousand. This fender bender apparently caused him to need a gall bladder surgery.
The events were these: We were stopped at a red light, I was about 4 cars away from the front of the line. The first car in line started to go, but then abruptly stopped, so we all stopped. When we all started to go again, the first car changed his mind again and took a left turn from our middle lane, rather than than the actual turning lane next to us. So, the second car slammed on his brakes which caused the car in front of me to crash into him and since I couldn't see what was going on, I was unable to stop until I saw his car shake and the heard the noise of the crash. Of course I couldn't stop in time and I bumped him.
Police were called, we were all able to get back into our cars and pull into a strip mall parking lot, we all talked. The guy in front of me admitted to the police that he hit the other car before I hit him. We were both issues warnings; not tickets due to the circumstances. I felt that the guy in front of me wanted to intimidate me further. He kept asking me questions about my little Corolla and stated that it was clearly totaled. I said it didn't look that bad to me, but he insisted that due to the age, they were just going to trash my car and offer me the difference. I hoped and prayed that he was wrong but admit that his demeanor made me extremely nervous. I said that I didn't think it was that big of an accident. He said that I hit him pretty hard but not to worry, he won't sue. The guy was being totally inappropriate so I decided to walk away from him and deal only with the police. No ambulance was called, and we all drove away.
The insurance companies took care of everything within a week, and my healthy little Corolla still works to this day. I love that car.
However, since The Shmuck needed to support his lawsuit, he changed the events to suit him, hence the Ring of Bullshit commences. The lawyer took his case on a contingency. My lawyer did not believe that he was going to be able to get away with the gall bladder stuff, but expected us to have to pay him something because of the fact that I did hit him. He bothered to go through with this, therefore he gets money. As if we didn't need more evidence that people are assholes. She expected the case to go to trial since they were unwilling to accept the offers our side gave, but his lawyer must have advised him not to push it. She figured they'd have better luck with an arbitration.
Police reports are not admitted as evidence due to not being done under oath, and the police officer not needing a witness to his own report. The only evidence the lawyers have to go on are the pictures the insurance company took and our statements. Since I gave my deposition 3 years after the accident, I wasn't confident that I made myself clear. My lawyer told me that his claim of the events were that I hit him so hard his enormous minivan was throttled into the car in front of him, despite the bumper to bumper traffic on the road. He had said that the front end of my car was completely underneath his, and that I had totaled his car. He just wasn't willing to give up his car until 2 years later. WHAT? How can he possibly get away with such accusations? No ambulance was called, everyone walked away! His car was totaled 2 years later but it was still my fault? I remember some lights being broken and a little fender damage on his car and that was it.
I asked my lawyer how we accept legal lying, and she said that his lawyer has to believe he is telling the truth. It seemed to me that people in this line of work must know about the lying and coach their client, and they know it's wrong. They want to keep this cycle going so several people have jobs, all based on bullshit. My lawyer was never able to get in touch with the man in the first car that was hit, so we didn't have much to go on. They eventually dropped the gall bladder issue, but kept the money claim high due to lengthy chiropractor visits. I just didn't believe that he was hurt at all, or that he deserved any money. I kept asking why it didn't matter that he never made a medical claim until the very very last minute and just went straight to a lawsuit??? She said it totally didn't matter and he was within his rights, no matter how ridiculous the claim.
She felt the judge would have to be a total idiot to award him a great sum of money. She found out that his chiropractor was not board certified and he had been seeing her for years prior to the accident. He used to be a contractor...hello?...so he probably was injured on the job quite a lot and the chiropractic visits couldn't have all been related to the accident.
I could have attended court, and I intended to just so the judge would see with his own eyes who the more credible witness was. But, after all the flying and running around I had done in March, I requested that we do it over the phone. I also worried that should I see him, I would surely murder him right there with the power of my thoughts.
The arbitration lasted 2 hours and was officially 5 years after the accident. I had to listen to this asshole and his fantasy story. He said that after the accident he grabbed his yarmulke before exiting his vehicle and I nearly busted out laughing. This guy that I saw in jeans and a Cubs hat all of a sudden found religion in time for court? Thank you Skokie. He said that due to being unemployed for a long period of time.. (hello!)...he recently took on a job as a Shomerim, which are the people who sit with the dead and sing them songs and keep the body company before a funeral. He explained the significance to the judge and five minutes into this whole thing, I realized I would have strangled him right then. What a fucking asshole. Is lying a lesser offense when you're doing it in the name of religion? Is it more legal to lie when you've convinced everyone that you are religious?
He went on with his preposterous story and even claimed that when I got out of the car I was so distraught, that I said, "I can't believe I did this again!" A total fabrication, especially since I had never been in an accident like this. When it was my turn the judge actually asked me if I said that and I was insulted that he would even think it's a worthy question. I wanted to yell out He's Lying! He KNOWS he hit the other car first! I held it in and did as good of a job as I could. His lawyer questioned me about whether I saw the damages to his car and I said that I had, but it was all very minor. She then asked if I was an expert on car value and of course I said no. What a low blow. I nearly yelled: "and neither are you bitch", but I managed to maintain myself in a calm manner.
What ended up happening was that The Shmuck claimed to have never visited the chiropractor before, but my lawyer submitted proof that he had. His lawyer had never seen that evidence and asked for it to be dismissed. (again the ring of bullshit) The judge allowed it, but it was clear that the chiropractor had fixed the dates and information to support The Shmuck's claim. Nevertheless, the judge felt that some of the injuries were related to the fender bender, and a week later The Shmuck was awarded 19 thousand dollars for lying.
I have to admit extreme stress and disappointment on a moral level throughout that whole week. I couldn't believe how easily lying brings rewards, and it's all legal. I couldn't imagine what woud have happened if it was a real accident with real injuries and scary stuff. What would happen then? My mom said not to even think about it. This is what insurance is for anyway. If they have to pay The Shmuck, they have to pay. 19 thousand is pennies to them. It doesn't reflect poorly on you. She said to take heart in the fact that he will get his. Even my grandma weighed in saying that she hopes for every dollar he won in this case, he gets as many warts on his behind. I didn't know she was capable of such evil thoughts.
So, good luck to The Shmuck out there. Surely he is in for it. And surely all this turmoil will make me appreciate the gigantic success I will be someday so much more.