It’s time for your car insurance annual renewal, you get a letter from your insurance carrier.
Nothing to think about, your premium has maybe gone up a few dollars through the years – the main hassle is the new insurance cards, when you get your new policy in the mail, fishing them out of the envelope, cutting them out, and remembering to bring one out to your car to pop into the owner manual’s binder in your glove compartment.
But this year it is a notice of cancellation.
“We regret to inform you that we are unable to renew your insurance coverage, due to a pre-existing accident…”
You have only had one “accident” your entire driving life, and that was ten months ago – late one night while you were asleep a drunk driver sideswiped your car as it was parked on the street and knocked off your rearview mirror. The police caught him a few blocks away. Police report copy obtained, his insurance paid, your mirror was replaced, everything fine. You haven’t thought about it since.
The letter informs you your insurance ends in two week, “per notification requirement”.
You go to your carrier’s token local office, a storefront in a suburban stripmall – you bring the police report, the acknowledgment letter from the drunk’s insurance carrier, the repair invoice from the garage. The rep is pleasant, listens to you, glances over the papers you place on her desk. She looks up your policy on her computer.
“Yes, you do have a pre-existing accident,” she says matter-of-factly. “And therefore your coverage is not being renewed.” She gives a little shrug.
“But it wasn’t even my fault! It was a drunk driver – here’s the police report, I wasn’t driving, I wasn’t even in the car. I was alseep…!”
“I’m glad you weren’t involved, then.”
“I can see if you might raise my rates a little, even if it wasn’t my fault. But to just drop me? I’ve been with you 12 years, unblemished.” You shake your head, gather up your papers.
You move to get up saying “It’s a shame, you were a good carrier until now. I’ll just go with another carrier-”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you leave me no choice, I’ll just go with ______” You name their main rival.
“I don’t think you understand. You can no longer get insurance. From any carrier. At any price.”
You’re taken aback. “I’ll go in the state’s Risk Pool then.”
“The Risk Pool won’t insure you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You can’t get insurance. You can’t.” She talks to like you are a child. “You have a pre-existing accident – you are uninsurable. You cannot get coverage. Ever. In any way, shape or form.”
She frowns, as you still don’t seem to understand. “The only way you can drive a car is by putting up the minimum liability amount required for this state.”
You are tense, you heart pounding, you blood pressure up, your mind racing.
“That’s insane! I’ll just drive it anyway, I have to drive, and I’ll take my chances.”
She purses her lips. “We do have to report your lapse of coverage to the authorities. You car will be confiscated the day after your coverage ends.”
“What?! You are telling me that because something happened to my car that I had no control over, in a way I could not have foreseen to avoid if I wanted to, something that did not even affect my car’s ability to run – I can no longer even own a car for the rest of my life?”
“Yes. That’s how things operate in America. We do have the best automobile industry and repair garages in the world, though.”
She reaches into her desk, brings out a little square plastic bobble.
“And walking is better for you than driving, anyway. Here, a complimentary pedometer. Thank you for your business with us.”