A Personal Story about Emergency Services, Alberta’s Health Care system, and Insurance Companies

This past Sunday, my wife was rear-ended by a fellow going 60 on River Road in his Ford Explorer. He never braked. My wife’s Honda Accord was sent flying underneath the pick up truck in front of her. The people she hit called the ambulance and shortly thereafter they arrived, as did the police and the fire department. Here is a summary of events:

A Good Samaritan
Dave was riding his bicycle. He came over and held my wife’s neck still until the ambulance arrived. He soothed her, was reassuring and stuck by her until she was loaded in the ambulance. A stranger caring for a stranger. That was something!

The Ambulance team
Steve and (we don’t know his partner’s name – a woman) his partner were incredible. They secured my wife on a back board and put her neck in a brace and took her vitals, all the time talking to her like she was a person, not a case. They were still with her at the hospital and remained attentive all the while we waited (and waited).

The Police
Scott was his name. He was at the scene and then came to the hospital to take my wife’ statement. What a professional yet personable young man. He made sure to tell us the guy who hit her took responsibility and got a heft fine. He seemed to care about her.

The ER at the University Hospital
The wait was about 4 hours before anyone from ER spoke to her. No initial assessment of a woman in a serious car crash (see the pics) who is laying there in on a back board in a neck brace and in pain. I didn’t realize the paramedics had to stay with her until the hospital took over. I asked them how much of their day is spent waiting like that. We were told about half their time each day.
I don’t know about you but that seems totally unacceptable to us.

They said it didn’t use to be that way, but the long waits started happening about three years ago, so this is not a recent phenomenon. We were quite impressed with the ER Nurse we dealt with. Caring, attentive, communicative, professional young man. He took the edge off my wife’s frustration.

The doctors were thorough once she got the xrays done. They xrayed everything to make sure her spine was okay. We appreciate such thoroughness, though a person who they believe needs such a work up should not wait that long to get it. Spinal injuries need immediate attention, not attention four hours later.

We are thankful there was no red tape to go through for care, no forms to fill out, no worry about the cost. We just returned in September 2009 from the states where we would have had to pay a chunk of money even with insurance.

Our insurance company (Cooperators) was easy to reach and very timely in getting back to us. No real tension between us and them because the other guy’s insurance company will have to pay everything.

My wife has a neck injury but I won’t say more right now due to legal reasons. We called a lawyer who was super with us, providing advice about insurance companies, telling us what our rights are, without selling us on his services. He was a human being and the farthest thing from an “ambulance chaser.”  He is George Somkuti with Cummings, Andrews and Mackay.

Here is how the insurance works.

We have car rental coverage and it should be enough, but the minute they make us an offer to settle (the car is totalled) we lose the rental immediately, even if we appeal the offer. So we go without a car while looking for a replacement.

They will pay for physio and massage and medications ONLY after we exhaust our own insurance. She can ask for loss income but not for the first week and then the ceiling is $400 per week. She will not be working for a while and will lose more in income the first week than the fine will cost the driver who hit her.  Others like me who lose income have no recourse.

So, overall… we were thankful for so many good people who helped, who did their job as both professionals and human beings. The wait in ER and total lack of attention by the University Hospital for four plus hours is wrong. This was a neck and possible spinal injury, not a scrape or a broken finger.  The insurance industry structures things to pay and do as little as possible, but we all expect that from them by now I guess.

And the most important thing, my wife is alive and not paralyzed but at this point we do not really know the ramifications of her injuries.

3 thoughts on “A Personal Story about Emergency Services, Alberta’s Health Care system, and Insurance Companies

  1. .: Mark: Very pleased that your wife is ok, and that overall, through the stages of the accident, things worked well. Your account is well-written and thorough, and seems to be quite fair. I’m disappointed to learn that the schmuck that hit your wife is getting nothing more than a fine. I hope his insurance skyrockets as well.

    Will you be following up with the ER regarding the lack of contact for four hours? That does seem beyond unacceptable for such an injury.

    My best to your wife with wishes for a speedy recovery with no permanent damage to her neck or back.

    – Randy

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  2. Glad to hear she’s OK, Mark. We were in an accident this spring which resulted in no injuries but a lengthy time without our vehicle. In Sask, rentals and deductible are all covered if the other driver owns up to fault. What you write is unclear: did the lawyer tell you that once you’re made the offer there’s no more rental from your insurance, or from the other guy’s coverage? Now mind you, here it’s all SGI with the possibility of topping up with private coverage, so that could make it different.

    D

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  3. My insurance broker told me that every insurance company stops paying for a rental once an offer is made to buy out your car, even if you reject the offer an ask for arbitration. That way they keep consumers from, you know, dilly dallying with the rental. However, if the car is in the shop you can have a rental until the moment the car is ready, within your coverage. Mine is $1,000 for a rental.

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