Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Auto Insurance Applied

I wrote a piece a few days ago about auto insurance and how it was handled for American military people in Taipei.  In response to that, I received a note from a guy who was in Taipei during the 1960s.  He described an unusual accident that he was involved in and how things sort of went downhill from there.

I only had one occasion to use my insurance while in Taiwan. I was visiting a friend and his wife at their home. The street was very narrow, as most were in those days, and it was also a dead-end.  There was no room to even turn the car around, especially at night when you couldn’t see because there were no street lights. Upon leaving, my friend said I had no choice but to back up to the main street and stay to the one side away from the houses where the benjo ditch was.

With my wife watching the ditch side, I slowly backed out toward the main street. About half way to the cross-street I felt a bump and not knowing what it was I pulled forward, felt another bump, and then heard someone scream in pain.

My first thought was that someone had thrown himself under my car. It was near Chinese New Year and we had all heard stories of nationals doing this to collect money and not enter the New Year in debt. Americans passed this story around but I don’t know if there was any truth to it.

My wife and I got out of the car, with a flashlight, to see what had happened. Half way in the street was a man in a chair who I guess had been napping. I’ll never know if he did this on purpose or not. Very soon after, another man appeared and was shouting something in Chinese. I could his leg was broken but it was too dark to see a lot.

I told my Chinese wife to tell them to hurry into the car and I would take him to the hospital. He got into the car along with his friend who later I found out was his brother-in-law. The brother-in-law was shouting a lot of stuff at my wife. I’m probably glad I didn’t understand it. I’m sure it would have angered me.  Finally with translation from my wife I was told the brother-in-law insisted we go to the Chinese police before going to the hospital.  Even as I drove to the nearest one (as I remember it was on the corner of Nan King E Rd and some other road) I tried to argue that it was best to go to the hospital first.  He wouldn’t have it so I went to the Police station.

As soon as the brother-in-law finished with the police he got back in the car and asked to go to the hospital.  I was quite upset with him and told him, "No.  Now we will go to my police."  So although he talked all the way I went to the Provost Marshal in the compound and reported to them what had happened and then went to the hospital.

Inside the hospital they just laid the guy on the floor in the hallway along with all the other people who were laying and sitting there up against the wall.  I went to the admittance window and showed them all my IDs, including my insurance card.   I insisted they put him in a room, but to no avail. I guess I thought I was different -- maybe somewhat entitled? Because I had insurance and was able to pay, I thought I would get special treatment, or rather the injured man would get better treatment. Well, it didn’t work out that way and I finally said goodbye to all and left. It was a very strange evening full of confusion and made me wonder about the differences in our cultures.

This all happened on a Friday evening and when I got to work on Monday my friend told me “Thanks a lot buddy. The neighborhood is picketing my house now with signs saying 'Go home Yankee', and asking me for money to help the family since the guy can’t work now." I told him what had happened because we were far enough away from his house when it happened that he didn’t know anything. He said it was the brother-in-law who approached him about money and came by daily until my friend told him to stay away or else.

Thinking back now I wonder how the guy knew that I was at my friend's house.   I guess I’ll never know, and I’ll also never know if the Insurance paid for his hospital bills etc.

*** ADDED ***

Old friend Kent Mathieu reminded me that back in December 2007 I posted an account of his experience with Taiwan Fire and Marine Insurance when he wrecked his 1965 Mustang.  

It still breaks my heart when I think about that poor Mustang!

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