Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Travel: When the unexpected happens

Sixth and final in Travel Series

The smiling, happy baby in the photo, taken March 9, is actually taking her first ambulance ride. She is our nine month-old granddaughter. Our oldest son, his wife and baby were travling in Ohio, headed for the Cleveland Airport, when they were caught in "the worst blizzard to hit the state in 30 years." They had just called friends who lived only 15 miles away to ask if they could spend the night rather than deal with the treacherous roads, when my son noticed that cars in front of him were slowing down.

He did the same. There had been a collision ahead. They were rolling to a stop when his wife unbuckled her seat belt to lean back and tend to the baby. Then, without warning, they were hit on the side, spun around, rear-ended, and hit again on the rear corner by two different drivers, both of whom were cited for improper speed for existing weather conditions.

The force of the collision from the back blew out the back window of their SUV, sending their luggage flying. My daughter-in-law's injuries were relatively minor, fortunately, but she'll never unbuckle her seatbelt in that kind of situation again, she assures me. She had a mild concussion and is in physical therapy for neck and back strain. My son was stiff and sore for a week. The baby suffered no ill effects, as she was in an approved car seat that was properly buckled. She was frightened by the loud, grinding noises,and the abrupt shifts as they were hit, but she was soon comforted.

With the wind chill factor, the temperature was estimated at -5 degrees, so they quickly put the baby in her snowsuit and grabbed their own coats and gloves. My daughter in law is very well-organized. She quickly found her digital camera and began snapping pictures of the damage to their vehicle and the other two that hit them. She even photographed a license plate, which provided more information quickly to their insurance company.

A highway patrolman, on his way to the earlier collision, stopped and asked all the involved travelers if they were all right, and then went on ahead to help with the first accident. Then my son called us to get some advice from his lawyer dad and his worried mom ("You must be checked at the hospital, even if you think you're OK now!") He is a medical student so he didn't need much convincing.

The car, only a year and a half old, was a total loss, and I learned that if a child's car seat has been in a collision, it must be replaced. There could be structural damage that is not visible from the outside. See the owner's manual for your infant and child's car seats if you have any questions. That is something to think about when buying a used car seat - learn its history if you can.

They were examined in the emergency room and released, but not before a kind woman who worked there, a stranger, offered to take them home for the night, as they no car. Fortunately, the friends who lived nearby were able to come to the hospital, pick them up, and collect their luggage. For the next two days they received TLC from their friends and then flew to Utah, which was the plan all along, as it was their Spring Break. We couldn't wait to see them ourselves to make sure they were all right, and Mom even scheduled massages for the sore kids.

My son was soon contacted by the insurance companies of the other drivers, who were interested in settling. Though he son was noncommittal on the phone, his father later advised him that he should not have spoken to them at all; he should have simply referred them to his own insurance company.

We learned some valuable lessons from our son's accident. Of course, you must assume not everybody on the road is attentive at any given time. They may be speeding. They simply may not know how to handle bad roads. The roads had not been plowed at all, which further added to bad traveling conditions.

Their esssential documents including registration and insurance verification, were easily accessible, in the glove compartment.

They had an SUV, and were able to replace it with another, and they will now be sure that the mesh net is secured over any loose bags in the cargo area when they drive. Fortunately, when they were hit, their bags flew out of the car, instead of hitting our kids. The insurance company has replaced the baby's car seat. Photos of the damage were immensely helpful for the overworked police, whose resources were badly stretched that day, and for the insurance companies. Though the car had to be replaced, the occupants are returning to good health.

We are so grateful for airbags, car seats, seat belts, digital cameras, cautious drivers, honest insurance companies, competent law enforcement officers and physicians, and for kind strangers who offered to care for a young family. And most of all, we're grateful that we still have this young family with us.

No comments: