learn everything I know about taxi insurance from
actuarial research. I did it the old-fashioned way: by
riding in a cab that was a lemon driven by a hack who -
if there is a god - is currently somewhere far away
where he will never drive a cab again.
It was a
hot summer's day. I had been in London on business and I
was on my way to the airport to fly home to Glasgow. I
was carrying an umbrella and a suitcase with nothing
much in it but some business files, make up (don't
panic, I'm female) and a change of clothes. You can get
a cab faster in big cities if you look like you're going
to the airport - a bigger fare than the few block's ride
most tourists ask for. London is like that. Money
doesn't just talk there; it sings the first act from
Phantom Of The Opera.
actually a fan of London cabs and drivers. I'm amazed at
the way they weave their way through tiny spaces and
ignore the death threats coming from cars they cut off.
I'm amused by the way cabbies who own their own taxis
decorate them. Elaborate shrines to Our Lady of
Perpetual Motion or some exotic new deity the driver is
revering that week.
grateful when the cab is basically clean. For me, this
means no sticky grime of unknown origin on the seats; no
cat spray smells to gag you on a humid, wet day, and a
boot that doesn't have too many bloodstains where my
the fussy type.
driver Abdul (not his real name) speeds down the M25
headed for Heathrow when suddenly the cab in front of us
skids and stops short. Abdul, realizing he's not on the
Indianapolis Speedway, hits his brakes, which fail, of
course. In an instant we've rear-ended the cab in front
of us, just before we get rear-ended by a rickety
Mercedes driven by a woman older than Rome.
impact, Abdul and the other cabbie (let's call her
Francine) were in the road screaming and almost coming
to blows. She says Abdul had plenty of time to avoid
her, he's babbling in some Middle-Eastern tongue I don't
understand, something that I'm sure was about Francine's
mother wearing army shoes or possibly crotchless black
lace underwear under her burqa.
Thankfully, I wasn't seriously injured but I did have a
gash in my leg from being hurled forward into the front
seat where an old spring happened to be sticking out of
the leather seat back. (Not that anyone seemed to care.)
The damage to all three cars was negligible but of the
costly pain-in-the-bum variety. Everyone would get home.
Kleenex over my cut, I opened the door to see if the old
lady behind us was dead. Surprisingly, she was
inspecting her Mercedes and, seeing no serious damage,
ready to drive away. She pooh-poohed my pleas to wait
for the police.
a mechanic," she said, flatly, then got back in her
now-even-more-dented car and drove away.
Abdul and Francine were angrily exchanging insurance
information. The cops had been called, and my cut was,
thankfully, coagulating (not that anyone asked.) I tried
to tell Abdul I really had to catch my flight. Annoyed,
he got on his taxi phone and called the office, babbled
again in that language I didn't understand, then told me
another cab would be there in five minutes.
Miraculously, the taxi arrived to take me to the airport
even before the police had come to the accident scene.
Abdul tossed my half-empty suitcase into the back seat
of the new taxi, and asked me to write my name, address
and telephone number on a Post-It note, "In case for the
insurance..." he said, in his heavy accent. Then he
tossed me into the back seat of the replacement cab,
with the same smooth pitch he had used for the suitcase.
My cut opened up and started to bleed again (not that
anyone was worried about it.)
later, I got a call from the taxi insurance company.
They verified my address so they could post me some
forms. Those forms arrived in a few days. Basically,
they were releases absolving the insurance company from
future liability. No one seemed to care if I had
whiplash, broken bones, or any injury. Don't believe
everything the ambulance chasers tell you - a
compensation claim would have cost me more than I'd get,
so I signed.
the cab company because my umbrella was left in Abdul's
trunk. He didn't work there any more, they said. It was
an old umbrella, and I was getting older chasing it.
knew what happened to Francine or the little old lady in
Never ride in a cab with a sign that says, “Driver Not
Responsible For Passengers.”
discuss your taxi insurance with a real live person?
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