Instagram is like an iceberg for business owners. For all that you see, there is much more to the story and much more happening behind the scenes that you may never know.
This is inevitable as there is so much to running a small business and much of it isn’t very interesting! That said, I felt the need to talk about something that happened to me in August this year. As I started writing, it became too long for an Instagram post so instead you have this extensive blog.
If you have clicked through from Instagram, you will know this is a story about a car accident not one of my behind the scenes descriptions from a wedding day. If you didn’t know that and would prefer not to read the detail then you will find lots of joyful content in my other blogs. How about this one from a wedding in June
As many stories start, it was a glorious morning, the sun was shining, I was feeling good and I set off on a trip. This trip was to pick up some wedding flowers from one my local growers. Flowers that were going to be dried and used in an installation about a month later. There was no rush, it was a day to enjoy.
Five minutes later I was stood by the side of the road looking at my van. The side was buckled inwards, the back wheel was flat and at a very jaunty angle and there was debris all over the road. Although I was safe and unharmed by the side of the road I was acutely conscious that any second now another car could come around the corner and drive straight into it – given it was in the middle of the road.
The driver and the passengers of the other car were also safe and unharmed. Their car was also in the middle of the road around the corner. It had a buckled front wing and the front wheel was flat and at a jaunty angle. While I was struggling to hold it together, they seemed unconcerned. Only worried about leaving as soon as possible to make their flight – which they were late for.
Here are the top five things I have learnt after having my world turned upside down as a business owner reliant on my van.
Have the right business insurance for your car/van
Did you know there are lots of different categories of business insurance for a car or van? Everything from commuting to an office to being a courier.
Check which insurance you have and make sure it covers you for all your business activities. It is one of those boring behind the scenes kind of admin jobs that are so important. If I hadn’t had the right kind of business insurance it wouldn’t have mattered that the other car was coming around a blind bend on the wrong side of the road and hit me. I could have been considered an uninsured driver and therefore at fault regardless. The consequences of that are far bigger than losing a van – it would be very difficult to get insurance afterwards, points on my licence, a fine and who knows what else.
You might be thinking I had commercial cover as it was a van. I didn’t. The van was a personal vehicle so please check yours.
I know I could have been a little kinder to the driver and passengers of the other car and I regret not trying to be kinder. However, they had no issue with trying to intimidate me – not to call my insurance, not to call the police and many other things. They felt my van was fine, perfectly driveable and I was being unreasonable for not letting them put the spare tyre on and be on their way. Despite their car also not being driveable.
It is scary being in an accident and no one wants to be at fault but that was not appropriate. I don’t know what I would have done if my husband hadn’t been able to leave work at a moment’s notice and come out to help.
Document everything, check everything
After all the trauma, the next two weeks proved even harder as my insurance company made mistake after mistake. Hours and days were spent on the phone – again all behind the scenes – as the business went on as normal to the outside world. I was sent the wrong documents by my insurance company saying the van was repairable and shortly after this sent a formal letter thanking me for accepting liability.
It took more time on the phone and finally a formal complaint to rectify these mistakes and they would only accept they were mistakes because I had a record of every call I made. It doesn’t bear thinking about what would have happened if I hadn’t been able to check my emails or answer every phone call to even realise they were making mistakes.
Who are you?
What you may also not realise is that when you have an accident now you don’t speak to your insurance company except to report the accident. After that it is an underwriter who deals with the claim, another separate company deals with the repair or salvage and separate companies again for hire car. Each one will have a different reference number for you and phone numbers to ring.
It should also go without saying, but I feel the need to say it – take photos of the accident, the road, the damage, everything. It may be obvious, but in the weeks after the accident these helped me to remember that it wasn’t my fault when I work up at 3am in the morning worrying.
They should also be helpful in the claim. In my case, the other driver is alleging joint liability as they state it was a head on collision. As you can imagine, photos of the pristine front of my van while the entire driver’s side is buckled in is better evidence than my word against theirs.
Ring the police
Stood by the side of the road, in shock, I wasn’t sure what to. I knew what I thought I needed to do but the adrenaline very much took over and made me question every decision.
When my husband arrived and I asked him if I should ring the police, he said ‘ring them and they will tell you if they are not needed’. So simple and so true. I just felt it was wrong to ring 999 when we were all safe.
It was the right thing to do – the van and the car blocking the road was enough for them to send two cars and stay on the line with me until they arrived. The police were incredible and immediately the intimidation stopped. Without the police, the other driver would not have given me his details and I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to make a claim without that.
Take some time to process
My time after the accident was filled with phone calls and emails. All behind the scenes while still trying to run my business and work out how I was going to get everywhere without a van. Yet, at the same time without anything to do I would get teary and it would replay over and over in my mind.
It was a weird state of trauma yet I didn’t even have a scratch. I felt lucky and so incredibly unlucky. The damage on the van could have been a lot worse yet at the same time it was catastrophic for the business.
Two months later I feel fine and most of the time I am fine. Yet, just occasionally when I am driving someone will cut in front of me and it will bring on that shaky feeling. A very good friend said ‘you need a lot more time than you think to properly process the trauma’. Even if you don’t feel very traumatised or feel that you shouldn’t be traumatised.
So, let’s take this back to number two – be kind. To yourself as much as anyone else.
Those are my top five. If you feel this has helped you or helped you appreciate how much more is going on behind the scenes that businesses don’t share please drop me a message. It does feel weird putting something so personal out in the world. Stay safe everyone and check your insurance!