If it feels that I have been conspicuously absent in recent months…you are not imaging things. And, unfortunately, it was for a very legitimate reason. My sincerest apologies to you if I have been out of touch.
In late 2016, I was involved in a car accident that turned out to be much more serious than first realized. A distracted driver, smoking a cigarette and looking out his window, failed to see me stopped at a red light in front of him. He crashed into me at (nearly) full speed, and my life hasn’t been the same since. I was shaken up at the time, but have to admit that I had no idea that I was about to go through a very painful year. Both literally and figuratively.
I spent the majority of 2017 on disability (a process that is easier said than done….read below) with medical bills from dozens of providers reaching nearly $500,000. My days were full of orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, anesthesiologists, neurologists, and more. It all blurs together now.
As a solopreneur and single mother of two young children, I believed I had done all that I needed to do in order to prepare for such an unfortunate situation. For decades, I had invested tens of thousands of dollars in various short-term and long-term disability policies, the best medical insurance I could obtain in this day and age, and additional riders on my own automobile insurance to cover medical expenses and other impacts should the party at fault not have sufficient insurance of their own (which is exactly what happened to me). What I learned throughout the past 15 months, however, is that none of those entities that I had been paying for decades really wanted to help me when I needed to actually utilize the policies I owned. They failed to live up to their commitments…the very reason they exist as insurance companies. In other words, they didn’t want to honor their Mission.
Six months from the date of the accident, and not one of the policies I mentioned had paid a dime toward my spiraling costs. Finally, my first short-term disability policy kicked in, but the second, a long-term policy I have had in place for more than two decades, had a claims agent at their home office five states away try to tell me that she didn’t believe I was truly hurt. A half million dollars in medical expenses and I was on track to have part of my spine replaced….and they “were convinced I was hurt”. Thankfully, my local agent here, Kirk Bippus, intervened on my behalf, requested a supervisor of the claims agent review my case, and the disability was approved within 24 hours. Kirk and his assistant were the only individuals at his organization that understood the true mean of Organizational Mission. For him, I am incredibly grateful.
The same was true for the automobile insurance provider of the individual who hit me and was cited by the Denver Police Department for being at fault. And worst of all, my own automobile insurance provider, that I have utilized without an accident since I was 16 years old (I turn 46 next month…you do the math), repeated the same message. They tried to claim they didn’t believe I was injured so that they could try to avoid paying me what I was owed. 14 months and counting. Like a Good Neighbor? I wish.
The same held true for my medical insurance company, who repeatedly denied my orthopedic surgeon’s recommendation that I have a section of my spine replaced. For 5 months my surgeon appealed, confident that the severity of my injury warranted it. Meanwhile, I suffered in intense pain, wondering when the tipping point was reached that so many entities started thinking that it was okay to ignore the Mission that lies at the heart of why they exist as a business. My doctor’s persistence finally paid off, and I was able to have the surgery I needed on August 15, 2017, a full nine months after my accident. I was surprised shortly thereafter to learn that my medical insurance company, realizing the full extent of my injury, responded with a lawsuit and liens against me to try to intercept any potential automobile payment I might ultimately receive. And no, I am not kidding.
The surgery was a success, followed by two months of bedrest and months of physical therapy. I am re-emerging in the world. What a path to get here. As I type this on the first day of January 2018, almost 14 months to the day from my accident, I still have yet to receive the monies owed to me. I am confident that it will all be resolved, but the frustration is still there…and lessons have been learned.
Putting the personal aspect of it aside, as a strategic advisor, there is much that I have taken away from my experiences of the last year. I have always encouraged my clients to prioritize their culture, mission, vision and values, but I have a new perspective on the importance of these lessons that is more absolute and convincing than ever.
As you start your 2018, join me in remembering the importance of your personal and professional Mission. Commit in the year ahead that you will do all that you can to fulfill the promises that you make to yourself and your clients. Failing to do so can be very painful indeed – to you, your organization, and the customers that count on you.
Happy New Year!
Kimberly Arnold, CEO | Chief Strategy Officer