Burlington, Vermont is a perfectly nice town. Perched on the edge of Lake Champlain, it's actually quite pretty-good shopping, great food, what could be better?
I'm hoping I don't have to go there again.
My sister and I drove there to meet with the lawyer who is representing us in an ongoing dispute with my aunt's auto insurance carrier. We were required to enter into mediation. That was fine. In fact, both of us were optimistic that, perhaps, this ordeal could resolve this whole situation, allowing us to settle the estate and maybe have some closure. We had been told, by many parties, both lawyer and insurance officer, people uninvolved with the case, that this was an "open and shut" matter. Simple formality.
After months of brutal questioning, through interrogatories and depositions, my sister and I were emotionally exhausted. We had to go through all aspects of our relationships with mother and aunt, to give the insurance representatives a sense of our loss. I mean, could you, if you were required, provide decades of medical information or really prove you had a close relationship. What would be enough? Pictures, yes, but what about proof of daily or monthly contact. Does everyone keep every card your relatives have sent over years?
Bottom line, we felt like we were on trial. All we asked for was the limit of the policy. They died. Doesn't that count for anything?
Apparently not. Ironically, if they had lived, the policy would have been paid, no question.
That would have been great.
But our grief renders that claim worthless.
So to mediation we went.
The last time we were in Burlington, both of us wanted, and did not get a crepe from a stand on Church St. When we first noticed the vendor, neither of us was hungry, so we walked around and shopped for a bit. When we were ready, the stand was nowhere to be found. And believe me, we searched. By that time we really wanted some crepes!
I even called my son, because he knew Burlington and I thought he would know where the actual building that housed the crepe restaurant was. Nope. So we went to Ben and Jerry's. Not a bad trade, but not a yummy, hot, fruit-filled, rolled up skinny pancake.
We did find the place, right after we had our huge scoops of ice cream and were no longer hungry. Go figure.
But on to this visit and mediation.
The insurance company's lawyer evicerated us, claiming that we were "driving this train" and inferring that all of this was unnecessarily greedy on our part. Though he was "very sorry for our loss," we had no case. Our lawyer disagreed. I know there is a game that needs to be played and the letter of the law to be followed, but does it make logical sense that a claim worth XX dollars had the claimants lived, be worth nothing at their death?
He went further to explain that he did not work for a huge conglomerate, he represented a mutual company, meaning he had to look out for the best interest of the share-holders. Understood. But wasn't my aunt a shareholder? And didn't my mother have a policy with the same company? Yes and yes.
I guess that only matters when you pay them, not when you want to collect.
I'm cynical, I know, but it's only getting worse through this process.
After seven hours of back and forth, dickering over monopoly money and not even coming close to agreement, both parties had had enough. We all walked out with no resolution. It made us feel greedy, but a bit defiant. We could have let this go and abandoned the claim, I'm sure the insurance company thinks this is what we should do, but our mom once tracked down and confronted the CEO of GE over a CT scanner for a hospital. Could we really do any less?
We left the office, wandered about. Then went for our crepes. Mine was stuffed with apple, hers, a brownie. They were decadently delicious.
I guess we'll be going back for more.