A letter arrives from the lawyers handling my defence in the phantom whiplash injury claim. It is now coming up to three years since a singularly rough-hewn couple alleged I had incapacitated them by shunting my little convertible in a slow moving traffic queue into the back of their people carrier.
I haven’t heard much from them since I appointed legal counsel and notified them of my intention to fight their claim all the way to the highest court in the land. They went a bit quiet after that, failing to submit all the necessary details setting out how and when they want to see me in court. All we know is that before they went quiet, Mrs Slob, for so I have childishly nicknamed her, after the Harry Enfield character, alleged that the shunt left her unable to do the ironing and that one of her children had to help her do the housework.
At this point, I want to make all sorts of jokes about the obvious inauthenticity of this claim, based on my assessment of the outfit she was wearing at the time: leggings and a baggy T-shirt, neither of which looked like they needed, or indeed had had, much ironing. But I won’t go into that too forensically because I suppose I should give Mrs S the benefit of the doubt. If she says she has other outfits that require pressing and that an inability to carry out these urgent acts of laundry maintenance left her in distress, then who am I to undermine her? Perhaps she is one of those people who, behind closed doors, likes to lead a double life.
Her lawyers further explained that the secretly fastidious lady was delivered into an unhappy place where she was unable to fulfil her own tight standards of personal grooming because previous injuries such as sciatica had been reactivated by the impact of my Peugeot 206 cc (approx. weight 1,025kg unladen plus 55kg laden) on their Ford Galaxy (approx.1,841kg unladen plus goodness knows how much laden), while Mr Slob suddenly experienced all sorts of trouble with the screws in his spine, also pre-existing.
I’m aware of the term eggshell skull, of course. And if I had known I had brushed the back bumper of a car containing two people entirely held together by welfare payments, children who did their housework and actual metal screws, I would have run for the hills. I would have screeched off like one half of Thelma and Louise and not stopped until I got inside the Channel Tunnel. I would have changed my name and started a new life in France, or possibly just kept driving until I hit Mexico.
But I didn’t know and so I meekly got out of the car to check there wasn’t a mark on their bumper, which there wasn’t. Not a scratch. Not even the tiniest dent. But by that time they were out of the car and she was yelling, ‘Ow me back me back! I’ve got whiplash I ’ave. Sha’up you stupid caaaaa!’ And so on.
In the wake of this alarming altercation, I made such a fuss that Aviva agreed to fight the claim rather than pay out with very few questions asked — the preferred route for insurers in these cases — and a shit-hot barrister was duly appointed to prove that the Slobs were committing perjury. And then things went quiet.
Now, because injury claims are allowed to run for three years, I have been paying — for most of that time — increased premiums on my car insurance because there is, technically speaking, an ‘at fault’ claim on my file. It will not lift until either the Slobs pursue their claim in the courts, or drop it, or the statute runs out.
So here we are. Three years on and the statute runs out in less than two months’ time. And just when I thought I was home and dry I got an email from the lawyers acting for my insurers this week to say that they had just had a letter from the Slobs’ solicitor saying they were still trying to make up their minds whether to take the case further.
No one seems to know what they are playing at. Maybe they really cannot make up their minds, about anything, including the ironing. Or maybe they have been enjoying making me wait and pay high car insurance for the longest possible time. Who knows? Whatever their reasons, the period of their alleged suffering ran out years ago, by their own admission.
My suffering, however, has run for nearly three years and counting. Will it end on 23 November, the third anniversary of the shunt on Streatham High Road, or will it continue for another year of battling in the courts? Either way, I’ve heard of murderers who’ve been inconvenienced less
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