Push Back

Three years ago an auto accident left me with some permanent, occasionally painful injuries. At the time I was irritated because I knew it was going to hurt, be a time-sucking hassle, and the guy who caused it was a young man in a pickup truck (don’t get me started on young men in pickup trucks!). Four cars were smashed up, so it was kind of a big deal, though not catastrophic.

Fast forward. I’m mending from the worst of it; my insurance company has been sympathetic and prompt in meeting their obligations. Time to submit a claim to the other guy’s insurance. I was pleased because his company is one of those big, respected companies with embossed letterhead on heavy-weight paper.

With the help of a friend (an experienced insurance adjuster) I submitted a claim that detailed my expenses and included a very modest request for a sum of money that would cover projected expenses. It was accurate and documented.

They blew me off.

The agent lazily offered me an amount that was less than half of what I requested. When I asked to discuss it, he simply said, “No, but you seem like a nice lady, so if you want to call and just talk, I’ll listen.”

I don’t know how long my mouth hung open. People are usually smart enough not to patronize me.

Maybe he just didn’t get it? I wrote him a letter explaining my claim again, suggesting that I would prefer not to have to hire a lawyer.


I wrote to his supervisor, reiterating the situation.


Memories of the playground bullies of my childhood began to swirl around in my brain as I considered the situation. I taught school for more than 20 years, and I know bullying when I see it – in all its forms. This was simply corporate bullying because like every bully gang, they thought they could get away with it.

Wrong victim…because I won’t be a victim. In that instant, for me the focus shifted from money to forcing the company to behave honorably. (I’m not naïve – I know this seems ludicrous, but I don’t care.)

So, after warning them twice, I hired a lawyer – the son of a friend. A good guy with a moral compass. I told him that my objective was to not lose money, but to make the insurance folks squirm. And he did it. Suddenly, the agents had to actually examine medical evidence, discuss the situation, and settle before they were taken to court and the lawyers took a pound of flesh from their financial hides.

My lawyer called yesterday. The company settled for almost three times their original offer (which I probably would have accepted if they had been nice about it). And aside from the cash, the settlement tied up the time of a whole bunch of their high-paid senior adjustors. Mission accomplished!

I told a friend about it, happily saying that perhaps now the company will think twice before its adjustors treat people badly. He just shrugged and said, “So you are one of the 20 percent who push back. Why should they change?”

I thought about the many bullying scenarios I’ve seen. My response to kids who get started on the bully road, is “No! You may not do that. Ever!” My response to corporations, in my very small way, is the same: “No! You may not do that. Ever!”

I didn’t walk away with a trunk full of cash. There were expenses and the lawyer got his fair, well-earned share, so this is not a money-making venture.

If you are ever subjected to corporate bullying, I would urge you to be one of the ones who push back, any way you can. When the 20 percent becomes, 25 and 30 and 50. When it costs a corporation more money to behave badly than to behave honorably, all of us will win.

Push back — every time.