On Sept. 4, I was in a Green & White Taxi on my way to downtown St. Paul to cover the RNC protests.
Suddenly, the driver slammed on the brakes, the cab veered into the next lane, clipped an adjacent vehicle, hit the k-rail, bounced back out into traffic and finally came to rest against the k-rail.
I was wearing my seatbelt, so I wasn't seriously injured. But I walked away with a very sore neck. I went to the ER to get checked out. X-rays came back normal and they discharged me with a prescription for ibuprophen.
In a way, it was a lucky accident because if I hadn't been strapped to a backboard in the ER while the Capital was being locked down, I probably would have ended up flex-cuffed face down on a bridge, like many of my indie media colleagues. As it turned out, all access to the Capital was blocked off by the time I arrived, so I missed the mass arrest.
The hospital assured me that the cab company's insurance would take care of the ER bill. I left them with the taxi company's name and phone number and assumed that the billing department would handle it from there. I didn't give it much thought until I got a bill for $1100.
The hospital explained that they'd called Green & White Taxi three times to request insurance information, but Green & White wasn't returning their calls. They wanted to hold me responsible for the bill.
I tried calling Green & White (also dba Suburban Taxi). I must have left a dozen messages over the course of several days. Despairing of ever reaching a person at the office number, I tried calling the dispatcher and asking him to walk over to the front office and get someone's attention. He refused.
I got a sinking feeling when I finally got through to a receptionist who refused to tell me the last name of the insurance administrator or when she'd be in the office next, or even the last name of the owner of Green & White.
For the record, the owner's name is Gary Tournier. Mr. Tournier didn't cover his online tracks nearly as well as he thought he did.
I was getting panicky because if Green & White would't give the hospital their insurance information, the hospital was going to hold me responsible. What's the point of making cab drivers carry insurance if they can get away with stonewalling the hospital until the victim gets stuck with the bill?
Then I remembered that St. Paul has a taxi licensing commission which keeps track of the insurance that each taxi company must carry. I got the name of the insurance company and the insurance policy-writing company from from St. Paul's taxi licensing office. The policy-writing firm referred me to a third company that actually handles claim processing.
I asked if a claim had been opened for Green & White's policy. All the agent needed was the name of the company and the number of the cab. Sure enough, Green & White had filed a claim to cover the damage to their vehicle. The agent gave me the policy number and the underwriter's name.
That's all the hospital needs to bill Green & White's insurance for my ER bill.
I devised my own strategy to get around the shady, stonewalling Green & White Taxi because there wasn't any information online about how to get insurance info from a taxi company that won't divulge it.
So, I thought I'd post about the experience in the hopes that someone else will have an easier time of it.
To summarize: Here's what to do if a cab company won't divulge its insurance information. Find out which body governs taxi licensing in the place where the accident happened. Usually, the licensing body is part of the city government, but not always. Ask for the insurance policy information on the cab. Call the company that wrote the insurance policy and ask them to put you in touch with the company that processes the claims. Give the claim- processing company the details of the accident: Company name, cab number, date of the accident. They can give you the policy number and the name of the adjuster who is handling the claim. Give all that information to the billing department at the hospital.