them. Lucky for me, Pittsburgh has a ton of hospitals, and quite a few trauma centers. Straight to the CAT-scan / MRI machine thing for me, then to a room.
The bullshit begins. The social worker for the hospital comes to speak with me about a few things. First she feels that I should be on anti-anxiety medicine. This just makes me angry. The sky just fell on my head and she thinks I might have an anxiety issue? I would compare having something fall from the sky onto your head to stepping out of bed in the morning and not having the ground there. I’d imagine this would make most people anxious. I have a raging headache and am hoping for some ibuprofen, which she can’t provide.
She then tells me that my company’s workers compensation insurance has expired. This is a big deal. She said it had expired nine months prior. This happened to be right after the one guy at work got horribly injured. A doctor came in to inform me that I was ok. He didn’t seem to care about the cuts that were exposed through my torn shirt, from where the brick rolled down my body. He did not provide me with anything for my raging headache. He just told me that the social worker would be back in a few minutes with discharge papers. Within an hour I went from thinking that I might be paralyzed to being rushed out of the hospital.
The social worker then told me that I had no insurance and would have to cover all costs myself. If I had been permanently injured, it would have been on me. My boss was committing a felony, and it seemed that nobody really cared. This was all obviously going to be a very big issue. This also meant that the hospital was not going to give me anything for my headache.
I went home from the hospital and sat on the couch taking in everything that had just happened. I was about to owe the hospital four or five thousand dollars. I had a moral decision to make as to whether I should turn my employer in for not having valid workers compensation insurance. I went to “base” a few days later to pick up my bike and my helmet, and tell them that I was going to take some time off.
The brick hit my head and split and dented my helmet. I had not seen the damage until I picked it up that day. I would have been dead if I was not wearing it, or if I had taken it off when I got to the building. The brick then hit my shoulder and tore my shirt, and gave me what can only be described as road rash. I must have only been a foot away from my bike when it hit me, because it then hit my front wheel and completely folded it.
“Some time off” turned into never going to work as a messenger again. Because I liked one of the three owners of the company, I never told on them. They switched all of the couriers over to independent contractors, meaning that they were responsible for their own insurance. I still sometimes wonder what would have happened if the injury had been worse, or if it had been somebody not wearing a helmet. A few of the couriers would often take their helmets off before going into a building. I guess that I am kind of glad that it was me that the sky fell on.
I was also fortunate enough to have a lawyer as a good friend. He made sure that my bills were paid by my former employer. I could have pretended that I was hurt and tried to get a giant chunk of change from the building’s insurance, but instead took the high road and went on to pursue road racing more seriously. My lawyer friend would constantly tell me that the insurance company could Google me, find my name in race results a few weeks after the incident, and contend that I was barely hurt. I kept it honest, got a few grand and never looked back.
Stephen Cummings is a frequent contributor and lives but a block from Urban Velo HQ, currently competing as a Cat 1 road and International Elite cyclocross racer and in PRO level mountain bike events as his road schedule allows. See his other contributions; Riding is My Religion in Urban Velo #7, The Million Mile Man — Danny Chew in Urban Velo #10 and Crit Racing in Urban Velo #14.