(From Trace: As you can see from the title, my birthday did not end up so great. After we left the sculpture garden we decided to go around downtown and see a bunch of other small things from the Roadside America app. We headed to the first one, and started to get hungry. Since we had the dog with us, our meal options were limited. I love taking the puppy with us when we visit places, but lunch can be problematic, especially in a COVID environment. From this point, the writing is Lee)
As we were heading to our next site seeing location, I noticed a McDonald’s right across the street and I made a left into the parking lot.
As I was pulling into the parking lot, there was a man in a Cadillac Escalade who was exiting. Instead of stopping before he turned, he kept moving and turned directly into the left side of our truck, between the back half-door and the driver’s side rear wheel fender. He wasn’t going very fast, and neither were we, and we didn’t really feel the impact but more felt and heard the scraping.
We both stopped and separated the cars and then pulled into parking spaces to deal with it. (Initially I thought it was no big deal and wanted Lee to not make a big deal about it. It is worth saying here that the gentleman was African-american and we were very close to the part of Minneapolis where the riots had occurred. I kept thinking I didn’t want this simple accident to turn into anything else and kept feeling the need to apologize. Luckily Lee told me quietly and firmly to be very careful about what I said. It is common for people to say things and apologize after an accident that could be used as an admission of liability if there is a court case. My major concern was not wanting to call the police. I know it wasn’t very rational in that moment, but I just didn’t want to call them.- Trace
It’s worth mentioning at this point that neither of us has ever been in an accident where there was an insurance claim. We weren’t really sure what to do so we were reading our insurance cards looking for directions. While we were reading a young woman came up to us and said she witnessed what happened. She gave us each her name and phone number and we both felt relieved there was an independent witness. The driver of the other car was very polite, but obviously he was upset as well. His paper insurance card was expired, but he said the policy was current and showed me on his phone that it was active and seemed very concerned that we would think he didn’t have active insurance. I understood completely, because I had both the most recent AND expired cards in my truck, and I almost NEVER have the current one.
Since we both have Progressive, Tracy called them and asked if we had to call the police. They told us there was no need for a police report, since there were no injuries and the cars were operable, but took some basic information. I didn’t want to continue the claim in that moment (it was hot, we were in the handicap spots of a busy parking lot, and we were both hungry), but they reassured us I could finish the claim later. We took some pictures of the damage to both cars, his license plate, driver’s license and insurance info. I was worried about the fuel lines and brake lines, but they were well away from the outside panels, so we were fine to drive, it just looked terrible.
Here are a few more pictures taken later in the day once we got home. In this first shot you can clearly see the dimple on the left, which is the point of impact, on the front left corner of the other car, and then in the other pictures you can see where it just slid back along the truck, pushing in as it went.
After we got some McDonald’s, we went to our daughter’s house to calm down and file the claim on her computer. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with her. We were actually supposed to leave the next day and spend two weeks touring the Upper Peninsula, but I decided I wanted to deal with the truck here instead of later in Columbus, our stop after the UP. That turned out to be a good idea!
The next day, Monday, there was some confusion because the claim was handed off to a Florida adjuster, which is where we are insured, but the accident happened in Minnesota. The claim needed to be processed in Minnesota, and as it turns out, the repairs had to be done in Minnesota or Florida. If we had moved on Monday morning as scheduled, we would have eventually had to go back, or go on to Florida, which was not in our plans. The MN adjuster also wasn’t completely sure if they would have been willing to hold the claim open for several weeks, so we really needed to stay. Once I resubmitted the claim with her, she said she would let me know the next day who was at fault, which would determine whether or not it would go on our insurance record, and whether we would pay our deductible. I honestly didn’t give it a lot of thought at that point, because basic geometry and physics more or less guaranteed it was not my fault, plus there was a witness.
Tuesday, she called me back and wanted to start the process of getting the repair done, but told me I would have to pay the deductible and if I were found to be not at fault it would be returned to me. That made me a little nervous, because it can be very hard to get money back once it’s gone, and our $1K deductible is not an insignificant amount of money. I pushed back a little and asked what the hold up was with the determination. She said it was my word against his and she was waiting to hear back from the manager of McDonald’s to see the security camera footage. I asked her why they couldn’t just make a decision based on the pictures, and the statements of the two parties and the witness. She replied she didn’t have any pictures of the other car, and she didn’t know there was a witness.
At that point, I gave her the name and phone number of the witness again, and told her I would send her pictures of the other car. I had already sent a bunch of my own car at her request. I’m not sure why she didn’t ask the other guy to do the same. Later in the day she called back and said the witness statement supported the other party’s statement, so it was now my word against the word of two other people. I got pretty irritated and told her that she needed to get the security footage, or be willing to bring us all to an empty parking lot for a re-creation with an expert from the insurance company. There was no way I was going to pay a $1000 deductible, plus have my rates skyrocket, as the result of a decision that weighted the statement of a person with a vested interest in the outcome over the laws of physics. I felt like kind of a jerk, but I also felt like I was being railroaded for being from out of town. (At this point I just wanted the truck to go into the shop. Since I wasn’t paying close attention when it happened, I honestly didn’t know whose fault it was, and thought maybe Lee was mistaken. My one thought though was the witness didn’t necessarily have a good view and I was concerned with how haphazard the whole process was. I encouraged Lee to just pay the deductible so we could get the process started but he was adamant and ultimately I just went with it. UP was looking less and less probable as time passed and I mentally just let go of the idea we would get to go there. – Trace)
Later that same say the adjuster called me back to tell me that she had seen the security camera footage. Lo and behold, the statements of the other party and the witness were, in her words, “less than accurate”. She said they determined I had no liability, and that my deductible would be waived and the incident would not be reflected in my rates in any way. Here’s the video, and it’s really, really bad. She shot it vertically with her phone on the monitor in the McDonald’s office, but you can pretty clearly see in the first pass that the red SUV turned left and never stopped or straightened his wheel, and just continued to turn right into me. It looks like I am also turning left, but that’s an optical illusion from the shadow of the truck. My wheels were straight the entire time, that’s how they determined I wasn’t at fault even partially. This is a concept I had never heard of, by the way, that they can assign a percentage of blame to each party. If my wheels hadn’t been straight, she might have assigned as much as 50% of the blame to me. I think maybe the witness was in the blue car, and if she was, it’s very possible that from her angle, with the truck being in the shadow, that it might have looked to her like the dually fender, which sticks out pretty far was my truck hitting the SUV. (Here’s my advice, if you are in an accident, BEFORE you leave the scene, look around for security cameras, and try to make arrangements then and there to obtain the footage later. Some systems only keep the footage for a certain period of time. It honestly didn’t even occur to me and this was totally critical to proving our case. – Trace
One of the first things the adjuster asked me was if I had a dashcam, and she mentioned several times that they were highly recommended in the insurance industry. After what I consider a “close call” with almost having to pay that deductible, or even half of it, I would have been better off having spent $100 on a dashcam and that would have been the end of it. I did some research and found a highly rated one so I am picking it up today, so I will write a post about it after I’ve used it for a few weeks. (Our friend Bill bought one awhile ago and we should have followed his lead. In general, Bill knows best 🙂 – Trace)
I selected a local body shop based on the fact that they were “in network” with Progressive, which would mean the work would be warrantied for the life of the vehicle, and they were very highly rated locally. They also have a dedicated location just for Progressive work, which really impressed me. I dropped it off and Progressive had a rental vehicle delivered to the shop so it was ready when I got there. I was really happy that it worked out that I was able to get a pickup truck, because the campground we are staying at doesn’t have sewer hookups, so I am using the Blue Boy and macerator pump to manage the tanks. I wasn’t really interested in using a little subcompact car to do that. Our policy includes a rental for up to $50 per day for up to 30 days, and that pickup was under the $50 limit. (It’s worth mentioning here that a few months ago I was toying with dropping our premium coverage and going with liability only. Lee was 100% against that because the truck is our only vehicle and was I glad I hadn’t done it. Yes, it would have been covered under the other guy’s insurance but the whole situation would have been so much more stressful if we hadn’t had full coverage as a backup. Plus knowing we had a rental car for 30 days really made the whole thing OK in my mind. It occurs to me at this point that I was wrong a whole bunch in this series of events, but hey, no one is perfect! – Trace)
Personally I don’t think Trace was wrong on all these counts, we just have different points of focus, and we compliment each other. There are lots of times her advice covers gaps in my view as well. My particular mindset just happened to be useful here.
I dropped the truck off and they told me that the job was pretty extensive. They would need to remove the entire pickup box, and disassemble it, replace the entire left side (inner and outer and fender) and then put it back on and paint the left side of the vehicle. They also needed to replace the left running board and pull the dent from the column behind the door. They didn’t know how long it would take because they needed to find out how far away the body panels were, but they estimated 80 hours (!!!!!) of labor, all in.
This was on Friday the 21st, and they had told me to check with them on Wednesday the 26th to get a better idea when it would be done. We were both pretty bummed about that, and we had to cancel all of our UP plans and rearrange our plans for arriving in Columbus, because we didn’t want to be traveling without reservations Labor Day weekend. We consoled ourselves with the fact that we were in a campground that we could extend and we didn’t have to worry about having to leave because someone had a reservation after us. And while we lost our “vacation” time, we didn’t lose any money, and nobody was injured. Not as bad as it could have been overall.
When Weds rolled around there was a few things that I needed to get out of the truck so I just drove over to check on the status instead of calling. When I got there the truck was nowhere to be seen, but the old left side was leaning against a dumpster with all the instructions written on it. I looked everywhere and could not find my truck anywhere inside or outside.
I started to really get upset when a guy came out and said he was really sorry someone had called me to tell me to pick it up because it wasn’t ready yet. It was close, but not quite. I told him I didn’t understand what he was talking about, my truck wasn’t even there. He took me over to a big garage door inside the garage, and showed me my truck, which was almost completely covered in plastic. It was a painting “booth”! And in the next “booth” was the bed, and the fender.
So it was finished, it just needed to be reassembled. He thought I had been mistakenly called to come get it, and I was completely floored that it was more or less done. I was fully expecting to hear that the parts were on their way and it would be two more weeks once the parts arrived. So the next day I was able to go pick it up and it looked great.
For those who would be interested in such things, I did ask what the cost would have been if I had just brought it in and paid for the work to be done, and it was $8000. Really glad it all turned out the way it did. As a side note, I also asked them when I dropped it off what it would cost to repair the damage to the other side where the 5th wheel fell off the hitch and hit it way back in March 2015, and he said because of the type of damage around $2300. Yikes! I elected to leave it the way it was and it continues to be a reminder of why it’s important to do a bump test with the brakes. (I had reservations about fixing it anyway because I like the reminder. -Trace)
(I was going to add some thoughts about how these type of incidents seem to continually happen and how they interrupt travel plans, but I have decided to do a separate post on that. I am working on that now and it will be the next one we post. -Trace)
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