Monday is mostly over here in Wisconsin, and unlike last week, today was a relatively benign day.
Last Monday, I started off the week with a literal pair of bangs. I had an early morning trip to the dentist for a cleaning scheduled and Madison was in the middle of a snowstorm that would eventually drop a couple of inches of snow on the city. The dentist’s office is an unfortunate bike ride away from our house under the best of conditions, and snowy roads make it even less fun than usual, so I jumped into the car and headed out. About four blocks north of our house, I carefully slowed to a stop at the bottom of a hill and waited for a light to change so that I could turn left. I was lost in that space where people go when they’re patiently waiting for a light to change so that they can continue their journey to an unpleasant destination when, BANG! our car was thrown six feet to the left by a sudden impact. I’d just about registered that the car had been hit when BANG! another impact struck the car.
When the proverbially dust settled, I turned my head and look at the delivery van that was pointed 180 degrees in the wrong direction nestled right up against the side of our car.
Fortunately, I wasn’t injured, so I got out of the car and to take a look at the damage. The driver of the van, a guy is his fifties got out to see what sort of chaos his moronic driving had caused. My first words to him were, “Oh yeah. Nice job.” Not clever, but not laden with profanity and invective like the situation warranted according to my emotions.
So, we spent the next half-hour on the side of the road exchanging insurance information. I called the police, but since the snow was causing so many collisions, they were only responding to collisions that resulted in injury. Since neither myself nor the other driver was injured, they didn’t come out to the scene.
The driver of the van insisted that he braked at the top of the hill, couldn’t stop, and was trying to steer between myself (in the left turn lane) and the car in the right turn lane. This explanation, of course, wasn’t remotely plausible. First, no sensible person attempts to steer between two vehicles to avoid a collision so that they can enter a higher speed, heavily trafficked six-lane road against the light. Second, you don’t just throw nearly 3500 pounds of vehicle straight sideways when you can’t quite stop in time. You might tap a bumper, you might dent a fender, but you don’t throw the vehicle around. Third, no one else on the road was having trouble stopping at the bottom of the hill. I stopped. The car next to me stopped. The cars that flowed past the scene of the accident during that following half-hour all stopped. It’s hard to believe that this guy found the one vehicle that couldn’t stop given the road conditions. What is more likely is that the driver of the van was traveling way too fast for the road conditions and that my car had to pay the price for his negligence.
The car could be driven, though not legally probably, so I drove it home and took some photos before calling our insurance agent. He suggested some body shops that worked closely with the insurance company and that would guarantee their work for the life of the car. I picked one close to the house, got in and started driving. Ironically enough, on the way there, I almost was in another collision when a woman in a minivan decided that a stop sign facing her didn’t really mean stop. Fortunately, I was traveling a sensible speed and was able to slow down and steer around her before the front end of my car suffered like the right side and rear had less than an hour earlier. Eventually, I made it to the body shop where I dropped off the car. The rear tail lights were smashed on the right side. The trunk was deformed. The rear quarter panel was junk. There was a hole in the right rear door, as well as plenty of paint scratching and dents. The right front door was scratched and dented. The mirror was smashed on the passenger side. The right front quarter panel was dented and scratched. In short, every nearly every piece of the right-hand side of the car was damaged in some way.
When the estimate came back two days later, it was for $7448. The car needs body work to straighten frame members, a new back door, painting, and all sorts of trim replacement and whatnot. It’s over 100 hours of labor. If we’re lucky, we should get our car back from the shop sometime around 07 Mar 2007.
Since the car had bits hanging off of it, the trunk was no longer weather-proof, and my signal lights were no longer functional, the car wasn’t really great for driving. So, I left it at the body shop and got a rental car from Enterprise. At the time, my choices were for a Dodge Magnum, a PT Cruiser, or a Chevy Malibu Maxx. The Magnum has unusual blind spots, and is a rear-wheel drive, if memory serves, which is not ideal for winter driving. The PT Cruiser has a tall roof, but a short windshield, so that wouldn’t work too well for me. So, I chose the Malibu Maxx. Bad choice. It smelled like feet, accelerated like honey, and had all the handling characteristics of a soggy cardboard box. The seats were stained, the vents on the dash were smashed and non-functional, and the CD player didn’t work. In short, it was a heap. Even Sarah, who is far less judgemental than I am, exclaimed loudly about what a junker that car was. So, I started making plans to get a replacement from Hertz. When the Enterprise folks found out that I wanted to return their car, they offered to replace it with one better, and to their credit, they did. We’re now driving around a black 2007 Toyota Avalon, for the same daily price as the Malibu Maxx.
At least we’re not paying for the damage to the car and the cost of the rental car. The other driver’s insurance company is footing the bill for both of those items. The company that owned the delivery van had only started operations the week before, and so their insurance was just days old. When I called to initiate a claim, they couldn’t find the policy in their system because it hadn’t be assigned a policy number yet. It took the better part of a day playing phone tag with adjusters, an insurance agent, and a call center, to get things moving in the right direction. So, the car is being repaired, we’re driving a shiny newish rental car, and all is well, right? Sort of. I’m still steamed about the fact that I had to sink so much time into getting us to this point when the collision was in no way caused by me. I feel like I should be able to bill the other driver for my time. Of course, that’s not likely something I could succeed in doing, so I’ll just have to be happy that he was insured at all.