Totaled

This is one blog post that I didn’t want to post. I had a difficult time writing and editing it without welling up into tears. Unfortunately this experience has now become a part my re-entry experience back into my home country the USA.

December 6th, 2 pm. At the traffic light at Kona Keahole International Airport.

I was heading into Costco to get gas for my 2002 Prius. I was sandwiched between two commercial trucks while approaching the traffic light. The truck in front of me had no container but it did have a barrier on its cab blocking my view of the light.

It went through on a yellow light. After it drove through then I could see the traffic light. There were other cars in the area and I didn’t think I would have time to go through the yellow light. So I stopped.

By then the light turned red. I then looked in my rear view mirror to see another truck – this one with a container – barreling in on me. I screamed. But it was useless. There is nothing like watching a two ton truck barreling in on you.

The second truck rear-ended my Prius.

As soon as I was given a green light I went through and pulled over to the right to check on my car. The truck driver also pulled over to the side and asked if I was ok.

I was physically ok. But mentally I was somewhere else. My car was once involved in another minor fender-bender which resulted in a dent in the front bumper. I heard stories from friends about their experiences in dealing with insurance companies. They hated dealing with them because their agents cause so much stress.

I was not looking forward to dealing with any insurance company. But because I was hit by a commercial trucking company and had no idea what kind of damage my Prius incurred I had to call Geico, my insurance company.

I got out of my car and checked out the back. The truck put two holes in my bumper and cracked my trunk door. I took pictures while the driver called the police.

I then took a walk around the truck. On the doors it said “Kona Trans and it had the company logo.

The police did arrive while I was on the phone with Geico filing a claim. A witness, a woman I’ll call Sherrie, also stepped forward and gave me her phone number. She saw the truck hit me while I was waiting for the red light to turn green.

“You’re gonna need this,” she said as she handed her name and phone number on a piece of paper. “Dealing with insurance companies is a pain in the neck.”

Meanwhile the police were questioning the truck driver. But they never questioned me. They just got my name and my contact information and they gave me the other driver’s info.

They never bothered to get my side of the story. “The driver said you stopped so suddenly,” said the officer.

And you believe him? I’m at a stop light.

 A RED stop light.

 What the heck am I supposed to do?

Sherrie stepped in. “It was red,” she said. “I saw the whole thing.”

The officer ignored her. He didn’t even bother to write her name or contact down on the information exchange form.

After we exchanged information I headed to Costco where I found out there was much more significant damage to my car than previously thought. I stood behind my car and noticed that the right side was bent out of place causing my right rear door to bolt shut.

Crap! I thought as I snapped additional pictures of my door.

The next day I submitted the Hawaii County Police Department Accident Information Exchange document I got from the police to Geico. Here’s what was printed on the front of that form:

Name of driver

Address

Vehicle Registration Number or license plate

Driver License Number

Telephone Number

On the back is the insurance information. What the officer wrote is in italics.

Date of Accident: 12-06-16

Time: 14:05

Location: Queen K/Keahole Road

Owner of other vehicle(if different from driver): SJA Partnership

Insured by: First Indemnity Ins

Injured Name and Address

Witness Name and Address

I read the info to Geico over the phone. However, they called me back two days after the accident to say that they could not find SJA Partnership or First Indemnity Insurance.

What the fuck?

I’ve worked as a security guard. One of the first things I was trained to do was to observe and report. How come the reporting officer did not even do that? How come Kona Trans, which was clearly written on the truck, is not on the form?

As I mentioned earlier the officer did not include Sherrie’s name and contact information on that form. I had to write that in. In fact, I made the corrections to the form.

“Well, I did take a walk around the truck and I do remember seeing Kona Trans written on the cab.”

Observe and report.

Geico followed up with another call to explain my claim to me. “If you decide to have your vehicle repaired through us you will have to pay out-of-pocket and you may have to pay an additional…”

By then they lost me. I’m getting dizzy and I’m speechless.

Wait a minute, I thought. I pay $70 a month for car insurance but because I only have collision insurance and nothing for repairs I’d have to pay more?

 The other option was to go through Kona Trans’ insurance company First Insurance. I wouldn’t have to – hopefully – pay for anything. They hit me at a red light. They should pay.

I contacted First Insurance. Anna, the woman in charge of my claim had a strange voice mail message.

“I’m out of the office from November 5th to November 28th.”

Uh, it’s now December 9th.

 I left a message on her voice mail. This went on for several days. At one point I left a snarky message suggesting she change her recording because it is now December.

Nothing.

I even started calling the First Insurance front office for updates.

It took me two weeks to finally get a hold of Anna who called to interrogate me and get my side of the story.

“What’s the make and year of your car?”

“It’s a 2002 Toyota Prius.”

“What time did the accident happen?”

“Around 2 pm.”

“Where did it happen?”

“At the traffic light at the intersection of Queen K and the airport road.”

I then told her my side of the accident about the yellow light turning red, about the first truck going through on a yellow light, and Kona Trans hitting me while I’m waiting at a red light.

Then I never hear from Anna again until after New Years. She calls me up with a bit of good news.

“Kona Trans has taken full responsibility for the accident.”

“Great,” I said. “What is next?”

“You need to take your car to Kraftsman Autobody in Kona.”

I scheduled an appointment for first week in February. I just wanted to get on with my life and not have to deal with Kona Trans or any insurance company. I work in Kona and I do a lot of driving. I see a lot of Kona Trans trucks on the road. Every time I see them I either say something unpleasant about them or I flip my magic finger. Every time a car gets too close to my rear end I say, “too close buddy!” Every time I see a truck with a container I get anxious.

I took my Prius to be assessed. I was hoping they’d be able to at least fix my door. My safety check expires August 2018 and that door is of concern. I’m still able to drive it. Why can’t they just knock out the kink in my door?

Charles, the assessor, scrambles beneath my car to take more pictures. “The right side has been shifted upward causing that bolt in your door.”

Okay.  The skeptic in me thought.

“I’ll send these pictures to First Insurance and will let you know. It will take a few days.”

Bad news. The repairs are just over $8,000. Total loss.

Fuck. What the hell am I supposed to do now?

A few days later one of Anna’s associates, a guy named Carl calls me up with a deal.

“We’re offering to buy your Prius for $3,061.”

“And what am I supposed to drive should I accept your offer?” I asked. “I do a lot of driving and I need a reliable car.”

“You can use the $3,061 as a down payment for a new car.”

Down payment I thought. What about the monthly payments? Who is going to pay them? I don’t think I should pay because I’m the victim. I have no interest in buying a car new or used. Why should I have to pay for anything?

 “What if I keep the car?” I asked trying to keep my inner Oscar the Grouch in check.

“We’d give you $2,861. That’s $3.061 minus $200 for repairs.”

This is ludicrous! The repairs are over $8,000! $200 won’t cover the cost of repairs!

I decided to ask Geico for help. After all they are my insurance company.

“I was wondering if you could deal with First Insurance,” I said haltingly. I struggled to find the words.

“I’m sorry. But once you decide to go with the other party’s insurance company we cannot intercede on the negotiations.”

Lame-o.

I was crying over the phone. I have to deal with First Insurance’s bullshit. I shouldn’t have to deal with Geico – my insurance company’s bullshit.

“Fine. Can you at least set up an appointment with another auto body shop?”

“Certainly,” said the other saccharine fake voice on the other end of the phone. I have no idea if this person had any idea that I was sobbing my friggin eyes out.

“Does this mean you are going through us?”

“No. I still want Kona Trans and First Insurance to pay.”

Geico set up an appointment with Big Island Collision Center for a second assessment in Kona.

When I get there however, I find out that the appointment was cancelled.

By now I’m on the verge of crying again. I have driven all the way from Waimea, an hour’s drive to Kona, to find out that my appointment has been cancelled.

“I didn’t authorize the cancellation I told Paul the assessor at Big Island Collision Center.

I’m now sobbing and cursing. Shit. Shit. Shit.

“Are you using Geico to cover the repairs?” he asked.

“No,” I replied. “I’m going through Kona Trans’ insurance company. I don’t think it’s right for me to pay for repairs because they hit me.”

“That may be the reason why Geico sent the cancellation notice,” said Paul. “You told them that you were going through First Insurance.”

“I never authorized the cancellation,” I said. “Nor did I get a cancellation notice from Geico.”

Then I made the mistake of telling Paul that I already had the car assessed at Kraftsman and that the Prius was deemed a total loss.

“Then there is no way we can fix it,” said Paul. “Kraftsman is also a part of Geico’s network. If Kraftsman deems it a total loss then it’s a total loss.”

I lost it. I broke into tears. “Shit. You mean to tell me that I drove all the way from Waimea for nothing?”

Seeing how pissed off I was Paul finally agreed to take a look at my Prius. I showed him the two holes in my rear bumper, the crack in my trunk door, and the faulty rear door. He told me the same thing Charles told me; the whole right side has been moved up causing my rear right door to bolt shut.

“You could ask First Insurance about getting a salvage title.”

Great. What is that?

I’ve lived in China for fourteen years where I didn’t need a personal car to get around. I could flag a taxi or catch a bus or a train to go where ever I pleased.

Ever since I’ve returned I’ve had to learn new terms like “total loss” and “salvage title”. To me a total loss would mean that my car would have to look like an accordion.

Now this term salvage title.

After I left the auto body shop I contacted Geico to inquire why my appointment was cancelled without my authorization and why I was not given any notice. They called me back.

“You said you were going through…”

“Shit,” I yelled. I just hung up. I was livid at Geico, my own insurance company. I’m also mad at First Insurance and Kona Trans for putting me in this position in the first place. Once again I’m sobbing this time in the Costco parking lot.

Fix my Prius or get me another car Scott free I said in an angry e-mail to Kona Trans and to First Insurance. With my part time job I’m in no position to purchase a big ticket item such as a car. I can’t and shouldn’t have to make any payments. You hit me. You pay.

 “We’ll pass this info along to our total loss assessor,” was Carl’s lame response.

Impasse.

It’s experiences like these that I wish I were back in China. Since I didn’t have a car I didn’t have to deal with unsympathetic insurance agents. I also had a full time job and could travel to where ever I pleased and do what ever I wanted.

I don’t want another car. I wish for my Prius to be repaired and Kona Trans expense. According to their website they’ve been in business for nearly seventy years and they have a huge fleet of trucks. They should be able to pay $8,000 for repairing my car. I understand the insurance translation of the phrase total loss that meaning the repairs cost more than the value of the car. But if Kona Trans is paying for it than it costs me nothing.

However, it’s unlikely because no auto body shop wants to fix it. What the fuck? I can’t get what I want. I’m forced to go car shopping. I don’t want to. But that is where I am in this shit. I can’t afford a brand new car and even most used cars are more that $3,000. I need a car for work. The options they have presented leave me either penniless, car-less, or both. They will not mail the check until I have transferred the title. In the meantime I’m supposed to shop for a car with my limited funds while they take my Prius. What if I’m not able to find another car? What am I suppose to drive to work? What am I suppose to live off of? I find these options unacceptable. I do not want to be temporarily broke. Nor do I not want to be temporarily without a car.

I understand that repairing my car is much more than its current value and that it would be smarter for me to take the $3,000 and spend it on the purchase of another car. That would be the smart thing to do. I’ve done my Kelley Blue Book research for my Prius. For a 2002 model the highest value I can get is $1,500. $3000 is a steal. But what kind of car can I get for $3000? I barely have that much in my bank. If I had enough to tie me over I’d take it.

Offering me $3000 may be smart. But it’s not the right thing to do. I wish they would stop doing the smart thing. I wish Kona Trans and First Insurance would do the right thing;either they pay for the repairs or give me enough money to purchase another car Scott free of monthly payments.

Because of this collision with Kona Trans, a renown moving and storage company, I cannot recommend their services to anyone. I may not have been a customer of theirs. But I have seen the damage these big rigs can do. If you do decide to use their services then consider the following issues:

  1. What are their drivers track records regarding accidents and safety? What is required of their drivers?
  2. What precautions are taken in securing containers? What precautions are taken to secure goods in these containers? What compensation do they offer in case of property damage or theft?

Just remember you DO have the right to ask questions. They are moving YOUR stuff! If one of their drivers is involved in a collision what are the odds of your stuff getting damaged? Just food for thought.

If you do decide to use Kona Trans as your moving and storage company that is your choice. But as for me I’d rather not deal with them and wish for this whole ordeal to be over.

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