Advice? - Carless 4 Months and Counting!

sweebyJanuary 24, 2013

So back in September, my 17-year old son had an accident in my car. The collision was what my husband calls a 'T-bone' -- where our car was hit directly in the driver's side door by another car's front end. Luckily, no one was hurt, but my car was pretty badly damaged.

The body shop did the repair in three phases. First phase was to assess the damages. Phase two was to replace the door. And Phase three, which was a "We'll see if it's necessary after Phase two" situation, involves replacing the 'engine cradle' -- the pretty important major part that holds the engine in place. Apparently, it was damaged in the crash, but the damage wasn't apparent until midway through the repair work.

Well - the problem is that the engine cradle part is not available for my car. It's been on back order for months now, with no estimated availability date in sight.

And I've been without my car now for 4 months and counting!

My question is -- Do any of you wise and clever people have any brilliant ideas?

Some other details:

- We decided not to carry rental car coverage because I work from home and that coverage only covered the first 30-days for a rental car. (The body shop gave us a free rental for the first 60 days anyway because the repair bill was so high...)

- We already did call the dealer for that make of car, and scoured the US online for USED parts. No luck.

- We asked our insurance company about just 'totaling' the car (it was close) or buying us out, but substantial repairs have already been made, so no dice.

Any ideas?

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Have you checked salvage yards? There might be a good one available there. I had some work done on my car where the part was no longer made. One garage could only find used parts through its sources but another was able to locate a new one.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 10:40AM
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Definitely check salvage yards (a good body shop can do the search). My son's car had a computer chip that got fried, and we found one through a salvage yard, obviating the need for a long wait--and it was much, much, much cheaper. It's been going strong for a good 6 years on the replacement chip. My daughter had a fender bender requiring a new hood for her car, and the body shop got a match for it at the salvage yard, same model, and painted it to match.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 11:01AM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

Ugh. Poor you. I would push the insurance company and have them speak directly to the body shop. Which insurance company do you have? I had the opposite problem last year when I hit someone (his fault-he got the ticket) and USAA declared my car a total loss when I begged them to fix it. They wouldn't even give me anything so I could fix it myself (turbo air intake on driver's side cracked). I loved that car (2001 Audi Allroad-best car ever). Very sad. I am not a fan of insurance companies! It makes no sense that they would not total the car if the part is nowhere to be found.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 11:01AM
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Too late for this now, but after such a bad accident I would have pushed for the car to be totaled right from the start.

It doesn't make sense that the repair shop started to fix things before all the damage was assesed. I've never had something repaired that way. The shop will usually take the car apart, keep adding up the damage and then present the finding to the insurance company.

How long are you willing to have the insurance company string you along? You might need to get a lawyer to encourage the insurance company to make a final decision. I would also have the lawyer include the repair shop since they jumped the gun on the repairs. Their inability to properly assess damages is costing you money.

My son will be able to get his permit at the end of this year when he turns 15-1/2 ... yikes!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 11:37AM
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Contact a private claims adjustor in your area. They can advocate for you to the insurance company.

Basically your car is irreparable. Tell the insurer that.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 11:56AM
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I'm confused. Was your son at fault or the other driver? If the other driver, then you should be dealing with his carrier. And his carrier would have to keep you in a rental or do the math on the incurred/projected delay and likely declare the vehicle a "constructive total loss". Because the person who is at fault has an obligation to make you whole.

But it sounds like your son was at fault, or that you have for some reason chosen not to work through the at-fault driver's carrier. In this case, you're only entitled to whatever your insurance policy says you're entitled to. In this case, 30 days of rental and the repair. However, are you using one of your carrier's "pro shops"? Meaning, are you using a shop that the adjuster recommended because the carrier has an agreement with the shop to guarantee the work? if so, start harping on that, and on the poor way the damage was assessed and handled.

Failing that, and if the shop was your choice, I would still push for having the vehicle declared a total loss at this point. Because someone with your carrier (or contracted by your carrier) appraised the damage in the first place, and availability of parts should have been taken into consideration. Harp on their bad handling of the inspection and approval of repairs. and see if you can work out a total loss, even if it involves a compromise of some kind.

Just out of curiosity, what year, make and model of car is this?

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 12:16PM
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All good advise,but I was thinking along the lines of temporary transportation for you. Are zip cars available in your area? They are great for short term use.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 1:13PM
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Thanks for the suggestions --

Actually, a salvage yard (the dealer helped us search) was where we found the one part that didn't end up working. Seems they had two versions of the part my model year? or changed mid-year or something? The insurance company agreed to buy it if we were OK with a used part (which, at that point, we were!) So they paid to have it shipped from NC to TX. But in any case, it was slightly bent anyway and didn't work. And I don't have much hope of finding another any time soon because back when we first realized we needed this part, we were "Number 27 on the waiting list" according to the repair shop back in November...

The accident was my son's fault, so our insurance company (Geico) has been handling things. We chose the repair shop -- they were two blocks away from the accident site and seemed very professional - still do, actually. And the car in question is a 2007 Acura TL -- so a very common car.

To address some specific suggestions:

Chispa - Apparently the "fix this first and then we'll see if that's needed" approach came from Geico. But it seems the repair shop may have missed some damage initially that I had noted very plainly upfront that might have led to the oversight. (Seems the force of the collision shoved the passenger front wheel into a curb, so while the most visible damage was to the driver's side, that 'curb crunch' cracked the right wheel slightly and seems to be what caused the internal damage in question.)

Jakabedy - Since the accident was ruled our fault and we chose the garage -- do we have any leverage at all? With a teen boy driver who's already got an accident, I hate to have to re-shop insurance - especially if we get nasty or 'go legal' on this...

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 3:34PM
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The leverage you have is that you're a good, paying customer, and it just isn't "right" for you to be without wheels for so long. It seems like there could be a solution where everybody gives a little bit to get this finished. The shop agrees to buy the salvage (existing vehicle) because they missed the initial damage and did additional work without confirming all parts would be available. GEICO agrees to come up with some more money because their adjusters and reviewers looked at the shop's estimates at every turn and approved them. And you guys take a little less than its worth because contractually, they've kind of "got you".

What a rotten situation!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 7:38PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

Wow. I would really question Geico. I have never heard of an insurance company that did not send an adjuster to examine the car and then approve any repairs before the repairs were started and our body shop won't do any work until the insurance company approves it. If more extensive damage is found, one would expect the shop to inform the insurance company and then they would approve or not. Since the part didn't work and another is not available, it would seem that it would be, by definition, totalled.

I am so sorry you are having all this hassle!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 8:04PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Wow...that seems unbelievable that parts would not be available for a car that is that young....have you contacted Acura directly? They can be extremely helpful. They were with me and my transmission issue....

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 7:47AM
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I don't know if this will help or not, but I'll share this experience in case it might... When our son was 17, he got in an accident, his fault, that ended up nearly totaling the car. Imagine our surprise when I called Allstate to file the claim, and the claims office said, "This vehicle doesn't have collision coverage -just liability." What the-- ?!??! I was annoyed but not hugely worried. Since it was a Sunday night I figured I'd just wait until my agent was there in the morning and get it all straightened out. So I speak with the agent in the morning and find out, true enough, son's car didn't carry collision. And the agent's position was firm: no coverage, no claim. We were shocked and stumped as to how this could be. I started racking my brain and recalled I had emailed the agent asking to add this car to the coverage nearly a year prior. Amazingly enough I went back and found the email, with my simple request to add it to the policy. And his simple response, "Done!".... Now we don't have any other vehicles that have just liability coverage -all are fully insured. So it was obvious to us that the agent had simply erred in the way he added it to the policy. We probably should have caught it at some point, on the paperwork, but we didn't. So the agent wouldn't budge. I was furious. This was a $9000 bill and we believed we were protected. Grrrr!!! The agent insisted he and I must have had a side conversation, yada yada yada. Back and forth got us nowhere. Finally I asked him to elevate this to his District manager, regional manager, whatever, and have them call me. But our previously friendly and charming agent was getting a bit uncooperative at this point. So then I called the Insurance Commissioner's office for the state, and they took a report. It turned out that Allstate had some kind of group specifically set up for this kind of situation. That Allstate office called me within 24 hours of my report to the IC office, and I explained the situation while they took a brief report. They called me again in another 24 hours and explained that they needed to take a recorded statement, with the ruling supervisor on the line, and would then rule on the case. So I explained everything.... that we had been Allstate customers for thirty years, had NEVER carried liability only for any vehicle, sent them the emails etc. Finally instead of banging my head against a wall with the agent, I was met with intelligence and reason. At the end of the call they told me, "We will cover the claim," and followed it up with a letter to that affect.

So while the details are different, I think the parallel here is that you in good faith, paid your hefty premiums all this time, thinking you were covered in the event of an accident. Your fault or someone else's, by paying the premium, you were protected, either in the form of a payout for a total loss, or a repaired vehicle in the event of a loss of use. And in fact, here you are without a working vehicle. I think you should call the Insurance Commissioner for the state, and just lay the case out. You shouldn't need to be a car expert, track down parts, etc. The bottom line is your car was insured. You should either have a working vehicle or a payout. I understand your hesitation at being cancelled etc., but this doesn't have to be hostile. Allstate was happy to keep us on for as long as we wanted after that. But I was determined to get a new agent (one I could trust for starters), and about a year later, we ended up switching to AAA because it was much less expensive.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 8:34AM
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Just a quick update --

So I called our state insurance commissioner, and sadly, unless the insurance company is "acting in bad faith" there's really nothing they can do. They said I was welcome to file a complaint, but that those normally take 60-90 days to even get looked at...

Hubby's going to call the body shop tomorrow and see if they want to make us an offer for the car. (They also sell used cars.) We'll see...

Want to know what was really amazing? The phone at the insurance commission was answered within 30 seconds by a real person who was able to answer my question. No 'Press 1 for this' tree to go through and no endless hold.

Isn't that rare?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 7:29PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Before I did that, I would certainly contact Acura directly...they may be able to find the parts needed to get it repaired....

Here is a link that might be useful: Acura Customer Relations

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 8:53AM
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Thank you Annie! I'll see if I can find some help there ---

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 6:28PM
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I'm sorry but I just have to say that every time I read the title of this post I read it as "Advice? - Car*E*less 4 months and counting" and then expect to see 5 months and then 6 months and well you get the picture. I expect to see another little Sweeby soon.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 10:38PM
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OMG blefton!!! I've been biting my tongue (sitting on my hands?) because I think the exact same thing every time I see this post!!! How funny!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 10:46PM
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Yikes! Wouldn't that be something?
I love the two I've got, but enjoy them even more now that they're older. I'm definitely a better 'big kid mom' than 'baby mom'.

This post was edited by sweeby on Fri, Feb 8, 13 at 7:57

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 7:55AM
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Had an interesting talk with the Acura rep today... Seems the company that made that part for Acura is no longer making parts for Acura. (Don't know the whole story there.) So there simply *are* no more of these parts anywhere in the whole world, no one is making them, and Acura is now "trying to find someone to make them".

Yeah, so, uh... How long might that take?

What a mess!...

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 7:32PM
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If the part is no longer available, I'd think that that would automatically make it a total loss. I'd insist on the insurance co calling it a total loss and pay you the value of the vehicle pre-collision.

I was t-boned in an accident-I was not at fault, the other driver ran the red light-and my 3/4 ton, 4x4 pick up was deemed a total loss but we managed to fight with the insurance adjuster to get it fixed. Repair bill was less than $100 more than the total-but the truck was still new enough to warrant fixing. I did get a lot of run around on the car rental, they tried to give me a sub-compact! I demanded (and got) a 4x4 because we used my truck in our business occasionally. But I was without my truck for a good 4 weeks-simply because of the amount of repairs needed.

I think you should just total it out-assuming you owned it outright, or at least have no negative equity, that is probably your best bet.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 3:01AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Wow! Well at least you now have more information than you did before...perhaps that will help you to go back to the insurance co.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 9:08AM
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Yeah -- The Acura rep is supposed to call back on Tuesday with estimated timing for the new manufacturing run. Honestly, I'll be surprised if he can get the information, and even more surprised if it turned out to be accurate. But I can't imagine it would be any time soon, right? I mean, how much profit could there be in setting up a whole manufacturing process to make a molded aluminum part for a 6 year old car?

But after I get that timing estimate, I'll have more to talk with Geico about ---

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 10:40AM
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I just wanted to chime back in for the benefit of anybody else following along (beware: boring insurance lingo ahead). Bestyears' situation was totally different than Sweeby's.

In BY's case, there was an error made by the agent, and this was confirmed by the carrier's internal investigation. The money to pay for BY's car didn't actually come from loss reserves, but from either the agent's E&O (Errors and Omissions) carrier, or out of the carrier's own pocket if it self-insures for such matters.

In Sweeby's case, she's not alleging that she meant to purchase coverage X and that the agent mistakenly placed her with coverage Y. Sweeby got what she paid for. There's just an odd extenuating circumstance that (IMHO) her carrier should acknowledge and go ahead and total the vehicle. (i.e., that confirmed long-term unavailability of a necessary part should be considered in determining whether a vehicle is "repairable".

Sweeby -

Keep trying to elevate this within the claims organizaton and through your agent if you have one. The appraiser/adjuster will have a supervisor, and that supervisor will have a supervisor, etc.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 11:13AM
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I was going to suggest contact the car maker and finding out if the part was even being made any longer. Since you have now done that and the answer is no and a not so likely for the future, I would go back to Geico and tell them what you have discovered (and in my mind their adjuster should have made a call and figured out as soon as there was no anticipated date on a back order with a waiting list). That can't keep you on hold forever, At this point, the car, even partially repaired is practically speaking a total loss. They have put money into it, but that happens when additional repairs are discovered in progress -- and that is almost always.

This is neither their fault, nor yours. It isn't a lack of coverage or errors and omissions of the agent issue like the one above -- it is one of those things that happens and neither party is very happy about. They should pay the value of the car in my book, especially since you have been out a car for 4 months already. That is well beyond any reasonable expectation for a car repair. If they gave you the car back without the additional repair, the car would not be safe and they and the body shop could be liable for another accident that could be even worse. And they can't give you the car in any other condition, so it is time to deal with the reality you've been dealt.

You will be out money in having to buy a new car when that wasn't planned. I would play that against their repairs made. Also, the door and any other parts can be salvaged or reused and should not have lost any value since the car hasn't been used. They are really out only the labor, and if necessary to get something to happen, you might be able to consider a split on that -- the shop because they didn't see something as major as an engine cradle being damaged (don't know if they could have or should have before a new door was put on -- might talk to another shop to get a second opinion on that) or the shop might chip in if they have an interest in the salvaged vehicle; the carrier because they didn't inspect the damage themselves (not that uncommon, especially since you are in a more rural area) and because they've left you waiting when they could have and in my book should have discovered the part wasn't being made, and even you just to get some resolution. It might take you accepting something less, but I would try not to and give some if needed to get it done.

Texas bad faith law says they are supposed to pay within a certain number of days of liability being established. Now, they were paying for the repair, but I would take the position that when a car part is not available and on backorder, it would be reasonably prudent to make the inquiry with the manufacturer. You found out that wasn't hard at all and you easily found out the part wasn't being made. If they didn't do that, at some point leaving an insured waiting in never-never land is not proper service. If they did make the inquiry and sat on the info while leaving you waiting, then I really do think they were acting in bad faith. If you inform them and they want to still wait for months (no way anyone could say they would make the parts and get it to you any sooner than months, but I think it is doubtful you will ever get the part without waiting for a used one to come available unless they use the same cradle in newer models), I think that is bad faith. It is not the way they would want to be treated. The fact that the part is not available is not their fault, but leaving you hanging when there is no current plan or reasonable expectation that the part will be available in the near future is.

Bad faith claims used to allow treble damages. I don't know if they still do. I think that might have changed with some of the tort reform legislation, but I'd look into it. And then I would talk to a Geico supervisor about your position. If the still don't budge, I'd file a complaint with the state board of insurance. I'd also look into a buying a new car and possibly filing suit for the value of the car plus the value of a rental from the time they should have discovered that the part was not even being made. You've been patient long enough.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 2:39PM
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Has the repair shop contacted a local machine shop to see if the part can be fabricated? That would be the quickest way to get it finished.

We went through sort of the same thing when my truck was stolen last year and the repair shop was told to buy used replacement parts and simply couldn't find a used back seat in the end. The insurance co stepped up and told them to do whatever was necessary at any cost to get my vehicle together again. Luckily the repair shop had a loaner car they let me use after my car rental time ran out.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 10:54AM
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Hi Dee! - Sadly, I don't even think a local machine shop is a viable alternative since the part is molded aluminum, not steel. (Hubby knows about such things and that's what he says...)

I'm supposed to hear back today from the manufacturer (should have been yesterday, actually), so once I hear their timeline, I'll have a better idea what to do...

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 6:12PM
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You guys rock!

And Acura Customer Service rocks! They've agreed to cover a rental car for me until the parts become available and my car can be repaired.

Which at this point is estimated to be... June or July!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 11:37AM
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