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Bad news comes in threes?

August 28, 2009 - Michael Palmer
Car payments, mandatory car insurance, fuel, maintenance (tires, oil changes and repairs) take a major chunk out of our monthly budgets. Then should something occur out of the ordinary, we, the middle and lower class consumers are in trouble.

So what spurred this rant and tirade?

My daughter had a minor fender bender accident last weekend. No big deal, we are insured. Minor inconvenience, it is just dented a bit and is driveable.

So, what's the problem?

Wednesday I was driving to Barnesville to cover an EPA press conference and for the fifth time my car’s coil pack developed a crack. This makes my car run on two cylinders, not very conducive to the hill country of Belmont County. So $50 later and a half hour of wearing my mechanics hat I was back on the road.

I finally get home and find that my other clunker has been totaled by the insurance adjuster for a dent in the door and quarter panel. That’s right, you know you own a clunker when minor body work is more expensive than scrapping it. So I try and fight the decision, but no dice, in America, the land of the free, when you sign up for insurance you sign over the rights to make your own decisions.

I wanted to keep the car, so I opted to buy it back from the insurance company. So this means I can pay them to get my own car back and then I can just continue to drive it right? WRONG!!!! First you spend $5 to get a scrap title and fax that to the insurance company. Then you must apply for a scrap title, $53.00 and call to make an appointment to have the vehicle inspected by the State Highway Patrol. That is the major hurdle, there is a waiting list that is four weeks long. So, a family of three drivers with school and work in three different directions is down to two vehicles for a month.

Wait, it gets worse. Last night the daughter became a victim of the deer vs. car battle we all face each night in Ohio. The damage was dramatic: hood folded in half, one headlight broken, grill disintegrated and radiator bent into a U-shape! No airbag deployment and once again thankfully no damage to the driver, however, we have just one clunker left, my coil pack eating green machine.

OK, so that is it right? No, it seems that when we transferred the car into my sons name we did not check mark rental again on the policy. I called my agent. This is the same agent who has told me on dozens of separate occasions, “It isn’t necessary to call me on all of these changes. You can do all of this on line.” Now the statement is slightly modified, “Remember when you made all of those changes online and I was completely unaware of what you had done, well I can’t be held responsible for your mistakes.”

Now we wait. At home. Shivering in terror that the adjuster will come and decide they will total yet another vehicle. This one is financed, so there is no buy back option. Here’s what happens: The bank gets paid whatever the ‘Magical Blue Book Formula’ (also known in the insurance community as ‘Lower the value of the customers vehicle until it no longer qualifies for grand theft”) determines you are owed. Then they give that to the bank and then the bank sends you a statement showing how far under water you were on the loan and how many payments you have left on a car that is in the junkyard.

So, do I count this as three, four or just two pieces of bad luck in the car column? That is the question that kept me up all last night. If bad news comes in sets of three, are we done, have we exceeded the quota or is there one more Sword of Damocles (Noun - signifying a disaster that is about to take place from the tale of Damocles after a flattering courtier forced by Dionysius, tyrant of ancient Syracuse, to sit under a sword suspended by a hair).

Is anyone interested in letting me carpool next week from Dennison to Wheeling?


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