When I discussed discarding any unsold possessions before the big move to Southeast Asia, this was not exactly what I had in mind. Sadly, the picture above is what’s left of my 2007 Honda Accord after a freak incident in a parking lot sent it packing for the insurance company scrapyard. Amazingly, this was not a normal accident and not only was I only going about 18 to 20 MPH, but I also walked out the passenger side door completely unscathed.
Shattering my lifelong loyalty towards Honda, a catastrophic failure of the brakes or something related to stopping the car caused an incident leading to the smashed pile of metal you see in the pictures. Finishing my normal morning workout at the gym, I hopped in, pulled out of my parking spot and headed about 25 feet at a typically slow speed for a parking lot. Needing to make a left turn, I looked right, saw nobody and began a left turn into the main roadway of the parking lot when I saw another car coming towards me. With more than ample room to stop, I hit the brakes and they mysteriously pumped all the way to the floor, similar to hitting a patch of black ice but without the skid.
Odd enough as that was, it got freakier. Hitting the bumper of the approaching car in what I thought would be a minor fender-bender at 15 MPH, my Honda careened off the bumper and decided it still wanted to travel further. Naturally, the parking lot is on a hill, serves an entire small business park, and I was heading on a downhill incline with a brake failure of some sort.
Somehow banking to the right, the car began heading down the slope so I steered it right while continuing to pump the brakes and began freaking out over why the car wouldn’t stop. Gaining only a few miles per hour of speed, I was lucky that business hours began and there were a line of cars facing the direction I originally pulled out from. Realizing in hindsight I should have pulled the emergency brake, I had no choice but to steer it head on into another parked vehicle or it would have gained too much speed down the hill and plowed into a fence that separates the parking lot from a busy freeway on ramp.
Prepared for the impact, I braced as best I could but even after the crash, the car didn’t come to a complete stop until it began to bend like an accordion and the front grill collapsed on itself. After a second or two, it kind of jumped up on the other vehicle and came to a stop. Based on my total lack of injury, I assume the car was doing perhaps 20 MPH but looking at the picture above, it sure looks like a freeway collision at highway speed.
Ironically, the first car’s owner was one of the gym’s trainers but he didn’t seem too upset. Hearing the commotion, the owner of the second vehicle, a Nissan Murano, came out and we all exchanged information without any real commotion. Witnessing the incident, the parking valet guys told me they thought I had some strange road rage and was intentionally heading into the second vehicle which confirmed my assessment that something went horribly wrong with my brakes. Of course, the service manager at my local dealer found no known service notices, recalls or any other explanation but he did offer to inspect it for free if I’d wait for the regional director’s approval. Gee, thanks.
Expecting a huge hassle and tons of paperwork, I was pleasantly surprised that the insurance company accepted my claim via cellphone on the spot with very few questions asked. The claims department started the process by finding a local collision shop that qualified for preferred service. Dispatching a tow truck, I waited about a half hour, signed a form for the driver and began the five-mile walk home. Waving goodbye to my damaged car and a bit shaken up, I soon learned that a non-injury low-speed impact collision in a parking lot would spell “total loss” and send my poor Honda Accord to the Big Auto Graveyard in the Sky.
Unfamiliar with the claims process, I’ve been using Liberty Mutual Insurance Company for almost 30 years and never had to call or email for any reason other than questions on my premium. Receiving a call from the appraiser at the body shop, I learned that they stop at a certain level of damage and contact the insurance company. Up to almost $8,000 damage, he told me to expect a total loss declaration and sure enough that’s what the claims department told me yesterday morning
Shockingly, they appraised the value of my 7-year-old car at about 55% of purchase price and gave me extra credits for low mileage, the car’s good condition and even the California state sales tax. With no further questions or hassles, she told me I’d receive some paperwork via UPS overnight mail and all I need to do is assign the ownership to the insurance company, mail it back and within 48 hours, they could overnight me a check for over $15,000. Taking it even further, I qualified for 30 days of a standard car rental at no cost and they even take care of Motor Vehicle paperwork and get a pro-rated refund of my registration.
Like icing on the cake, the sales department will issue a pro-rated refund for the unused part of my annual insurance policy (we always pay in full for the year) and they said there would be no need to raise our rates for Diane’s vehicle which is also on the policy. At the risk of sounding like a commercial, my insurance company acted in the best interest of their policyholder with fast, efficient and friendly service. How unlikely in America.
With 124 days left until we file the MM2H paperwork for a Malaysian residency visa, and less than that until the house gets listed for sale, I’m car poor but cash rich. Feeling almost like I cheated, the insurance check is more than I’d ever be able to sell the car for anyway, albeit four months earlier than I wanted. Unless I want to get up at 5 AM, drive Diane to her vanpool and then pick her up in rush hour, it looks like I’ll be on foot until the big adventure. Walking almost five miles every day anyway since my layoff, I feel inconvenienced but lucky. Knowing I’d be hospitalized, crippled for life or dead had the brakes failed anywhere but a parking lot, I will take it as yet another omen of good timing and move on.
Now back to The Experimental Expats regularly scheduled programming.
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