Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Car Saga Continues...

Remember March 15 when Eric and I spent our Saturday with the Polícia Militar de Minas Gerais after we were involved in a car accident? And then remember a couple weeks ago when I was excited that we would be getting our new car from the factory in a matter of days? Well, this week we should finally be receiving our car. And that means that we will be turning in the rental car on Friday. And that means that the people who rear-ended us in that accident are on a strict timeline for getting the damages paid for. And this all adds up to one big headache for Eric and me.

The only good part about that wreck (besides a great story) was that it wasn't our fault. We were quite certain on that Tuesday (March 18) we could return the rental car with the accident report and the rental company would deal with the party at fault and/or their insurance and give us a different car to drive. Turns out it ain't that easy. (You would think I would quit expecting anything here to be easy!) I guess somewhere in the 42 pages of Portuguese fine print that makes up the rental contract, it tells you that you are solely responsible for all damage to the car unless the damage is over R$2000. When Eric pulled up with the car (complete with the dented, scratched up bumper and trunk) and explained what happened, an adjuster who works right there at the local rental place (I guess this sort of thing is common) came out and gave him the damage cost: R$240 (which is US$141). They also explained that before we could turn in the car, we would have to pay this amount. So, we were responsible for getting the money from the woman who ran into us.

We were pretty excited about the super cheap repair cost. I mean, you can't even have a US body shop touch your car for $141! Eric was in a great mood when he called the lady to tell her what she owed. Her husband answered the phone, and Eric happily recounted the rental agreement discussion he had with the rental company and that the damage was only going to cost R$240! The guy on the other end was not so excited. His reply (in Portuguese, of course) was something like, "R$240? That's ridiculous! There is no way I am paying that much! Where did you take the car? How many estimates did you get? My wife's car was more banged up than yours and her repairs are only going to cost R$350!" When Eric explained that he didn't get estimates because it was not his car or his problem and that the R$240 had to be paid to the rental company, the guy exclaimed, "Well, that's absurd! I am calling them tomorrow to argue this price! I'll call you back tomorrow."

A week passes and we hear nothing back from the guy, so Eric calls him. He tells us that, oh, he's been out of town, but he will call tomorrow and get back to us. A few more days pass and we still haven't heard anything. Eric calls again. The guy says he has tried to call the number Eric gave to him, but nobody ever answers. He confirms the phone number with Eric and says he will call tomorrow. (We are starting to learn that with some people, 5 minutes = 1 hour and tomorrow = in a week, or maybe never.)

This past Saturday, we happened to be over near the rental place. We needed to extend our rental through this week, since we were still waiting on our new car. The adjuster happened to be there when we stopped by, so Eric decided to give our little buddy a call and let him talk directly to the rental car company. (You know, since he had such a hard time getting in touch with them and all.) For the next 15 minutes Eric listened to the adjuster tell the guy the same exact thing over and over again. "Well, you can get a different estimate if you want, but if you have it repaired somewhere else then Eric is without a car and the two of you will have to figure out how to handle that. And then, if the work doesn't meet our specs we will require you to pay for the additional repairs to get it fixed right. We have certain repair shops we use, and this price isn't negotiable." After hanging up, the adjuster reminded Eric that the car is in his name, and so, ultimately, when the car gets turned in, we will be responsible for the damages being paid for.

Yesterday, Eric gets a call from our friend. He tells Eric that he needs to take the car to such and such address and get an estimate on the repairs and then they can compare that to what the rental company is saying and decide what to do. That brilliant idea didn't sit too well with my husband who is ridiculously busy at work right now and has been working past 8:00 every night and who is in training workshops this week after traveling last week and whose colleague is on vacation for three weeks and who is feeling so far behind right now that he went in on Saturday to try and get some work done. So, Eric suggested a brilliant plan of his own: you know what, this isn't my problem. Your wife ran into me while I was stopped in a line of traffic at a stoplight. So, if you think you can get this problem resolved for less than R$240, then fine, but I don't have time to deal with it. The car has to be turned in on Friday and this has to be resolved before then. If you want another estimate fine, you take my rental car and get another estimate. Meanwhile, I am going to need a car. So the way I see it, you have two options: 1. bring me your car and we can trade for the day, or 2. you rent another car for me to drive while you go get these estimates. (Oh, I do love it when my husband gets all sassy (and in Portuguese no less!) Can I call him sassy? I'm not sure what you call a man when he gets all sassy. Sorry Dear if you don't like sassy...that's the best I know how to describe it!)

Anyway, I guess our buddy didn't like Eric's idea. The guy then went on to rant about how this is why you have insurance: to take care of this sort of thing! Um, okay. Good point. Since it is your fault though, wouldn't that be your insurance who needs to take care of this? The guy finally left Eric with "Well, I guess I will call my insurance company tomorrow and call you back."

So now the question that remains: Does tomorrow mean today? Or does tomorrow mean, his usual, next week (or maybe never?)


Tony said...

I think I'll give my State Farm Insurance agent a hug next time I see him!


Rachel said...

you poor, poor thing. this is why i never want to have a car in this country! so frustrating.