Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Help Me Howard: Bad Gas
With the price of gas already fueling frustration, you at least expect to get what you pay for. One South Florida woman's quick stop to fill up left her fed up, when watered-down gas caused her costly car repairs, so she's making a U-turn to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- People who own Hyundais swear by them. Put Marcia in that category.
Marcia Evanson: "My friend has one, and she told me she got very good mileage from it, and they are very reliable, and, since I have two jobs, I need a car that is reliable, so I chose this car."
It's been very reliable since Marcia bought it, until a few days ago.
Marcia Evanson: "Big clouds of white smoke coming out of the tail pipe."
Marcia had just filled up with a tank of gas. A mile down the road trouble started.
Marcia Evanson: "My car was just jumping and smoking and making rattling and making a lot of noise.
Marcia Evanson: "And I'm like, 'This is a new car, it's not supposed to be doing that.' I was so shocked."
Marcia called the dealer to come tow the car in, and she quickly learned it wasn't a mechanical failure at all.
Marcia Evanson: "They took out some of the gasoline, showed it to me, it did not smell like gasoline, it had water in it and something that smelled like diesel in it."
In a repairman's words, "Found contaminated gasoline causing the vehicle to misfire." When Marcia read that she immediately called the gas station.
Marcia Evanson: "I called him, he told me, 'Ma'am, there are a lot of people in the same situation you are in. We had a problem at the pump. Go ahead, fix your car, and submit the invoice to this number."'
By the time Marcia added it up, $549 to repair the car, $176 for the rental while she waited, and the $25 for the gas. The total came to $750. She waited for the station to pay the bills ... and waited.
Marcia Evanson: "My car dealer fixed my car and submitted the claim, and nobody responded. We've called and nobody responded."
To get her car out of the shop Marcia had to borrow the money and put the rental on a credit card. She wants it back but is not getting it.
Marcia Evanson: "I have called many times, and they've told me, 'Ma'am, I'm busy, call back, ma'am, I'm at lunch or at dinner, call back."'
Needless to say, she is fuming. What exactly does a gas station have to do when they pump watered-down gas into your car? Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "First, Marcia has to prove this station made the mistake, not only does the circumstantial evidence indicate the mistake. They admit it, meaning they have to pay for her repair, her rental and the bad tank of gas."
When I spoke to the dealer he told me, "One of the tanks had a rupture and water leaked in. Ten cars were affected. We sent nine to a repair shop that billed us directly." We explained that Marcia didn't know the cause of the problem and took it to her dealer. When we asked why she had not been reimbursed, the dealer told me, it had been turned over to our insurance company, and they move slowly, so, Howard, how long does Marcia have to wait to get her money back?
Howard Finkelstein: "Patrick I know this answer always irritates you, but the law says 'a reasonable amount of time based on what is standard in the industry and taking into account any unique factors.' In other words, the law doesn't give you a clear answer."
Marcia will eventually get her money back, but her quick stop for a tank of gas still leaves her frustrated and nearly speechless.
Marcia Evanson: "We are paying such a high price for gas, and to have this happen, is not, you know ..."
And it makes no sense for the insurance companies to delay paying because if the customer doesn't have the money to pay for the repairs, and the shop charges storage while keeping the car, the insurance company has to pay that. Marcia had the money to get it out of the shop, but she needs that money back.
Frustration left you running on fumes? Fill up with us. We won't leave you with a watered-down solution. Just some regular, unleaded legal advice.
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