Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Help Me Howard: Wrong Repo
You have a car that is paid for, and then, it's repossessed. Of course it's a mistake, but then the repo company damages your car and doesn't pay for the repairs. Are you better off going after the repo company or calling your car insurance company? Let's bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser for the answers.
WSVN -- Roberta had always had car payments and decided enough was enough.
Roberta Smith, Wrong Repo: "I have always leased a car and had a payment, so I paid it off in December so I would not have a car payment for the first time."
A 2007 Lexus bought and paid for. Everything was great, till she looked out her window one morning and her car was gone.
Roberta Smith: "I looked out in panic. I thought it was stolen. I dialed 911, dispatcher looked in the log and showed it as a repossession."
Roberta explained that the car was paid for. The police contacted the repo company, who told her, "Oops, we made a mistake. We will return your car." So Roberta went outside to wait and got her second shock of the day.
Roberta Smith: "I come out here to the driveway, and I see gauge marks to the driveway and skid marks that go all the way out of my development about 200 yards, so they drug my car."
Her son took pictures that showed how her Lexus was dragged down the street. Then, the repo truck pulled up. Roberta says there were scratches on the sides of the car. As you can see from this picture, Roberta was not a happy young lady when she talked to the driver.
Roberta Smith: "[They said,] 'Yes, I understand. I will pay for everything. I will get new tires.'"
A friend told Roberta to take it to a mechanic to make sure there was no damage underneath. Her third shock.
Oscar Chavez, West Kendall Auto Care: "That's a training arm. They bent that. Yeah, they bent that."
Besides the axle damage, there was oil dripping, and Oscar says that's just the visible damage to the car.
Oscar Chavez, West Kendall Auto Care: "So what happened is the car was in park and they dragged it. The front tires are locked up, so when you drag it, you mess everything up."
The bill to repair underneath: $2,000. The body work: another $2,000. The total: $4,000, and when Roberta sent the estimates to the repo company, their promise to pay took a turn.
Roberta Smith: "Now, he started ignoring my phone calls. Every time I call him, he blocks my call."
Now Roberta does have insurance but understandably doesn't want to file a claim with them.
Roberta Smith: "I was going to go that route, but he promised me he was going to make good on his word and he was going to take care of this, and here we are, eight weeks later, and I am still waiting."
Still waiting. So Howard, it's clear the repo company made a mistake and has to repair what they damaged. But how do you get someone to write a check?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "You can't force them, but a judge can, and you want to convince the person who owes you money that you have the evidence to win in court. Roberta is clearly in the right here, and with the pictures she has, she could win the case herself in small claims court."
I then talked to Rigoberto Gomez, who owned Eagle International, the repo company. He told me he would pay for the damage he did underneath the car, but he personally repoed it and did not scratch or damage the body and would not pay for that. Roberta disagreed. Every few days, Gomez would tell me he was going to get it resolved. Roberta is still waiting.
So Howard, to avoid this fight, which took months, should Roberta have reported it to her insurance company?
Howard Finkelstein: "It's an easier, quicker way, but in the short term, it may be a little more expensive. You have to pay the deductible upfront and hope your insurance company gets it back for you from the repo company. And some people worry their insurance rates will go up. But if you are not at fault, they cannot go up."
Roberta hasn't decided whether to sue the repo company or report it to her insurance company, and she can't do the one thing she wanted to do.
Roberta Smith: "And I couldn't press charges. I wanted to press charges. They told me I couldn't press charges unless I could prove intent."
Patrick Fraser: "This really was a comedy of errors. The request to repo the car came from a company that went out of business two years ago. The repo company was looking for a white Toyota. They hauled off a black Lexus. And apparently, they never bothered to check the VIN number on the car, just snatched it and took off. Not a good day at work for them."
Silly errors left you steaming? Want to repossess your happier days? Contact us. Legally, we will tow the line and help you haul the problem away.