Things That Go Bump in the Night
**This featured case is one example of the concerns people have brought to us. Names have been changed to protect the identity of the people involved.
Eddie was driving on the highway one night when he felt a bump. There was ice and snow on the road and his traction control was kicking in and out, so he thought that must have been the cause. A while later his engine light came on and his vehicle shut down. When he got out, he noticed there was damage to the front bumper and coolant on the ground, so he called a tow truck. The tow truck driver also noticed and commented on the loss of coolant.
The next day, Eddie noticed a dead raccoon on the road about 20 km from where he was towed and he thought that that may have been what he hit.
He contacted SGI and SGI agreed that the damage was consistent with hitting an animal, so he would not have to pay the deductible. Based on the estimated repair time, SGI provided a rental vehicle for three days. He did not think that would be enough time.
His vehicle was ready several days later than expected and his wife Ellen went to drive it home. Before leaving, she noticed that a coolant warning light was on. She asked about this and the dealership re-checked the vehicle, and assured her that as long as there was some coolant, it would be ok to continue driving. On the way home, she noticed that the vehicle was not heating properly and a couple of days later the warning light came on again. She checked the coolant level and the reservoir was full, so she drove to the dealership. They found engine problems.
When Eddie contacted SGI, he learned that these repairs would not be covered because SGI concluded that he knew he had hit a raccoon and had caused the engine damage by continuing to drive. Eddie tried to convince SGI to change this decision, but it did not. He did not think this was fair and contacted our office.
Our review found that SGI had been reluctant to accept Eddie’s explanation that he did not know he had hit something. Given the dark and snowy driving conditions at the time, however, we found it plausible that Eddie did not see the animal and thought the bump was caused by the traction controls. One of the SGI staff Eddie spoke with had also recorded a belief that he was telling the truth.
SGI had photographs of a crack in the radiator and based on the photos concluded that all or most of the coolant had leaked out quickly, which would cause the temperature in the vehicle to drop suddenly and the windows to fog up – signs they believed Eddie should have noticed. We found that SGI had not followed up on this assumption or asked Eddie if he experienced these signs.
SGI had also assumed that the coolant warning light would illuminate when the coolant was low and that Eddie should have noticed this. This assumption was incorrect, however, because the sensor was actually measuring coolant temperature. In addition, Eddie had noted that he and the tow truck driver had seen a significant amount of fluid on the ground, which would be consistent with most of it leaking out after he stopped. SGI did not follow up with the tow truck driver to corroborate this information.
We found that there was not enough evidence to support the view that Eddie had continued to drive once he knew (or should have known) that there was a problem.
During the course of our investigation, we also noted that Eddie had only been covered for use of the rental vehicle for three days when the repairs had taken longer than expected. SGI voluntarily agreed to pay the vehicle rental cost for the additional days.
That SGI pay to Eddie the amount of the invoice he paid for repairing the damage to his vehicle engine.