When we went to London in September, we decided to rent a car to drive it out to the countryside.  Little did we know that the automatic we signed up for would not be there. Unfortunately, only one of us knew how to drive a manual.  After we picked up the car, Jared was struggling to figure out how to use the stick shift with his opposite arm, and drive on the other side of the road.  (Notice I said “other” and not “wrong.”  Because there is nothing inherently wrong about driving on the opposite side of the road.)  Not four minutes in, he sped up, and hit the back of a box truck: scraping the side of the car and knocking off the side-view mirror completely.

Since we were in the middle of traffic, there was no where to pull over and we panicked and kept going.  Seeing that the truck didn’t even notice we had hit them, we thought it was OK.
Once we got to our countryside destination, I took some pictures of the damage and we went in to phone our credit card rental insurance company.  We denied the rental insurance at the car company, and opted to use our credit card’s insurance.  (We have a Chase Sapphire card.)  As painful as it was to get reimbursed for the damages, I would have done this again.  We rented a car through Europcar and from what we had read, they refuse to cover anything with their insurance, basically.  They will use any excuse they can, such as “you were being negligent” to avoid having to pay.  So I’m glad we had a sort of advocate with our own rental insurance, who was able to reimburse us.

Lovely scratch and missing mirror

After we made the call to the company, they asked if there was a police report.  We had this overwhelming fear that we had made a mistake by not stopping.  That we didn’t check with the other car.  We weren’t sure what to do, but read online about “fleeing the scene of an accident” and were getting more panicky.  Then we realized that we had blown this entire thing out of proportion.  No one had died.  This wasn’t a hit and run situation… the only thing that got hid was our car.

So we still decided to write a letter to the London police to tell them everything that happened, to avoid any liability we may have for not reporting it.  When we got home, weeks later, we received a follow-up letter that basically said, “Thanks for reporting.  There’s nothing we can do.  This is the end of this.”

We looked up if it was OK to drive with one side mirror and turns out, it’s fine.  We drove the car the rest of the trip, turned it back in when we got to Scotland and came home.  When we got home, that’s when the real work began.

We received a bill for $2,200 for the damages and it took three months of painful paperwork, hours of phone calls to Eclaims hotline and we finally received a check for (most of) the damages.

I decided to write about this because sometimes the worst happens in your travels.  This was not a good situation, a car accident in a foreign country with a vehicle that doesn’t belong to you.  But hey, we have a great story to tell and we all lived through it and learned a few things to tell you about.

Here are some things I’ve learned from this experience:

1.  Insurance companies are horrible to work with.  I hated every second I had to deal with the endless emails, phone calls and paperwork it took to get a refund.  It was like Groundhog day for 10 months.  I’m glad we got reimbursed, but it was not a fun experience.

2.  Never rent a car in the middle of the middle of downtown London.  If we were to do this again, we would have taken a train or a taxi out to the middle of no where to pick up a car where we could learn on the dirt roads how to operate it.

3.  I would have demanded more from the company who didn’t give me what I paid for.  I reserved and paid for an automatic car.  They gave me a manual.  They did take $30 off the entire bill.  Which… newsflash… is the equivalent to one meal for one person in London.   Basically they said, “we’re sorry we can’t provide you with what you paid for, but hopefully this picture of a kitten wearing a funny hat will make everything better.”  

4.  You can’t let these things ruin the vacation.  Yeah, it sucked.  Yeah, it was inconvenient.  Yeah, we had to spent some time dealing with this out of our vacation time.  But we still were able to deal with it, put it aside, and enjoy the rest of the trip.  It could have soiled the whole experience, but we didn’t let it.

5.  Eventually, you will laugh about it.  You will go through all the stages of grief, but eventually you get to “it’s kinda funny if you think about it…”

Nina Thomas

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