Anyone who has ever lived abroad will agree that there is always something challenging, some times on a daily basis. It's not to say that things at home aren't challenging too, just differently so. The unexpected can come in all different forms - medical emergencies, stolen wallets, towed cars... and car accidents. Take my car accident in France 2 weeks ago. It wasn't just the accident that had me freaked, it was that here I am in France, I don't speak French and I have no idea what the process is for European insurance.
So how do you handle unexpected moments like this? Well, you cross your fingers and hope for the best. And what's the worst that's going to happen? Ok, I can think of plenty. Though I have to say, I'm glad that this happened with my friends and not with Josh and the kids. Something about having the kids there would have stressed me out even more than the situation itself. But with technology today, I'm sure we could have figured something out via google translate.
However, thankfully Ursula speaks French and was able to communicate with the bus driver, some passengers on the bus and a police officer that randomly was walking by (he also said that unless there was an injury, they don't get involved unless in the US.). And insurance is done slightly differently than at home. Aside from the police not getting involved, it turns out that in my insurance package was a form for accidents (my new question is, will they send me a new one now that I've used that one??). The driver very kind (and yes, it was his fault but he was still very nice) and explained to us how to fill out the form. It wasn't very difficult but still took about 45 mins. And I still wasn't sure what to do after that. Do I call VW who I lease the car from since insurance is included as a part of my monthly payment? Or do I call insurance directly? What if I did the steps out of order? Would we end up owing a fortune if I did it wrong even though I wasn't at fault????
In the end, I decided to email my contact at VW. I certainly couldn't call her and explain what happened. Actually I probably could have to an extent but I couldn't necessarily explain every detail and thanks to my friend google translate, I could explain everything, including the fact that no police were contacted nor was insurance called. But of course, Maribel still called me the next morning. Thankfully I could explain well enough what happened and understood that she wanted me to come to the dealership the next morning with the insurance papers and without the car (hmmmm....). She said we would call insurance together. I'm sure this is probably not the normal process, but I really appreciated her kindness in helping me out.
My friend, Eddy, came with me to dealership. My contact called the insurance company (I believe), asking me a few questions along the way. The paperwork was pretty illegible as it was a carbon and the back side was also used for writing up my version of the report. But that's the way the papers are made and so that's what I had to work with.
She then asked me about setting up an appointment for repair and did I have a specific place I wanted it repaired? Um... like where? And I lease the car from them so why wouldn't I just do it thru VW and make sure it's done right? So she set up the appointment for the next morning for me.
Now because I went to the dealership in the center of the city, I had to go to their dealership/repair shop on the outskirts for my repairs. And by outskirts I mean, practically on the runway of the airport. I walked into the repair area and approached the front desk. She asked for my license plate number (I have no clue) and so thankfully it was on the accident report. She asked for my name. And nope, no appointment. Ahhhh Spain.... of course there was no appointment - I was only there when Maribel made the call to make the appointment!
However, I mentioned Maribel's name and that she made the appointment for me and they took me anyways. They had me drive into the repair shop and park the car inside so that the appropriate person could look at it. She told me to have a seat and wait. I wasn't sure what I was waiting for and fear set in that perhaps they were going to do the repairs right then and there. Or maybe they were waiting to give me an estimate of how much I was going to be out of pocket??? This wouldn't have been an issue had Caryn and Urs not been waiting at home for me so we could do more touristy stuff. But I was slightly panicked.
Finally someone called my name and the man explained to me (again, I think) that he was there to look over what the problems were with the car and then insurance would be contacted and they may want to look at it before repairs are started. Again, I can't be 100% sure on this. I do want to make a side note here as on his binder pad of paper, the top sheet which was my information had the words SIN CITA (without appointment) in HUGE letters. Seriously??? People, I had an appointment!!!
I showed him where the damage was and how it was caused. Never once did he ask for the accident report. He just wrote everything up and sent me on my way with his business card. Josh had suggested to me that I see if I could arrange a temp car but to be honest, my brain was fried from just getting thru the process of dropping off the car and giving them all the information regarding the accident, etc. There was no way I was going to be able to ask for a rental car too! I just didn't have the mental capacity at that moment. It wasn't that it was so difficult, just mentally overwhelming.
Fast forward 4 days and I finally emailed him to find out when I might expect some news on when the car would be repaired? I never got an estimate so my hope was that it was costing me nothing (which is as it should be, but again, who knows - different country, different insurance policies). He emailed me back and said that the car would be ready Friday, just over a week from when I dropped it off. Not too bad as I was thinking I may never see the car again with my luck.
I went in this past Friday to pick up the car and it was waiting for me in the entrance to the repair area. At first glance it looked great, and maybe even clean?? Nope, upon closer look it wasn't any cleaner than I left it. That was slightly disappointing as any car I've ever brought to a dealership for repairs always would get cleaned before I picked it up. I also noticed later on that there were still some scratches near the undercarriage. Apparently they only fixed what was absolutely necessary to get it back on the road rather than fix every single little scratch. Also a difference from the US? Or could it have been an oversight??? Not sure.
But regardless, I got my little car back. I had to wait about 30 minutes for the papers to release her and my heart was in my throat wondering if they were going to charge me or not. But they didn't.... whew!!!
However, never one to miss out on an adventure... I had the car less than 3 minutes when I took a wrong turn thanks to my GPS and ended up in the guarded port area. I spoke to the guard and asked if I could turn around. He told me to pull forward and do a U-turn. As I was mid U-turn a police car happened by and stopped me. Since I was spitting distance from the guard, I was able to point him out and tell the police officer that that guy told me to do the U-turn. Not good enough. They turned their car to stop traffic and made me do it the correct way. Slightly mortified, I was just glad they didn't give me a ticket. And along my merry way I went... once again managing the unexpected but at least I had my car back!!