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By Jordan W. Charness

Mary is usually the calmest of the two. We all know that Peter has a tendency to fly off the handle and has even been known to become quite hysterical from time to time. Mary, on the other hand, is a rock.

Which made it that much more surprising when she called yesterday in quite a tizzy. She claimed that Peter was driving her crazy — no surprise there — but even she was pretty upset by their recent turn of events. As they were leaving their home the other day, Peter backed the car out of the garage and onto the driveway where he proceeded to (illegally) honk the horn in the misguided hope that making a racket would get Mary to move a little faster and come out to the car.

He totally ignored the law that says honking your horn is only legal in times of emergency to warn another car or person to get out of your way. He also forgot one of the cardinal rules of marriage which is that the more that you honk your horn the longer it will take for your spouse to appear at the door.

While he was sitting outside honking, a great big chunk of snow and ice fell off the roof of his house, and slammed onto the hood of his car, causing more damage than he would have imagined. The engine immediately cut out and he saw a huge dent in the hood through his smashed windshield — which was also a victim of Peter’s personal snow and ice avalanche.

While this was annoying, what really ticked Peter and Mary off were the subsequent events: since his car was not able to move he called a tow truck to take it to the dealer for repairs. He also notified his insurance company. Fortunately, even this type of oddball damage was covered by the “all risks all perils” section of his insurance coverage. He was also told to rent a car while the damage was being repaired, as payment for a rental was included in his policy.

And that’s when the annoyance began. In the first place, Peter’s car was a brand new, big, expensive vehicle of a make and model that was not available for rent. The rental car company could only give him a less impressive car than the one he owned. (In actual fact he was not the full owner of the car – the finance company is the real owner until he makes all of his payments.)

Although he was none too happy with the less classy car, he was even more unhappy when he was told by the dealer that the required parts were out of stock and that they would not be able to start the repair for at least six weeks. Things got even worse when after four weeks he was told to return the rental car because his insurance coverage only covered rental cars for a maximum of four weeks.

So, four weeks after the incident, Peter didn’t even have the pleasure of driving the car he hated. He was now reduced to being a pedestrian or paying for a car rental until his car was fixed, on top of his monthly fees to the finance company.

Unfortunately, my advice to Mary was not what she wanted to hear. Although they were indeed in an unfortunate situation that was not of their making, all the parties were behaving properly, at least according to law. The insurance company was paying for the repairs and paid for a rental car all in accordance with the insurance contract. The dealer was fixing the car as fast as possible given the fact that the availability of the parts was beyond their control.

And lastly, the finance company was well within its rights to keep on collecting their monthly payments even though Peter did not have the car. The finance company loaned him the money to buy the car and after that he was legally obligated to keep paying his monthly payments whether or not he had use of the vehicle.

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