One of our friends and fellow expats from the United States, Gary, was recently involved in a minor vehicle accident in Playa del Carmen. His experience provides real insight into what people can expect if they’re ever involved in a car accident south of the border and he was gracious enough to allow me to share his story on the blog.
By the way, this is not the first story about Gary. Over a year ago, I wrote an article about the foot surgery he had shortly after moving to Mexico. Just in case you missed it the first time around, here’s the link: The Cost of Getting Surgery South of the Border.
And now, back to today’s story…
The Tale of Gary’s Bent Bumper
The accident itself wasn’t much to talk about, so I’ll keep it brief: Gary was driving through a retorno and had to stop because of heavy traffic. The armored truck behind him didn’t stop in time and crushed Gary’s back bumper. No one was injured. Needless to say, the armored truck was just fine.
After taking photos of the scene and the position of the vehicles, Gary notified Zurich, his insurance company. The representative on the phone spoke English and told Gary that an insurance adjuster would respond to the scene.
This is one way that Mexico differs from the United States. In Mexico, the insurance company always sends an adjuster to the scene of the crash to represent the client, determine fault and work out compensation agreements. By the time you leave the scene, you already know what the insurance companies will be paying for and what they won’t. There aren’t any surprises down the road.
While everyone was waiting for the insurance adjusters to arrive, a police officer showed up. He took pictures of the vehicles, collected drivers licenses and attempted to explain Gary’s options to him. I say attempted because the officer didn’t speak any English and Gary’s Spanish is limited.
This is where yours truly enters the story. Gary called me on Whatsapp and asked me to translate for him. Here’s a summary of what the officer told me:
The driver of the armored car has already admitted fault. When the insurance adjusters arrive, they will present Gary with an agreement related to compensation. If Gary agrees to the terms and signs the agreement, that will end the police’s involvement in the incident. However, if Gary does not agree, both vehicles will be towed and impounded until the matter can be resolved before a judicial body (Ministerio Público).
The purpose of towing both vehicles is to ensure that compensation is eventually made to the affected party or parties. The legal process can take days or even weeks. In the meantime, the vehicles are accruing storage fees.
Well, that procedure is certainly different from what I was used to back in the States.
Fortunately in this case, the insurance company agreed to pay to repair Gary’s car and even waived his deductible because he wasn’t at fault for the accident. After signing a few documents, he left the scene.
Gary said that from the time of the crash to the time he drove away was a little more than an hour and a half.
Let’s Wrap This Up
Part of the process of moving to a foreign country is learning not only their language and customs, but also their laws and procedures.
Doing a little research beforehand, such as reading blogs like this one, can help you get up to speed more quickly and hopefully avoid problems down the road.