Mexican Car Insurance: A Personal Essay

By Larry Turk

On the evening of January 22nd, 2012, I was sitting at Señor Puck’s, a cold Pacifico con limon in hand, intently watching my San Francisco 49ers as they prepared to kick off to the NY Giants to begin the over time quarter, tied at 17. It just doesn’t get better than this.

A tap on my shoulder, and a friend informed me my vehicle, parked on the curb, had just been rear-ended by another vehicle.

Adios Football, Hello Headaches.

Out on the street, the offending vehicle had not only hit my left rear bumper first, but spun around and tagged a Lincoln Navigator and also sideswiped, to a lesser degree, a third vehicle, before coming to a stop in the center of the highway, inoperable.

Asking other people standing by where the responsible driver was resulted in fingers pointing across the street and to the west. “He went thata way” was the answer.

Well, I thought to myself, now I get to find out what happens when involved in an accident in Mexico.

Keep in mind; this is the best of all possible accidents to be involved in. Why?

  1. No one was injured
  2. I was not at fault.
  3. Plenty of witnesses.
  4. My vehicle was injured, but still operable.
  5. I had Mexican Insurance.

More than an hour passed at the accident scene, talking to police, towing the responsible abandoned car away, and finally, it was over.

I returned to Señor Puck’s just in time to see the final score, 20/17, Giants. This was more upsetting than the destruction of my cherry GMC!

Phoning Lewis and Lewis, my Mexican Insurance agent in San Diego the following morning and explaining the situation resulted in the Qualitas Insurance adjuster knocking on my door within 45 minutes! Wow!

Digital camera in hand, he proceeded to document the damage and identify all the parts that would be replaced. He also photographed my Insurance Documents (Lewis and Lewis), Drivers License, Registration, FM3, and placed a phone call to the Qualitas Tijuana headquarters office.

He then gave me the business card of an auto repair shop, El Colorado, and strongly suggested I use only this shop for repairs. In fact, he would waive the requirement of having 3 estimates if I used this shop. We shook hands, and he left.

Thanking him and closing the door, I was in the process of explaining and discussing the morning’s events with my wife, when there was a knock at our front door.

Opening the door, I was confronted with two local men. A very large man and a very small man. Although my Spanish is poor, I was made to understand that the larger gentleman was the owner of the offending vehicle of the night before. The smaller man was his employee, and also the driver.

Omitting many myriad details of the following two days, here is the short version:

The owner of the vehicle wanted to cover the costs of the repairs to my truck! Not out of the kindness of his heart, but to keep his employee from going to jail and to be able to recover the Honda Accord from the impound yard.

With a call to our Qualitas agents cell phone, he came back to our house, dickered with the car’s owner, and arranged for all of us to meet at the police station, where the owner paid my $500USD deductible in cash to the Qualitas agent directly, and I was given an official paid receipt.

My wife and I then signed a release of claim for the police.

Which brings me to a Conclusion: Now I know why guilty locals involved in accidents run away!   Instead of going to jail for being drunk, they can go to the police the next day and; well, I don’t know what they do, but, everything turned out okay for this guy.

Now, as for repairing my truck here in Huatulco:

Locating the shop and talking with the shop crew was relatively easy, only taking another one and a half hours. Amazingly, the Qualitas adjuster walked into the shop just as the owners were finishing their estimate.   In retrospect, I think the shop phoned him. However, his appearance expedited the whole process.

Once the repairs were agreed to, I was told everything was taken care of and I would be notified when I could bring the truck in. Of great note in this experience is I never once, despite many requests on my part, saw a written estimate of repairs from the auto body shop.

I didn’t know it at that time, 2 days after the accident, that it was just the beginning of a long angst filled waiting/e-mailing/telephone tag period involving the Qualitas head office in Tijuana. This went on for 6 weeks.

Again, in the interest of brevity, I’ll summarize. It finally became apparent the main office in Tijuana very rarely authorizes repairs. I received several phone calls from different Qualitas agents. First, they offered a check equal to what they said the cost of the repairs were and, in their words “I could have it repaired anywhere I wished, even in the USA.” The offer was for $1,600 USD. Adding the $500 deductible already paid, this would mean the shop estimate should have been for $2100 USD.

Several telephone calls over the next month resulted in Nothing Happening. Finally, an agent from Qualitas called and said he would be in Huatulco, come to my house in person, and would offer me a better settlement and if we came to an agreement, write a check on the spot.

We set a date, a loose afternoon appointment, so I would be sure to be there, and: He Never Showed, Never Called! Not surprising, in Mexico, right?

More phone calls, more nothing.

Finally, I phoned my San Diego Insurance office, spoke with my Lewis and Lewis agent, and explained the run around I was having. He got back to me one day later, said he shook things up at the Qualitas Underwriters Tijuana office. He also told me he had reminded them that one of my truck tires had also been destroyed and they had neglected to add a pay out on that item.

Within a few days, the repair shop called, I went back over, they re-examined the damage, and told me they would get back to me. Again, I asked for but did not receive a copy of their estimate.

Finally, perhaps a week later, they phoned and said my truck’s parts had come in. I delivered the truck. Two days later the repairs were done.

Upon signing an acceptance release of the work I finally saw the estimate for repairs, in Pesos. Doing the conversion, the repairs were over $1000 USD more than the Qualitas office had offered me in cash. Plus, they also bought me one brand new 10ply 16inch tire, which cost about $300 USD; making the difference between cash offered and actual repairs $1300 USD.

I was happy to get the repairs done, and the shop did an excellent job bending, twisting, straightening, and painting. A similar repair job in the States would probably have been 3 times the amount of money, and would have used many more replacement parts, rather than salvaging and bonding twisted pieces.

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