On the north side of the Big Island in Hawaii, in a quiet little town named Kamuela, Judith was at home watching a football game. She noticed her back door was open and soon realized her 2014 BMW X3 had been stolen from the garage.
Two weeks later, police located and recovered the vehicle about 100 miles away on the opposite side of the island in an area called Puna. Not only had it been driven approximately 2,000 miles, the entire vehicle was vandalized, the exterior had large dents and scratches, the seats and seat belts were cut, the tires were flat and there was graffiti throughout the interior.
The vehicle was taken to a tow yard in Hilo where a GEICO auto damage appraiser told Judith the car was repairable for less than $8,000. “I went into a tirade,” said Judith, who is 76 years old. “I felt that there was no way that the vehicle could be repaired for the amount they suggested so I called the main office of GEICO and asked for another adjuster.” The vehicle was then towed to GEICO’s DRP (Direct Repair Program) shop and a second appraiser was assigned to reinspect the car. Judith said that she was informed once again that the car was repairable.
“The car is worth over $50,000,” she said. “I said, ‘there is no way I’m accepting that.’” She called the local BMW dealership and they suggested contacting Auto Body Hawaii in Kona. Judith had her car towed to the shop, which is owned and operated by Dale and Rissa Matsumoto. “Rissa took me under her wing. She was just a blessing. She was so helpful,” said Judith.
After the vehicle went through a thorough mapping and blueprinting process by Auto Body Hawaii, GEICO was again notified. The vehicle was reinspected by a third appraiser who then concluded it to be a total loss.
The shop recommended that Judith reach out to Billy Walkowiak, CEO of Collision Safety Consultants. “We recognized that the owner needed someone who would be representing her best interest,” said Rissa. “With these kinds of situations, your average consumer does not know what their rights really are or even know they actually have rights. We see it happening over and over on a daily basis. People need to read and understand their insurance policy.”
Judith hired Walkowiak to help determine the actual cash value of the BMW. “Once it was totaled, they offered a value much below what I believe the value of the vehicle was,” said Walkowiak. “She [Judith] invoked the appraisal clause, which says that each party shall hire a competent and disinterested appraiser,” he said.
Excerpt of the Appraisal clause from Judith’s GEICO insurance policy:
If we and the insured do not agree on the amount of loss, either may, within 60 days after proof of loss if file, determine an appraisal of the loss. In that event, we and the insured will each select a competent appraiser. The appraisers will select a competent and disinterested umpire. The appraisers will state separately the actual cash value and the amount of the loss. If they fail to agree, they will submit the dispute to the umpire. An award in writing of any two will determine the amount of the loss. We and the insured will each pay his chosen appraiser and will bear equally the other expenses of the appraisal and umpire. We will not waive our rights by any of our acts relating to appraisal.