4 January 2013

Losses and Lessons: Joyride ends poorly for Golden Retriever, ’81 Mercedes

VEHICLE COVERED: 1981 Mercedes Benz 300 Wagon

WHAT WENT WRONG: Oftentimes bad decisions – even those that seem perfectly innocent at the time – become great stories. This is one you’ll likely retell. The owner of a 1981 Mercedes Benz 300 Wagon drove his classic to get a cup of coffee, bringing his faithful Golden Retriever along for the ride. He stopped in front of the coffee shop, turned off the car and went inside, leaving the dog sitting on the driver’s seat. Within a few moments, however, the dog became restless and knocked the Benz out of gear. With the unlicensed Golden at the wheel, the wagon rolled down the hill and struck two cars before coming to a stop.

DAMAGE/LOSS: First, the good news: No one was injured. Now the bad news: Three vehicles were damaged, including the right front fender and lamp assembly of the Mercedes, the rear quarter panel and bumper of a 2011 Lexus and minor damage to another vehicle. The owner of the Mercedes withdrew his portion of the claim, choosing instead to pay for the damage to his car and the minor damage to the third vehicle. Hagerty covered the repair of the Lexus, which totaled $2,290.

LESSON: Never leave animals unattended in your vehicle without applying the parking brake. Even if you think you’ll only be away from the car for a moment, sometimes that’s all it takes for disaster to strike.

27 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Bill Smith Spokane Valley , WA January 8, 2013 at 14:48
    As an insurance agent, I'd be interested to know why the Mercedes owner, If he held a Hagerty policy, decided to forego his portion of the claim?
  • 2
    Dave Maine January 17, 2013 at 13:14
    Several years ago in NH I saw a car "driven" by a dog rolling very slowly down Main Street New London NH. I was able to direct traffic oncoming traffic to stop as the car crossed into the left lane eventually hitting a public phone booth and stopping. Very liitle damage to the car and the phone booth. The dog was not cited for any moving violations.
  • 3
    Walter Davis New Hampshire January 17, 2013 at 13:31
    Jusrt as important, leaving children in the car unattended, "even for a moment." A store I worked in became a "drive-through" when a mother left her kids to just get a paper. One kid decided to "drive" the car, put it in drive and crashed through the front window.
  • 4
    Walter Davis New Hampshire January 17, 2013 at 13:31
    Jusrt as important, leaving children in the car unattended, "even for a moment." A store I worked in became a "drive-through" when a mother left her kids to just get a paper. One kid decided to "drive" the car, put it in drive and crashed through the front window.
  • 5
    Clark Novak San Diego, CA January 17, 2013 at 14:36
    Lack of parking brake use is something that peeves me no end. Besides the belt-and-suspenders safety issue, there's also the undue strain that is put on the transmission parking pawl or gearset when the car is placed on any unlevel surface without it. That lever / pedal / hand pull is there for a reason, folks! Use it!
  • 6
    George Murphy Oak Ridge TN January 17, 2013 at 14:51
    I teach in my car care seminars that the PARKING brake is just that - for parking. If you leave a car with only the transmission in PARK, there is only a 1/4" thick piece of metal preventing the car from rolling away. Plus the weight of the car is resting against the axle CV joints, the driveshaft flex disks and the rest of the drivetrain, over time causing wear. - .ALWAY USE YOUR PARKING BRAKE! George Murphy, MBCA Technical Director
  • 7
    Steve Taylor Blythewood, SC January 17, 2013 at 16:54
    If only the Golden had thumbs!!
  • 8
    Scott Bray Columbus, OH January 17, 2013 at 22:09
    Quite true, a few weeks ago I parked my daily driver Mustang GT for a few minutes to pick up a pizza order with my dog Lancer in the car. As I waited I was feeling quite foolish that I had been driving the last 25 minutes through rush hour traffic with the hazard flashers on. As I continued to wait the flashers went off, then back on again at which point I realized my dog Lancer was prancing around and pushing the console mounted button his paw.
  • 9
    Scott Bray Columbus, OH January 17, 2013 at 22:10
    Quite true, a few weeks ago I parked my daily driver Mustang GT for a few minutes to pick up a pizza order with my dog Lancer in the car. As I waited I was feeling quite foolish that I had been driving the last 25 minutes through rush hour traffic with the hazard flashers on. As I continued to wait the flashers went off, then back on again at which point I realized my dog Lancer was prancing around and pushing the console mounted button his paw.
  • 10
    David Frassinelli Newtown, CT January 17, 2013 at 10:16
    If the car owner subrogated to Haggerty, they would have pursued a claim against the dog if he didn't withdraw the claim for his own vehicle.
  • 11
    bill gaino sc January 17, 2013 at 10:30
    Why would the owner even have insurance if he intends to pay for damage "out of pocket"? Could it be that Hagerty told him they would drop him if he made a claim? Perhaps the reteriver was not a listed driver of the car, and therefore "not covered" lol. You pay and pay, then when you go to make a claim... it is... I'm sorry Mr Gaino... your not covered for that.
  • 12
    Jeff Chardon, Ohio January 17, 2013 at 10:37
    How about never leave your vehicle without applying the parking brake-period! Regardless of the car being occupied or not, I would never trust the transmission alone to hold a parked car. I always set my parking brake, even on my automatic equipped vehicles. In addition, in drivers ed, I learned that when parking on a hill, standard transmissions go into reverse, automatics in park, parking brake gets set, AND the wheels get turned towards the curb. This is a procedure to live by.
  • 13
    RICK WALLER CALIFORNIA January 17, 2013 at 10:46
    What reason did the Mercedes owner give to withdraw not only his claim, but the claim for the third vehicle? I am CEO of a PC agency that sells Auto Insurance, including classic car coverage.
  • 14
    Jon FL January 17, 2013 at 11:03
    Bill - good question... I wonder that as well. Hagerty???
  • 15
    D . Hom Conroe TX January 17, 2013 at 11:28
    I also want to know why? I am insured by Hagerty , That is why we have insurance correct?
  • 16
    D . Hom Conroe TX January 17, 2013 at 11:28
    I also want to know why? I am insured by Hagerty , That is why we have insurance correct?
  • 17
    Tony Kubera Buffalo, NY January 17, 2013 at 11:53
    I applaud the owner of the Mercedes for taking responsibility for the accident. As such, I interpret his withdrawl of his portion of the claim as a "car guy" that realizes that Hagerty does expect their insureds to act with reasonable care. Very refreshing point of view.
  • 18
    THOMAS Gurnee January 17, 2013 at 11:55
    Don't leave pets alone in the car.
  • 19
    Barbara Jackson United States January 17, 2013 at 11:57
    I once parked a pickup in a pasture by a barn to load mineral bags into it. A stick shift, I had put it in reverse because I was on a slight slope. The steers in the pasture came up and tried to look inside the tailgate, bumping and rocking it. I came out of the barn with two bags of mineral and the pickup was gone. There was a pond a hundred yards below the barn but as I ran toward it I was relived to see the truck in a pen, south and west of the barn. It had caught a tire in a rut going into the pen while rolling or it would have been in the pond. The rocking evidently knocked the pickup out of gear because it was in neutral when I retrieved it. Now i carry a large block or log if I cannot trust a parking brake on a farm truck.
  • 20
    TASHA Moore, ok January 17, 2013 at 12:02
    I would also want to know why he wouldn't have had Hagerty pay for all three cars, since they were paying out on the 2011 Lexus. Its still a claim either way, and would have saved him out of pocket expenses. His agent should have counseled his insured on this information or the adjuster either way.
  • 21
    kerry froysell watertown, ny January 17, 2013 at 12:06
    My guess would be accountibility, accepting responsibility for his decision. I applaud him and would like to see more americans do the same.
  • 22
    Robin Naversen Torrance CA January 17, 2013 at 12:14
    Applies to children as well.
  • 23
    bill living room January 17, 2013 at 12:17
    1. he fealt like a dummy. 2. he was afraid his insurance would go up. 3. he didn't want his wife, who pays the bills, to find out.
  • 24
    Tim Cronan Louisiana January 17, 2013 at 12:19
    As a Hagerty policy holder on two vehicles, I also am interested in why the owner withdrew the claim. Would his premium increased if he filed a claim? Tim Cronan
  • 25
    ed hyman ct January 18, 2013 at 00:36
    Because there are still a few of us with class
  • 26
    Julian Portland, OR January 19, 2013 at 13:04
    The auto transmission shift lock mechanism should have prevented the shift lever from leaving Park unless the ignition was on and the foot brake depressed (I believe all US Mercedes Wagons of that era were automatics). Still, the advise to set the hand/emergency brake is good advise.
  • 27
    J gooding Williams lake, BC , Canada February 20, 2013 at 17:43
    Something like the old Far Side cartoon of the driver stopped by the police with his dog at the wheel - " but officer-I never, ever, let him off the leash" .

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