Michelle Chapman is trying not to cry over spilled milk.
The Surrey, B.C., resident was shocked to discover last month that a June fender bender she caused that left almost no visible damage to either vehicle escalated into a $4,800 writeoff. She was more shocked to discover the reason why. “They’re writing off the truck for spilled milk,” said Chapman, whom the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia is holding responsible for the claim.
The tale of the curious claim begins in June, when Chapman was stopped behind a black Dodge Dakota truck in her Chrysler Sebring sedan at a Vancouver intersection. When the truck advanced into the intersection, Chapman followed, but after she failed to see it braking again, she struck the vehicle.
“I got out of my vehicle right away,” said Chapman. “I checked his vehicle and there was no damage, I checked mine and there was a slight crack on my plastic licence plate cover.”
ICBC examined both vehicles about a month after the accident and estimated the cost to repair Chapman’s vehicle to be around $60. It found another $400 of physical damage to the truck. Chapman said she was surprised by the amount of damage ICBC found on the truck given that her vehicle was relatively unharmed, but what happened next left her at a loss for words. “About another month later, I got a call saying they were going to writeoff his truck,” she said.
According to ICBC, an occupant of the truck Chapman bumped had been passing an open container of milk to a child in the back seat when it was hit from behind. The jolt caused the passenger to spill the milk onto the interior of the vehicle. Because it was a hot day, the drink quickly spoiled, leaving behind a foul smell in the cab — foul enough that the truck was deemed a total loss.
Because Chapman was found 100 per cent responsible for the accident, ICBC informed her that she could either pay for the entire writeoff or see her insurance premiums rise. ICBC spokesperson Adam Grossman confirmed it was the spilled milk that ultimately caused the writeoff.
“It’s not uncommon. We have all kinds of claims and all kinds of liquids and fluids you wouldn’t even believe,” he said. “You can’t get smells out of cars, so spilled milk on a really hot and sunny day would cause a smell in the car.”
Grossman said customers may try to clean vehicles themselves after such a spill, but sometimes the smell just lingers. Even professional jobs that he said can cost thousands of dollars might not get rid of the stench. He said a vehicle owner in that situation would typically be given the option to get only the exterior damage fixed, or to be paid the vehicle’s market value.