Homeowners insurance blog

One check wasn’t in the mail; the other was

What happens if the teen driver your house knocks down a mailbox? It depends on the teenager (we’ll call this one Austin), the mailbox, the homeowner and his or insurance policy. Here’s the true story of what happened to one parent, his son and a homeowner in the neighborhood.

A few months ago, Austin did the wrong thing. But then he did the right thing. And so did a neighbor. Here’s what happened:

Austin asked his father to come upstairs to talk. It was a sure sign of trouble, the dad thought, because Austin – as a typical teen – almost never WANTED to talk to his parents. The father was right. Austin stammered it out: “Dad, I ran up on the curb going to Nick’s last night and hit a mailbox.”

“How bad is it?” “It knocked the mailbox down, but it didn’t hurt the car at all.”

The father, scowled, then told him they had to go tell the homeowner immediately.

“Dad,” he said, “I already did.”

That stopped some of the anger dead in its tracks. It would have been easy enough to speed away – even easier than the father thought, as it turned out. The homeowner hadn’t been home when it happened. But Austin had gone to the door, spoken to her son and waited until she got there. He promised to pay for it.

A surprise response

The father called and reinforced Austin’s pledge: “He has a job, and he’ll make it good. We’ll front him the money, and he’ll pay us back. Just get us an estimate.”

The parent didn’t expect what came next. “Oh, I’m so glad you called,” she said. “Do you know what a special son you have? A lot of kids wouldn’t have stopped.”

He did know. He was really proud of the level of responsibility Austin had shown, going out of his way to do the right thing for someone he didn’t even know.

Of course, then the father learned how much mailboxes cost. Especially when only certain kinds and vendors can be used because of Homeowners Association rules. This one, it turns out, was going to cost nearly $400 when all was said and done.

The neighbor comes through

That’s when the neighbor did the right thing, too, as least as far as Austin was concerned. She filed a claim on her homeowners insurance. That’s right, home insurance helped out, even though her house wasn’t affected by the incident. Turns out the other structures coverage in her policy — one of six types of protection typically included in a standard package — paid for the new mailbox, minus a $250 deductible.

The father wrote her a check, which Austin delivered by hand, for a couple of reasons. He wasn’t driving for a couple of weeks – proud though his parents were, Austin deserved some punishment – and she still didn’t have a mailbox.

He’s been more careful since, and he paid his parents $50 a month until he cleared his debt. The neighbor also got the other check from her insurance company – she’s got a pretty terrific-looking mailbox again.

And Austin’s parents have the satisfaction of knowing that you can still rely on some things: Children do listen to the lectures about honesty and responsibility. And home insurance is there to help you through all sorts of situations that crop up.