While Kyrzia Parker was enjoying a movie on June 24, a young man behind the wheel of an SUV plowed into her minivan out in the parking lot.
It wasn’t just a regular minivan. It was a 2010 Honda Odyssey Touring that had been converted so that Parker, 24, who is confined to a wheelchair, could drive it using a joystick.
Parker’s mom, Ismay, said it was a state-of-the-art conversion that took months to build, and if new, costs over $100,000.
The accident heavily damaged the van, which had to be towed away.
Parker told 7NEWS that it’s been sitting at a repair shop for months, while she, her parents and the other driver’s insurance company try to reach an agreement.
“I can’t (drive) to work or go to the grocery store,” she said. “I’m reliant on my parents, co-workers, friends and people who are nice to me, who are willing to drive me around.”
The Parkers have been embroiled in a battle with Allstate over whether the van should be repaired or replaced.
“The day after we called Allstate, they tried to give me like $11,000 and call it a day, and they tried to pressure me to settle it privately,” Parker said.
“it’s been a difficult struggle from day one,” said Joe Parker, Kyrzia’s father. “It’s almost like she’s at fault for this accident.”
In a letter to the Parkers, Allstate said the van can be repaired.
“Allstate and Complete Auto Body are willing to guarantee the repairs for as long as you own the vehicle,” the letter states. “That should give you peace of mind.”
The repair shop says it has worked on numerous wheelchair van conversions.
But a letter from Performance Mobility, the company that sells new and used van conversions from VMI (Vantage Mobility International) states that after sending pictures of the damaged van to VMI, the service manager was told: “Airing on the side of caution, VMI would recommend it NOT be repaired. I honestly do not think it would ever be quite right again.”
VMI says its conversion involves the removal of the front and center floor areas of vehicles, which are then replaced by new rigid framework, which is integrated into the uni-body structure of the vehicle.
The Performance letter states that “without the ability to mount the converted unit on a frame machine, there is no way to see that the body would be straight.”
“Since the wheelchair ramp is mounted under the vehicle, the vehicle does not fit on the frame machine and therefore there is no way to check the straightness or safety of the vehicle and guarantee the finished repair,” Ismay said.
Parker told 7NEWS that if the van conversion company doesn’t believe the van should be repaired, she doesn’t either.
“It terrifies me,” she said. “Not just because I’m driving the car, it terrifies me because I’m driving a car that’s going to be on the road with all of you.”
Ismay Parker said even if Allstate repairs the van, it means, for all practical purposes, that her daughter can’t sell it, because the conversion company has given information about the accident to Carfax.
The letter from Allstate to the Parkers counters that after doing additional research, “we know the vehicle has been in two separate incidents. One of the incidents had repairs completed in the amount of just over $7,300. I don’t understand the reluctance to have the vehicle repaired when it has been repaired on two separate occasions.”
“There were two incidents where I was involved in fender benders,” Kyrzia said. “There was ice, there was snow. My car drove away from both scenes.”
She said the incident at the theater was far worse, adding that the vehicle had to be towed.
“The windshield was damaged, the seat was damaged. I don’t know how you can compare those two instances.”
The insurance company has provided a rental wheelchair-accessible van, but it is not outfitted with the joystick controls that Parker needs to drive on her own, so family members and friends use it to transport her where she needs to go, when they have time.
Allstate told the Parkers they’re willing to offer $35,000 as a full and final settlement.
Parker said she wants a replacement.
“I’m not asking for a brand new vehicle,” she said. “I’m not trying to scam anybody. I just think a vehicle that’s compatible with the year, make and model that has all my equipment in it.”
That would be a 2010 Honda Odyssey Touring.
“I just hope that Allstate does the right thing,” Joe Parker said. “Physically challenged people have enough problems. They don’t need to be screwed around by insurance companies just about the dollar. It’s not about the dollar. It’s about doing the right thing.”
A spokeswoman for the company said Allstate takes safety seriously and has advocates who work to explain situations and the claim process. She said if Ms. Parker is interested, she could put her in touch with one.
Parker said she wants a safe vehicle to drive.
“If I didn’t have the support system and people willing to help, I don’t know what I would have done. I would be stuck at home and I would have lost my job,” she said,” and I would have gone crazy.”