12 On Your Side Alert: Woman now facing carless dilemma - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

12 On Your Side Alert: Woman now facing carless dilemma

Diane O'Neal's engine (Source: NBC12) Diane O'Neal's engine (Source: NBC12)
ASHLAND, VA (WWBT) -

A local single mother of five is sounding the alarm after she took her minivan in for an oil change and something went terribly wrong. Now she's without a car and without money to get another one. 

"Everything has crashed down since my oil change,” said Diane O’Neal. “I'm not happy with it because I went in with a vehicle. I should have come out with a vehicle."

Last November, Diane O'Neal took her minivan in for an oil change at Pepperhill Tire and Auto in Ashland. She said a couple of weeks, later she realized something was wrong when her engine started knocking and she was losing power. She had the car towed back to Pepperhill. O'Neal's insurance company took a few pictures of what was found under the hood.  

“There was oil all over the top of my engine leaking underneath of it,” O’Neal said.

Mechanics determined the engine was blown. Pepperhill's insurance company accepted liability for the damages.  They totaled the van and offered to pay O'Neal the value of it which they determined to be about $6,500. 

Problem is O'Neal still owes $10,000 on her car loan. Now she has to continue paying that bill and figure out how to get another vehicle.

"I'm a single mom of five kids. I can't just go out here and buy a new vehicle when it's not my fault that they didn't do their job right,” O’Neal said. “I've now lost my job because I don't have a ride to work."

O'Neal feels Pepperhill should do more to make her whole. "Here's a thousand dollars to go put down on a car, or here's a vehicle for you since we messed yours up."

The owner of Pepperhill said he has allowed his insurance company to handle the situation as it sees fit, and its decision is final.

Consumer attorney Frank Gayle said the insurance company's offer is likely a good one. He said in order to get more in court, O'Neal would have to prove the garage was at fault, which he says is a tall order.

"Is this lady prepared to pay for a lawyer and pay witnesses?” Gayle said.  “That will come out of her pocket to go to trial to prove her case because in a negligence case, you're not going to get legal fees."

Gayle said this scenario highlights an even more important lesson.

"Often times, we think, 'Gosh, somebody should take care of us.' Well sometimes, we have some personal responsibility on ourselves,” Gayle said. “The fact that she owes more on the car than it’s worth is not the garage's fault.  People need to be much more careful and plan for the future for consequences that are unexpected."

“I just want a vehicle so I can provide for my kids. I mean, my bills are not going to pay themselves,” O’Neal said.

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