MIDLOTHIAN, VA (WWBT) - A fun trip for the holidays turns into a nightmare for one Midlothian family when they return to the train station and find a tree has fallen on top of their parked car.
"We come out and discover a tree on the car and after standing there for a moment of disbelief. I'm like, 'Okay, what do we do here?'" said Martin Juergensen, who owns the Nissan Murano that was damaged.
Juergensen says the tree appeared to be dead. He and his wife took pictures, called their insurance company, and got the car towed to a repair shop.
Then the family started trying to figure out who is responsible for this. Amtrak staffers gave them a telephone number for SP+ Parking, the group that manages the lot. They reached out to SP+ Parking and got a written response which said in part:
"Our investigation into this matter yielded no evidence that SP+ was negligent... SP+ is not considered responsible for damage caused by an 'Act of Nature' and is something that could not have been foreseen or prevented."
"They pointed out that they are responsible to make sure that any foreseeable issues be resolved prior to causing damage to your property while you're parked there," Juergensen said. "But they didn't see that that was a foreseeable issue that a dead tree may fall apparently."
NBC12 called SP+ Parking and a spokesperson told us via email, the company is reviewing its investigation.
The Juergensens reached back out to Amtrak. They got a response from customer service saying this matter would be forwarded to the corporate office for handling and to allow four to six weeks for a response. That was back on March 16, but so far, they say they've heard nothing.
NBC12 called Amtrak. A spokesperson confirmed the railway owns the lot where the damage happened, and that they are still researching the claim. They promised a call back.
It took nine weeks for the workers to complete the nearly $8,000 in repairs to their the family's car.
"Damage was all the way from the front to the back. So starting with the hood, they had to replace the hood and some front features of the hood, and then also they peeled off the entire roof and windshield and also in the back and in the interior," Juergensen said.
Along the way, the family paid a $500 deductible, plus nearly $300 in car rental fees because the couple's policy didn't cover them for rental. They feel someone should reimburse them. So far, they've walked away with nothing.
"And not even walking away with nothing. I'm walking away with less out of that," Juergensen said.
Consumer attorney John Gayle says he believes the couple has a legal leg to stand on if Amtrak doesn't provide any relief.
"He or she would have to take them to court for the deductible, prove the tree was old, prove that it was something that shouldn't have been there it just fell down in the middle of the night or the day of old age. That's something that's the landlord or owner of that property's responsibility," Gayle said.
Gayle says the serious threat of lawsuit might prompt Amtrak to pay. But the couple would have to decide if the hundreds of dollars is worth the hassle of a lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Mr. Juergensen has a word to the wise based on his experience.
"Be aware of your surroundings and if something happens to you verify that your insurance will cover you for your out of pocket expenses for a situation like this. Going for those shady spots sometimes isn't a smart move," Juergensen said.
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