(WSVN) - Her car got hit by a rental truck. They said make the company who rented it from us pay for your damage. That company said we didn’t rent the truck. After hitting that deadline, the South Florida woman turned where so many people have for 25 years, to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

When I spoke to Maudell on the phone, I said, “I have to meet this woman,” and I am glad I did.

Maudell Smith: “I love people. I love talking. Talk all night.”

Maudell is a character, and her story begins when she drove in between a truck and gas pumps to fill up.

Maudell Smith: “So I pulled in because it didn’t really seem that close.”

As you can see, Maudell started to open her door then closed it as the large Penske truck moved forward, backed up a little, then swerved and took off, smashing into the side of Maudell’s SUV.

But let her describe it.

Maudell Smith: “Oh, it hit it. It was like lightning. It happened so fast. It hit me. Bam! And everything just went kkkkkkaaaaaaawwwww out, and I thought, ‘Oh my whole door off,’ but it wasn’t.”

The door was ripped, the front fender damaged and the mirror…

Maudell Smith: “He just tore out the mirror. Kkkaaaaaaaaaawwww, yes. And that’s when he really took off. Sound like when he heard a noise.”

The driver raced away.

Maudell Smith: “Oh, what would I say to the driver? He’s a coward. He’s a coward.”

There were witnesses at the gas station …

Patrick Fraser: “What were they doing?”

Maudell Smith: “Drinking beer?”

And when they saw the Penske truck rip the side of Maudell’s car.

Maudell Smith: “Yeah, they were screaming, ‘I– man, hey, you tore the lady’s car.'”

Maudell’s reaction as she got out of her car…

Maudell Smith: “Oh, yes. Oh, I says thank you, Lord, thank you, Lord … He tore my mirror off, but he didn’t tear my body up. My body is more important.”

After she talked to the police, Maudell contacted Penske, who owned the truck.

Maudell Smith: “And they said that their truck wasn’t rented, and they don’t know who it was, so I said to them, ‘I’m sure the truck’s not driving by itself.'”

Maudell loves people, loves to treat them right, and then this happens to her.

Maudell Smith: “No, that’s not fair. That’s not fair.”

Well, Howard, legally how do you turn unfair into fair?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Either the rental company is responsible for the damage, or to escape liability, they have to tell you who they rented the truck to. That company has to either pay or turn it over to their insurance company to repair the damage. If neither, with that video, it’s an easy case to win in small claims court.”

Rather than wait any longer, Maudell filed with her insurance company to get her car fixed while I went to work.

Penske told me the truck had been driven by “an employee of Gander and White Shipping.”

They then told me, “Penske has not given our insurance company reliable proof that the vehicle was rented by Gander & White. Also our records do not place us at the location at the time.”

I kept going back and forth. Finally, I got a letter saying Penske has given Gander and White proof they were responsible for the accident, and Gander and White then sent Maudell a $500 check to cover her insurance deductible.

Maudell Smith: “I got $500. I’m not broke now.”

The shipping company sent Maudell the check, wrote a letter apologizing for what she had been through, and told me the driver is no longer with them for not reporting the accident.

Most importantly for Maudell, her car is repaired and she is happy.

Maudell Smith: “I’m glad I called you. If anybody need any help, you gotta call Help me Howard, ’cause that’s the only way it’s gonna get resolved.”

I am glad we could help you, Maudell.

Now, remember, if a rental vehicle hits you, the person renting the car or truck is responsible, not the rental company, so at the time of the accident, make sure you get the driver’s insurance.

Maudell couldn’t because the driver took off.

Met a character that’s not left you smiling? Don’t keep on trucking. Let us own the problem and mirror our years of helping you.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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