Dear Dr. Gridlock:

On a recent Saturday morning I was in downtown D.C. and found an empty parking spot on the curb at Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

The sign by the spot said "Two-hour parking, Monday-Friday." The meter said "two-hour limit" and didn't list any days.

Was I required to feed the meter, and could I park longer than two hours?


White Plains, Charles County

The city's chief parking control official, Warren Ramseur, said, "It sounds like there should be a decal on the meter that matches the sign. Based on what your correspondent said, the sign takes precedence, and he could have parked all day in that spot for free."

Ramseur said he would look into that sign and meter to clear up any misunderstandings.

Of course, there's no telling how a parking control aide might interpret this situation. You could wind up with free parking, or a ticket, and a long struggle to get out of the ticket adjudication system. I'd pass up those ambiguous situations.

More Than a Payment Missed

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A couple of years ago I was in an accident while driving and living in Maryland. When I called the claim into Geico, I was told my auto insurance policy had been canceled because I had missed a premium payment.

I admit it was my responsibility to keep up with the dates that the premiums were due, but what surprised me most was Geico never sent me a formal letter informing me of the cancellation. I was also surprised that I had not been notified of the cancellation by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, since insurance is mandatory in Maryland.

The premium I missed was less than $70. I simply missed it, and that cost me dearly. I spent close to $10,000 in legal fees defending myself against a lawsuit brought by the insurance carrier of the other driver, who sued me for $70,000. In addition, the car I owned at the time was totaled. It was an insurance nightmare.

I have often wondered if there are other people who have been caught in such a situation. Are you aware of any? Why aren't insurance carriers or MVA required to let us know when our insurance policy has been canceled?



Here's how things are supposed to work, according to Karen Coyle, spokeswoman for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration: If you miss a payment, the insurance company has discretion to keep you or drop you. If the company drops you, it must notify the MVA "immediately, at the same time they do it," Coyle said, and then the state will notify you within three days.

Because you never were notified by your carrier or the state, you may want to check the records to see if you were still insured on the date of the accident.

Dr. Gridlock couldn't contact a Geico spokesman, but would be happy to hear a representative's opinion on this matter.

I haven't heard of this kind of staggering loss over failure to pay a premium, Ms. Taylor. Have any of you?

Dr. Gridlock's assistant, Jessica Medinger, contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and Wednesday in Prince William Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, P.O. Box 3467, Fairfax, Va. 22038-3467, or e-mail him at The Doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.