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?

Ernest Johnson

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, and 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 in to 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?

Julia Taylor

Washington

Here's how things are supposed to work, according to MVA spokeswoman Karen Coyle: If you miss a payment, the insurance company has discretion to keep you on 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 one to three days.

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

A spokeswoman for Geico, Chris Tasher, said the company will look into Ms. Taylor's concern.

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 on Wednesday or Thursday in the Weekly and Extra sections. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, P.O. Box 3467, Fairfax, Va. 22038-3467, or e-mail him at drgridlock@washpost.com. The Doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.