Kia: Insurer causing holdup of Deltona Kia explosion investigation

Family it has not heard from insurance company, Kia

By Adrianna Iwasinski - Investigative Reporter

DELTONA, Fla. - A Volusia County family wants answers and results from its insurance company and KIA, after the mother's 2009 Kia Sportage exploded while parked under her carport overnight.

On Jan. 16, Betty Davis' 2009 silver Kia Sportage burst into flames while parked outside her home on Brady Drive in Deltona. The fire destroyed the car, part of the house and killed her dog and three cats. Davis was hospitalized for smoke inhalation.

"Her house is gone. Her car is gone," said Davis's daughter Gina Tyckoson. "She lost all of her pets. She has been traumatized."

Tyckoson said she can't believe Kia hasn't offered to do more to help her 70-year-old mother.

"She needs to get on with her life and they will not even authorize a car for her to drive," Tyckoson said. 

News 6 was at Davis' home in February, when fire investigators from both Kia and Betty's insurance company came to inspect the damage and haul the car away for further forensic testing.

[More coverage: Kia, Hyundai recall over 500,000 vehicles as fire risk spreads]

News 6 put Davis' daughter in touch with independent fire investigator Richard Meier, whose early assessment the fire indicates it started in the engine of the car.

"Because the car had been parked for 30 hours prior to the fire, by process of elimination, it pretty much only leaves an electrical issue with the car," said Meier on Feb. 11.

News 6 spoke to several other KIA and Hyundai car owners whose vehicles have caught fire. Those owners have been offered settlements.

Davis hasn't heard from Kia, according to her daughter.

"Absolutely nothing with follow-up phone calls to Kia and my insurance company and emails to my insurance company and to Kia," Tyckoson said. "I have heard nothing."

Tyckoson said her mother has spent almost a month in the hospital - going through rehab and breathing treatments because of all the smoke she inhaled. 

"As a corporation they need to step up to their corporate responsibility, acknowledge there is a product liability issue and make it right with her," Tyckoson said.

Davis is also suffering from emotional trauma after surviving the fire and losing her pets.

"She still won't sleep with a door closed a bedroom door or a bathroom door, all because she doesn't want to get trapped," Tyckoson said.

On May 31, a representative from Kia Motors America sent this statement in response to News 6's inquiry into the Davis' case.

"Claims involving damage to a Kia vehicle, including fires, are reviewed on a case-by-case basis," said James Hope, with KIA USA. "If a fire is determined to be the result of a Kia manufacturing issue, KMA will work with the customer to reach a satisfactory resolution to the matter. In this case, the vehicle is in possession of the insurer and has not been made available for Kia to inspect beyond an initial cursory inspection, despite repeated requests to do so. Therefore, at this time, Kia is unable to make a determination of fault or cause and origin until such an inspection takes place."

On June 4, Kia Motors sent this updated statement, saying the holdup is because of Davis' insurance company.

"The car remains in the custody of Ms. Davis' insurance carrier and until the vehicle is made available to Kia Motors America (KMA) for inspection beyond the cursory inspection previously noted, liability cannot be determined. KMA has repeatedly sought access to the vehicle, but has not received any response to those requests. The customer, through her insurer, has retained the services of an attorney and KMA cannot make any inspection of the vehicle without consent from her attorney. To date, no such consent has been granted.

"As previously stated, claims involving damage to a Kia vehicle, including fires, are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Kia Motors America (KMA) will not comment on why another case reached a resolution sooner as every case is unique and must be handled accordingly. Facilitating our access to the vehicle will speed up KMA's inspection, analysis and resolution.

"In regards to this case, the Kia consumer affairs department notes four contacts were made on behalf of the customer by Ms. Davis' daughter (Jan., Feb. and May). A timely KMA response is documented in each instance.

"Kia customers with questions regarding their Kia vehicle should contact KMA's Consumer Assistance Center directly at 1-800-333-4542 (4Kia)."

Tyckoson said that because of the delay, her mother is staying with relatives since she can't live alone in her fire-damaged home.

"She's 70 and I think this incident seemed to age her 10 years," Tyckoson said. "She doesn't have years to wait for a settlement."

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