Car accident/insurance advice
September 17, 2008 7:59 PM   Subscribe

What should I do if I'm not sure someone's after the fact claim about a car accident is actually related to the accident?

I recently rear-ended another vehicle in stop and go traffic during rush hour at less than 5mph. We pulled over, and looked at the cars. Both agreed no damage, but wanting to be a good doobie, I gave her my contact info in case something internal came up. I was foolish in that I didn't get her info, or even jot down her car's make/model or license plate number. I have a perfect driving record, and had never been involved in something like this, so it kind of took me by surprise and I wasn't sure what to do in the moment. No insurance information was exchanged and no police report was filed.

Several days later, she e-mailed to say that she had found damage, that she was away for the weekend but could send pics when she returned, and could I please send her my insurance information. I replied requesting that she send the photos, since we had both concluded there was no surface damage.

She subsequently sent two very dark photos of just the damaged area of a vehicle. I do recall that the other vehicle was a large SUV, and it's discernible in the photos that they depict a Ford Explorer. Here's the thing - the rear fender is knocked loose in the photos, and at a downward angle. I drive a small compact car that has absolutely no signs of any damage.

I showed the pics to a friend who works with cars and his take was that there was no way a collision at less than 5mph could have caused the damage in the photos, especially without sustaining serious damage to the front of my car. He also noted that based on the respective heights of the vehicles, her fender should have gone up and not down as the picture shows. Finally, he commented that the only way he could imagine the accident I described "causing" the damage was if it was already quite rusted (and there is some rust visible in the photos).

I found a Ford Explorer in a parking lot earlier this evening to just kind of compare heights, and what he says seems to be true. He suggested being back in touch with her and basically explaining the above, then seeing if she still wants to pursue.

What's the smartest thing for me to do at this point? Be back in touch with her? Call my insurance company? I'm kicking myself because I a) want to be responsible and take care of any damage that I caused, but b) just had a funny feeling when I got her e-mail and saw the pictures, which has only deepened since communicating with my friend. I don't want to be taken advantage of.
posted by rbellon to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total)
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:33 PM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is what your insurance is for. The company will assign an adjuster to the case, whose job is to figure out whether the claim is legit or not. If I were you, I would call your insurance company and talk to an adjuster, who can advise you. You will probably be told to open a claim, and you can give the adjuster whatever info you do have (her email, etc). You can then give her your insurance info--your company can get her information from her, so don't stress if you don't have it. It sounds like you're not debating that you caused the collision, just whether her claims are legitimate. It's in the company's best interest to not pay bogus claims, so turn it over to them and let them do their job.

[And try not to worry too much. We had a similar situation where my husband rear-ended a car and it had minor damage. Later the driver started claiming all sorts of injuries for himself and for a passenger we didn't even see in the car. He got a lawyer, threatened all sorts of legal action, etc. We let our insurance handle it and eventually his lawyer dropped him (because he was full of it) and it all went away.]
posted by Bella Sebastian at 9:58 PM on September 17, 2008

I keep a disposable camera in my car in case of such an event.
posted by neuron at 10:15 PM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I had much the same thing happen many years ago. A minor accident for which I was partly to blame and I foolishly said as much at the scene. A few months later, his insurance company was after me for a serious amount of cash. I basically called bullshit, said the guy had obviously waited that long so that the fresh damage would mix nicely with some pre-existing scuffs and dents (which I had no memory of actually seeing or not seeing) and then I never heard another word about it. Bluff called.

The moral: people are often dolts when it comes to lying and stretching the truth with regard to fender benders, and fortunately the pros in the biz can often see through them.
posted by philip-random at 10:21 PM on September 17, 2008

I had a similar experience. The other person wanted to claim lots of medical care. My insurance company sent an investigator. Your insurance company will have seen this happen before and will know how to deal with it.
posted by theora55 at 6:58 AM on September 18, 2008

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