I scratched another person's car bumper. What happens next?
June 7, 2010 1:25 PM   Subscribe

I scratched another person's car bumper. What happens next?

I feel like an idiot. When I was backing into a parking space today, I ended up hitting the bumper of another car with my wheel/tire. It left some black smudges (which should be able to be cleaned) and small black pitted scratch. I believe the scratch most likely removed some of the silver car paint. However, the bumper was not broken/cracked beyond the scratch.

I left a note and probably won't hear back from the person until at sometime after he/she leaves work and finds the note.

How do things like this normally work? I was thinking I would just offer to pay for the work to get the bumper fixed rather than involve my insurance company. What exactly is the person whose car I hit entitled to?

Of course, I will pay whatever the cost is, but I am thinking of the worst case scenario here. For instance, what if the person chooses a body shop that will keep the car until it's fixed hence necessitating the person get a rental car? The car is still completely operable and the scratch is relatively minor, so would the person be allowed to keep the car in the shop and rent a car in the meantime? What's usual and customary in these instances?

Who will determine whether the entire bumper will need to be replaced? How does this usually work when I'm not involving my insurance company?

What type of proof should I ask from the person to validate that the cost of the repairs? I'm hoping the person is honest, but I keep thinking of the worst case scenarios and want to make sure everything works out fairly for both of us. What information should I give him? I was never in an accident I caused before and the time someone else hit me, I obtained the other person's insurance information from the accident report.

Lastly, how much would it cost for a scratched bumper to be repaired? I was just estimating to myself that it will cost around $600, but I'm really not sure.
posted by parakeetdog to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have tickets or other traffic mishaps that might be on your record? Because a scratch on a bumper is unlikely to shoot up your rates. If you have a good record, I would do this through insurance. That is what it is there for. If not, then I would look at paying out of pocket.
posted by Danf at 1:33 PM on June 7, 2010

Based on past metafilter threads you're likely going to get far more other-driver friendly answers than mine, but here's my input:

For a minor scuff on a bumper I'd offer the person no more than $100 and if they don't like it they can make a case for more but I'm likely to fight it.

It's a BUMPer, and investing serious money in keeping it perfectly pristine is an act of lunacy I'm not going to financially support. The rubber transfer you describe will come off with a little WD40. A chip can be filled in with touch-up paint from a $13 tube that can be bought from the car dealership.

As far as car rental? Please. Minor bodywork doesn't take that long and if their shop can't deal with it in a reasonable amount of time then they need to reschedule or find another shop. A scuffed bumper does not in any way make that car unusable as transportation. You are not in any way obligated to financially cover every possible scheduling inconvenience.
posted by phearlez at 1:34 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

First...good for you for leaving a note.
You're not obligated to pay any more than you think is fair, and if the other party asks for what seems like an egregious amount, you can ask them to get a written estimate from a repair shop of your choosing...one that you trust. If they don't want to be friendly and fair, their option is small claims court.
posted by rocket88 at 1:35 PM on June 7, 2010

I had someone hit me and ask me not to go through insurance. I went through their insurance anyway because I didn't want to deal with them freaking out when they found out that they were going to have to pay $800 and 3 days for a rental vehicle because of what looked like a little ding to the side of my car.

I would do this: Give them your insurance information, and find a body shop that is approved by your insurance company. Have them take it there and get an estimate. If it's over what you are willing to pay, go through insurance. If you are willing to pay for it out of pocket, do so.

As for costs, body damage can be expensive and take time to repair. My ding was pretty tiny, but ended up costing a fortune to fix. They have to tear it down and make sure nothing underneath was damaged and then rebuild with either fixed or new parts.

More than likely, if they are smart, they will just go through insurance to avoid this hassle. At least you left a note.
posted by TheBones at 1:40 PM on June 7, 2010

Best answer: It occurs to me that you've indicated that you're unfamiliar with this kind of stuff and I should elaborate on one thing:

You are ethically and legally responsible to make right what you did, which is a small amount of damage (which the rubber makes look worse than it is) to a single area of bumper.

You are not obligated to make the entire bumper like new.

It's not uncommon for a body shop to advocate in their own interest and/or play up the tendency of some folks to go for showroom pristine. I've seen shops try to sell people on entire panel repaints over small dings and advocate for complete bumper removal to do a complete repaint because "that's the only way it's ever going to look like original again."

Do not allow yourself to be bullied into this. It's not reasonable. It is, however, sadly common.
posted by phearlez at 1:40 PM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

And this, phearlez, is why you should go through insurance. They will take out all of the emotions/contact/he said, she said for you. All you have to do is pay your premiums... and hopefully never have any accidents, but that's what they are there for.
posted by TheBones at 1:47 PM on June 7, 2010

Here is a previous thread on this very issue.
posted by studentbaker at 1:48 PM on June 7, 2010

A couple of data points: I've caused minor scratches on two bumpers whose cars I did not own.

One was a Honda Civic, and the other was a Volkswagen Jetta. Both had typical modern plastic bumpers over styrofoam, and both required a new "bumper skin," meaning the plastic cover. Both cost less than $600, and both were completed in 24 hours. Neither of those cars' respective owners got a loaner or rental car, and I paid cash for both, rather than deal with insurance.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:50 PM on June 7, 2010

I would just tell them to get some estimates and let me know what it's going to cost. If they come back with numbers that are above your pain threshold, file.

As has been shown on this thread, people have entirely different expectations of what a reasonable fix is. Unfortunately, fighting that expectation is just going to make that person more likely to try to jack you up. You may get no reply, which means the person doesn't consider it enough of an event to even bother with, or a reply where they say "ah, don't worry about it," a request to buy them a whole new car, or anything in between.

If it sounds reasonable and you can pay it out of pocket, best to do it and not file.

If it sounds reasonable but you can't afford it, file.

If it sounds unreasonable, offer 'em $200 for a signed release letter and tell 'em otherwise they can deal with your insurance company. Your insurance company's adjusters are trained to deal with expectations, reasonable and unreasonable, every day, and once you turn it over to them, the other guy's quarrels or satisfaction is with your insurance company, not you.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:27 PM on June 7, 2010

I got rear ended once in my new car with only 243 miles on it. I was upset and went to the insurance people. When I went to get my estimate, they looked at the two scratches on my bumper and told me it wasn't really worth fixing.

So I feel you owe this fellow nothing. Bumps are what bumpers are for.
posted by chairface at 4:43 PM on June 7, 2010

I think the people who are telling you that you "owe nothing" are lame. Yes, bumps happen, but that doesn't mean we can all go around hitting other people's cars, leaving dings and marks, and not accept responsibility. Good on you for leaving a note and wanting to make it right.

I had a similar situation earlier this year--I accidentally hit someone's rear view mirror and knocked it off. I left a note and hoped for the best, but expected the worst--an angry driver, a scam artist, the works. The guy ended up being SUPER nice, extremely grateful that I left a note, and more than willing to let me pay instead of going through insurance. Turns out his dad owns a car lot so he got access to a super-cheap part and had his mechanic put it on, the whole thing was extremely cheap and he let me mail him a check after all the work was done. I had planned on asking him for copies of the invoices and having him sign a statement saying he was accepting the money and relinquishing all future claims. But it turned out to be so inexpensive, and so low-key, that I just sent him the check and everything was bueno. It really restored my faith in humanity, actually. So here's to hoping that your goodness will be met by goodness in return.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 6:10 PM on June 7, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I haven't heard from the person yet. This has put things in perspective for me. The scratch seems minor to me, but it's not my car. Thanks for your input!
posted by parakeetdog at 8:12 AM on June 8, 2010

They probably will not contact you. Because they understand a bumper is meant to be scratched.

Next time, don't leave a note. Because someone will eventually take advantage of your over-honesty.
posted by L'OM at 10:05 AM on June 8, 2010

If they contact you, offer to pay out of pocket. If they start asking for anything over $200, tell them you are going through your insurance an d never speak directly with them again.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:49 PM on June 8, 2010

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