Car accident and no police report.
June 28, 2010 10:45 AM   Subscribe

I was rear-ended this weekend and decided not to call the cops to file a report. There's very little damage to my bumper, but I still have some questions about what, if anything, I should do.

I had started to pull out onto a somewhat busy street (it was one of those merger lanes where you're not required to stop if traffic is clear) but then I saw a car coming that I hadn't seen before. I stopped, but the guy behind me kept going as if I hadn't. It felt like he hit me pretty hard, but I figure he could've only been going so fast considering he'd been stopped before and only had a few feet to accelerate before hitting me. Still, it was hard enough that his front bumper was dented and his airbags deployed. My bumper only had a tiny crack and I felt really bad for the guy (his arms were scraped up in a few places from the airbag) so I decided just to get his phone number and leave it at that. I was somewhat shaken and I could tell he was too, so it was one of those situations where I couldn't really think clearly about what you're "supposed" to do. He gave me two phone numbers and the company he purchased his insurance through (he said he didn't know who his actual provider was, since he had gone through a company called Collier Craddock to purchase it for him). A google search for the company doesn't pull up much, but I did find a company in my city called Collier Insurance who seems to provide a similar service.

It's difficult for me to really figure out how hard I was hit. My boyfriend was driving my car later that day and it sounded "louder" that usual (there was a sort of deep vibrating noise at certain speeds). I was in the back seat and heard it too, but when I drove it last night and this morning, it didn't really sound much different than usual. I hate going to the mechanic because I feel like they're always going to find something wrong, and I don't know enough about cars to know if they're exaggerating/lying.

My questions are: Could there be unseen damage to my car from being hit from behind at this speed? Should I get it looked at? And if there is something wrong, do I even have any recourse without a police report?

Sorry for the rambling. I'm just not sure what information might be pertinent. I'm in TN, and obviously you are not my lawyer or my mechanic. Thanks for the help.
posted by a.steele to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm sorry for your accident. I would definitely get the car inspected. It shouldn't cost you anything for that, and they may well find hidden damage. I was rear-ended once, and the car looked just fine from the outside with a little dent on the bumper. It turned out you couldn't actually open or close the trunk and there were some larger body issues.

This type of situation is what insurance is for. In some states police reports aren't required unless the damage exceeds a certain amount. You may also be able to file one by mail after the fact (your location in TN makes a difference here).
posted by handful of rain at 10:48 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

He didn't know who his insurance provider was? Your state does not require you to have your insurance information in the car at all times?
posted by halfguard at 10:49 AM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

So I had a recent accident that was the other fellows fault (pretty clearly, in your case a rear ending is pretty much as cut and dry as it gets).

My insurance (I have comprehensive) told me to file a claim with the other person's insurance, which I did. Called them and told them the story, they said they would check it out with their client.

They called me back in about 2-3 hours told me that their client had validated the events and how would I like to get my car fixed and it went from there.

Bizarrely easy experience.
posted by bitdamaged at 10:53 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

If his airbags deployed he will need to talk to his insurance company. A lot of hoops to jump through to get his car repaired after both bags deploy. I would call my insurance agent and ask her advice. You may need to file a police report in the event his company is claiming from yours. Or if you car is damaged in any unforeseen way.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:53 AM on June 28, 2010

It depends on where in TN this happened (we're in the Crossville area) but in many places the police won't come out if there was no injury. Elsewhere, they come out for any touch of car to car. Also, as you well know, TN requires you to carry proof of insurance at all times. Next time (let's hope it's a long way off) make sure you get current insurance info before you leave the scene and, if none can be provided, call the police to make a report.

Try to track down his insurance. Call the number(s) he gave you and get him to tell you who his carrier is. Remind him of the TN insurance laws. If he does not cooperate, call the business line of the police in the location of the accident ask them for help in tracking him down. If you can get his insurance coverage info, call his carrier and file a telephone claim. They might know him well and just send you to their repair facility.

Lastly, yes you do need to get it looked at. There are all kinds of things under the skin and under the car that could later be a problem. At least know where you stand now. "I hate going to the mechanic because I feel like they're always going to find something wrong" Would rather a mechanic found it now, or you find it some dark night on I-40? Get it looked at.
posted by Old Geezer at 11:07 AM on June 28, 2010

Best answer: Could there be unseen damage to my car from being hit from behind at this speed?

Definitely, yes. This happened to my car in a much lower-speed rear-ending (nobody's airbags deployed) than in your case, and both the insurance adjuster and the first body shop I took the car to didn't even notice.

Call him and get the information you should have gotten at the scene, call his insurance company, etc. There is normally not a need to file a police report in order to get reimbursed in this sort of situation assuming he doesn't decide to try to screw you.
posted by phoenixy at 11:08 AM on June 28, 2010

When you have even low speed accidents, your car may look fine but it could be a little wracked...I had someone BACK into me in the middle of the street (he was not looking, and trying to get back to a parking garage) and altho there wasn't a mark on the car, my passenger door never shut correctly again.
posted by nevercalm at 11:15 AM on June 28, 2010

If his airbags deployed he will need to talk to his insurance company. A lot of hoops to jump through to get his car repaired after both bags deploy. I would call my insurance agent and ask her advice.

Only if he's making an insurance claim. My husband rolled our car into a cement post (don't ask) and deployed both airbags. We paid the repair out of pocket (no comprehensive) and that was that. Certainly no "hoops" other than finding a shop to do the work for a reasonable price.
posted by anastasiav at 11:17 AM on June 28, 2010

Sorry to hear about the accident. I wholeheartedly second getting the car inspected for unseen damage. I would suppose that whatever they put in there to absorb the energy of a crash (usually styrofoam) might be compromised and not perform adequately if, God forbid, there were to be a next time. You make no mention of injury to yourself but also pls be on the lookout for symptoms of whiplash. IANAD but if he hit you so hard that his airbags deployed there is a possibility of it. It's great for a human relations point of view that you are trying to be nice to the guy but in situations like these you have to be ultimately selfish.
posted by carlsdad at 11:34 AM on June 28, 2010

Yes, you should definitely have the car looked at. I was rear-ended going at a relatively low speed (no airbags) a few years ago, with the other car going almost completely under my bumper. There was only a minor scuff on my bumper. Upon further inspection by professionals, it was revealed that the entire exhaust system under the car, including the muffler, had been fractured and knocked loose. It cost $1200 to fix (which the other party's insurance thankfully paid).

Get his insurance info (unless you don't mind footing the bill yourself) and get your car to a repair shop you trust. FWIW, I didn't notify police as there were no injuries.
posted by geeky at 12:10 PM on June 28, 2010

Could there be unseen damage to my car from being hit from behind at this speed?

Yes. I got rear ended by a cement truck, and while it looked like my bumper was slightly creased, in actuality the rear floor pan had folded up and bent my spare tire in half.
posted by electroboy at 12:26 PM on June 28, 2010

My wife was rear-ended a few months ago. The damage wasn't bad, but it was visible. The person owned up to fault, apologized, and her father showed up and urged her not to go through insurance. Against my advice, my wife agreed, and I agreed to stay out of it. A police officer showed up, but no report was filed due to their being no physical injury and minimal property damage.

It has been two months, and here's what has occurred since:

1. Weeks of phone calls and text messages to the person who hit her; the first time, she was hung up on, and then texted back "who is this?" and when my wife told her who it was, she stopped answering or returning texts.

2. Weeks of phone calls from the father, first admitting fault, then offering to pay for everything (as he had done on-site), then claiming personal tragedy was interfering, then pushing back on the estimates, then saying that "too much time has passed, legally I only owe you $100 now" and eventually getting really scary-sounding (my wife felt threatened, and began to worry, because "he knows our address.")

3. Once she felt threatened, she asked me to get involved, and we gathered up our evidence -- which includes pictures from the scene and after, estimates from two body shops that are similar in price, and lots of voicemails, including the one in which the father admits his daughter was at fault and that he'll cover everything financially (happy to have that!), her DL# and get the idea.

4. I then contacted our insurance company, confirmed that letting two months pass would not impact our ability to deal with this through insurance.

5. I contacted the father, and gave him one last chance to show up at the body shop and pay for the damage. Rather than agree, he repeatedly tried to talk me into accepting $400 cash (the damage is approximately $1200) and having the work done at a place he had picked because he has "connections." I thanked him for his time, let him know we'd go ahead and deal with it through insurance, and hung up.

In short, as of step 3, we did what we should have done from the get-go. So should you. This is not the first time I've been through this, and I know other people who have, and nobody in our experience who suggests skipping insurance company involvement ends up making things whole without us having to get insurance companies involved later, or suing them directly. Most of the time it turns out they had no insurance.


1. Get the estimate, right away.
2. Get your insurance company on the phone, and find out what else they'd need for the claim, then get that.
3. If you feel like it, give them one chance to make things whole, otherwise move to insurance.

The thing is, if there's hidden damage, the estimate goes up -- and they might balk at that. That's one of the reasons dealing through insurance companies is better, because they'll make you whole regardless of what the estimate turns out to be. Hidden damage is possible and you don't want to have to call 'em and say "remember that $x you gave me? turns out I need $y."
posted by davejay at 2:08 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice, everyone. I guess I had no idea what a huge deal this could potentially be. I've already talked to him and he gave me the name and number of his insurance agent, so thankfully he's being cooperative. I'm so glad I asked this question instead of just letting it go!

One more follow up question if you're still reading: Should I call his insurance company immediately, or after I've gotten an estimate on the damages (assuming it's more than just cosmetic repairs)?

Thanks so much, again. All your answers have been super-helpful, even the ones I didn't mark "best."
posted by a.steele at 2:39 PM on June 28, 2010

Best answer: I am, unfortunately, becoming an expert on getting hit (my car is in the shop now, as a matter of fact, after someone backed into me in a parking garage.)

You should not get the estimate. You should immediately call his insurance company to file a claim. They will investigate, and if they determine their insured is at fault (which he will be, since he backed in to you), then they will, in all likelihood, arrange to have your car seen by an adjuster who will write up an estimate (this has been my experience twice with accidents in TN).

Policies will vary, but my experience has been that his insurance company may either a) have a list of preferred shops with whom they work directly or b) have no preferred shops and let you take it wherever, or some combination of the two. If possible you want to take it to a shop that has a track record of dealing with insurance claims, because then, if they discover hidden damage, they will work directly with the insurance company for an adjusted claim, and the insurance company will pay the shop directly for any overage.

In my last three claims (oy!) the at fault's party's insurance has given me a check for the original estimate amount, which I then signed over to the shop.

Just as an example, I took my car in this morning, and a few hours later the shop called me to let me know they had contacted the insurance company for a revised estimate, because even though the damage seemed superficial to the eye, they found more when they took the car apart.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 2:59 PM on June 28, 2010

To clarify my previous comment--his insurance company is going to want their own estimate regardless, so there is no point in you doing anything yourself.

(and I see I'm projecting my own experience onto you--you got rear-ended, not backed-into!)
posted by DiscourseMarker at 3:03 PM on June 28, 2010

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