Car accident, his fault, going through insurance, no idea.
March 24, 2011 3:40 PM   Subscribe

I just got into a low-speed car accident in a parking lot. The kid who hit me jumped out and said "sorry, sorry, totally my fault, I wasn't paying attention." I got all his insurance info and his driver's license. Now what?

I've never actually "gone through insurance" for any sort of car-related mishap. We just bought this (used, but "certified pre-owned" yadda yadda) car in December, and I'm pretty pissed.

Funny thing is, I have no idea what to do next. I took his info, I gave him nothing. Do I need a police report, or do I just go to my dealer and get an estimate? Do I notify my insurance company and give them his information, or do I just call his insurance company?

This is in NJ.
posted by nevercalm to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is there damage? If so, I would take it in, get an estimate and give him the chance to just pay me. I've done that before and it worked out, but in the midwest not in NJ for whatever that's worth.
posted by telomere at 3:43 PM on March 24, 2011

First things first. Call your insurance agency and report this. There's a chance he may skate on you, and your uninsured motorist would cover it.

Next, contact his insurance agency and file a claim. Alternately, prior to that, you can go get an estimate (not from a dealer, from an actual shop) and give him the chance to pay for it outside of his insurance. You can always file a claim afterward.

A police report is nice, but not always necessary (and now, after the fact, you may not be able to get it).
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:44 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

You call your insurance company. NJ is a no-fault state, right?
posted by Ideefixe at 3:45 PM on March 24, 2011

Call your insurance company.
posted by The World Famous at 3:45 PM on March 24, 2011

Take pictures of the damage. Find a witness, if possible, and get his/her information. Call your insurance company and give them everything you've collected. The insurance company should be able to tell you if you need to file a police report.
posted by mewohu at 3:47 PM on March 24, 2011

In some places, the police won't even come to file a report if no one has been injured. Just call your insurance company and ask them - this is their job.
posted by gnutron at 3:49 PM on March 24, 2011

Nthing call your insurance company. They will handle contacting his insurance company, getting estimates, taking pictures, etc.
posted by cecic at 3:50 PM on March 24, 2011

If so, I would take it in, get an estimate and give him the chance to just pay me. I've done that before and it worked out

On the flip side, you can read through the AskMe archives and find many examples where this didn't work out, and the person wished they had gone through insurance instead.
posted by grouse at 3:50 PM on March 24, 2011

nthing calling your insurance company. You're paying for this service as part of your your premium. Even in a non-no-fault state, your insurance company takes the weight off your shoulders so that your car gets fixed as quickly and efficiently as possible, regardless of where the money comes from.
posted by AzraelBrown at 3:54 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I asked him flat out whether he wanted to go the cash route, and he said that he couldn't afford it, and it would have to go through his insurance.

Too late for witnesses, and I thought about taking pictures, but was too busy worrying about how I was gonna tell my wife.....

Will this raise my rate, even though it's not my fault?
posted by nevercalm at 3:54 PM on March 24, 2011

Will this raise my rate, even though it's not my fault?

posted by The World Famous at 3:55 PM on March 24, 2011

Will this raise my rate, even though it's not my fault?

Some people say it will.
I'm not sure if it depends on your insurance company.
I was in two accidents a few years ago - one was my fault and the other wasn't. My insurance never went up.
posted by KogeLiz at 3:57 PM on March 24, 2011

Oh, and yes, there was pretty minimal damage to my car...there's a plastic element at the bottom of the rear passenger door that will need to be replaced. No structural damage, it doesn't seem, and he got some cheesy bright yellow paint on my rim which might just buff out.

On his car, he basically destroyed his whole front bumper. They make these plastic bumpers to basically explode on contact, I guess. Go Subaru Outback!
posted by nevercalm at 3:57 PM on March 24, 2011

Report it to your insurance company, get your car fixed if you want, and forget about it. Your insurance carrier will file a claim if necessary. This is why you pay for car insurance. Trust me, those heartless sharks will eat their own young to make sure that they (and by association, you) pay nothing and get as much as possible from a liable party.

As for your rates, if they do raise them (and its been determined not your fault), raise a stink about it. They may back down. Change companies if they dont.
posted by elendil71 at 3:59 PM on March 24, 2011

On the flip side, you can read through the AskMe archives and find many examples where this didn't work out, and the person wished they had gone through insurance instead.

Righto, and that does seem to be the consensus in this thread as well. I suppose that might make more sense at the end of the day if delaying for a business week or so to give the other party the chance to pay would prevent filing a claim in the future. Is that the case? I am honestly unfamiliar with NJ laws on this subject. I believe that in WI it's different or was when it happened to me. Or perhaps it wasn't at all and I just lucked out with having the other party follow through and was thus able to skip the paperwork and avoid any potential rate increases for either side (which it sounds like isn't an issue in NJ it being no fault and all) .
posted by telomere at 3:59 PM on March 24, 2011

The cash route is right out, he can't pay it and told me that he had to use insurance.
posted by nevercalm at 4:00 PM on March 24, 2011

I've been in several accidents. Nothing major, but even little accidents can cause a decent amount of damage. For the most part the way it works is pretty standard. Call your insurance company. They will ask for a recorded statement as to what happened. They will get all the info of the other driver. They will then contact the other driver and their insurance company. Getting statements and other info from them. As long as the other driver is at fault you shouldn't have to pay anything and the other driver's insurance should pay for it all. And your insurance shouldn't be raised if you're not at fault. On the other hand, if you're found at fault you would be responsible for a deductible which is usually anywhere from $500 to $1500. Please know...just because he said it was his fault then and there, doesn't mean that's what he'll say to his insurance company and your insurance company. So you never know what will happen. Again worst case scenario is you pay your deductible and your premium could rise. The insurance companies always assess the damage on the cars in order to help determine who's at fault. If the damage and the stories match then there's no problems. Good luck.
posted by ljs30 at 4:12 PM on March 24, 2011

Different country, different laws, etc. but the last time someone rear-ended my car I had to make a police report because the damage was above a certain dollar value, and no repair place will touch your car without that report.

They wanted a ton of details for the police report. Thankfully I got the other guy's phone number and he was cooperative enough to give me his address, insurance info, vehicle info, etc. I did take photos of the damage and street corner so I knew the exact time and place. Next time this happens I'm just going to take a photo of the other person's license and insurance. Also I took home a blank accident report and I'm keeping it in the car so I know what else I'll need.

As far as insurance, I chose not to contact his insurer directly, because I have heard that it's a huge pain in the ass, and they will do everything they can to not pay you because you're not their client. I just got the police report, and then contacted my insurance company, they set me up with a repair shop, and then they handled the payment.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:14 PM on March 24, 2011

I actually took a photo of his insurance card as well as his license. I'm going to call my ins co tomorrow morning. Thanks all!
posted by nevercalm at 4:28 PM on March 24, 2011

Will this raise my rate, even though it's not my fault?

It depends, but likely no. You said you've never had to go through this before. Typically one claim isn't enough to bump rates up.*

* - does not apply if you have had a claim or driving infractions in the past.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:50 PM on March 24, 2011

there's a plastic element at the bottom of the rear passenger door that will need to be replaced.

You would be amazed how much these things can cost—often the company that does the repair, esp. if it's a company that directly bills the other person's insurance company, will have to do due diligence that includes tearing apart whatever was damaged and making sure underlying structures also weren't damaged. So don't assume that it's just going to be a minor expense.

I would call your insurance company, describe the accident to them in detail so that you're covered in the event that the other guy makes up some story later, double-check your deductible with them, and see what they recommend doing. I have a friend whose car was in a small accident like this where someone ran straight into him and damaged some of the plastic/finish on the car, and his deductible was high enough that his insurance company basically hinted that he'd do better to go directly through the other person's insurance company to get the repair made. And then, when the other insurance company made a mistake that would've meant denying payment for my friend's claim, he just called his insurance company and his claims representative called the other claims representative and sorted it all out. He never had to pay a cent, apart from a few bucks' insurance on the rental he had for a few days.

From my own experience, the way things seem to go on something like this is, once you call the other person's insurance company, they'll likely give you a list of shops they work with where you can get an estimate/body work done. Once you choose a place, let that insurance company know before going over there—you can go in blind and be fine, but it seems like things go smoother if they know why you're coming (i.e., what sort of damage they'll be looking for) and who sent you over beforehand. Once you get the estimate done, they'll fax it to the insurance company. The insurance company should then—though it seems that they don't always—let you know it's OK to make an appointment to get it fixed, arrange for a rental, etc.

But yeah, your insurance company can help you with all of this. Call them.
posted by limeonaire at 7:01 PM on March 24, 2011

You may want to check to see if you can file a police report online. I know in colorado springs (I know, nowhere near where you are, just an example) the cops won't even come out unless you can't move the vehicle or it's blocking traffic. They referred me to filing a police report online. This way you have it documented for the insurance company.
posted by TheBones at 7:56 PM on March 24, 2011

Someone hit my parked car a while back and I Asked Metafilter about it. You might want to read people's replies to my question as well, you might find them helpful.

All in all it wasn't that big of a deal for me. I called my insurance company, then I called theirs (Progressive). Progressive gave me an address to drop my car off, and they had a loaner/rental car waiting for me. I drove the loaner for 4-5 days and then they called me and told me to come get my car. When I picked it up, my old car was as good as new. I didn't pay them or anyone else a nickel. I was very glad that they were able to handle it with so little hassle.
posted by Vorteks at 7:06 AM on March 25, 2011

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