What do you do when you're hit by someone without a driver's license or insurance?
November 13, 2011 2:19 PM   Subscribe

My car was rear ended last night and it's starting to look like the guy who hit me does not have a driver's license or insurance. So I'm not really sure what my next move is.

Some guy slammed into me on the freeway last night when traffic came to a stop. Considering he hit me at a decent speed, the damage to my car (2010 Honda Fit) isn't all that severe. The bumper has some pretty bad cosmetic damage but is otherwise in one piece. Aside from that, the back hatchback door thingy that opens up is dented but not all that badly.

Anyway, we exchanged info but the guy said he didn't have his driver's license on him, just a U.S. Passport. So I wrote down his name and his Passport number, figuring that was better than nothing. He showed me his insurance info, which I also copied down. But right before giving it back to him, I noticed that the policy issue date was sometime in May 2010, leading me to later suspect that the policy has expired. In hindsight, I also noticed that he held onto the paper when I was copying down the info, almost as if to lessen the chances that I would notice it might be expired. Anyway, it's possible I'm reading too much into this, but at this point I'm assuming there's a very good chance this guy doesn't have a driver's license OR insurance.

He seemed apologetic about everything and said he would be more than willing to just pay me for the damage. As of now, I'm planning on getting an estimate on the damage tomorrow morning to see what's what but beyond that, I'm not really sure what to do.

I'm more than happy to just take the guy's money to get this fixed if he'll play ball. I don't really feel any inherent need to get the insurance company or anyone else (police?) involved if I can otherwise get my car fixed, but I also want to protect myself. Especially if this guy ends up being a flake or says the damage was more expensive than he thought and can't pay me right away or whatever.

Does anyone have any experience with this or advice? I could really use some.

As of now, I have a photo of the front of his car from the accident scene, his license plate number, name and address and policy number from his insurance paperwork (which may be expired). He also gave me his phone number and said he would call me on Monday.

But that's it. No police report was filed and I haven't contacted either his insurance company or mine yet. I'm inclined to call my insurance company to see what they say, but I also don't want to scare this guy off if he's otherwise willing to play ball. It seems like he's motivated to pay me and not have any authorities involved but maybe I'm being naive.

I'm in Los Angeles, if that matters.
posted by dhammond to Law & Government (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In a similar situation I went to two repairs shops for quotes, choose the place I felt best about, and let the other driver know. They then went in person to pay upfront (I believe they left their cc in for in case it went over the estimate) and the other driver even picked me up from home and drove me to work when the repair took longer than expected. The repair shop was the one to insist on pre-payment, probably based on past experience. I think signed something that everything was paid in full, there would be no further claims. It was an old car and there were no injuries.

The previous time that happened the other driver paid after the repair but it didn't occur to me they may not pay, they were a neighbour.

Just act on it immediately, the longer you wait the less leverage you have. (Not reporting the accident may get you in trouble so you may be reluctant to report if they do not pay).
posted by saucysault at 2:29 PM on November 13, 2011

File a police report, ASAP.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:29 PM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

IAAL (in New York).

State automobile insurance codes vary all over the place. If you have no-fault" insurance in California (like in NY), you make a claim to your insurer, who takes care of the rest.

Many policies have an "uninsured driver" endorsement, which will pay at least part of your damages. Again, I don't know the California system.

As saucysaut says, you need to write everything down and gather all the papers, and then make your claim ASAP.
posted by KRS at 2:34 PM on November 13, 2011

I would always, always, always begin the process of filing a police report and opening a claim with your insurance company, unless the other driver was a family member or very close friend (i.e. you know where they live and can make them pay through extrajudicial means somehow). You're potentially screwing yourself by not at least filing a police report. Generally you can do this for 24 hours following an accident.

Without that, it's too easy to get drawn into a "he said / she said" situation, particularly if there's hidden damage and the bill turns out to be large, or the other guy just disappears, denies that they ever knew you, were in the car, etc. There are just a lot of things that can go squirrely. Plus, someone who is driving without a license or insurance isn't someone that I would tend to trust anyway.

File a police report first, to protect yourself. Then I'd figure out if you have no-fault coverage; the easiest way is probably just to call either your agent (if you have State Farm or one of the other companies that use local agents) tomorrow, or the customer service number. I'd lean towards the agent if you have one available. Ideally you want to find our what the repercussions might be on your future premium as a result of putting in the claim and letting them subrogate, versus dealing with the other driver directly. If there's no downside to you, let the insurance company and their lawyers deal with it. They have people who are paid to be the bad guy if things go badly; no reason for you to put yourself in that position.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:42 PM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

So when I got in an accident which was clearly not my fault my insurance told me to call the other person's insurance and file a claim with them first. If its entirely his fault (as a rear-ending is) then their insurance should handle this. Honestly in my case it was surprisingly easy to deal with the other person's insurance. I called them, they called their client to confirm events and he called they called me back asking me how we could get my car fixed. Outside of my first call to my insurance I never called my insurance again.

You don't need to file a claim with your insurance until they either contest the claim or he's not insured and you need to file a claim against your comprehensive or uninsured motorist.

Anyhoo, I'm not an expert in insurance, but I think your first great move right now is to call his insurance company and tell them you want to file a claim against this guys policy.

Note I have, in the past, forgotten to always update my insurance card in my car with the most recent copy. I don't think you can read that much into him having an older card.
posted by bitdamaged at 2:51 PM on November 13, 2011

I believe in California you don't need to file a police report unless someone was hurt or killed. However, you're supposed to file an SR-1 with the DMV (available at the DMV office, online or a CHP substation) within 10 days if there was more than $750 in damage. In theory if you don't submit the form, they could suspend your license, but because the cops weren't involved and presumably the other person may wish to avoid reporting it due to not having insurance they'll not so the DMV and they'll never know. If the person that hit you didn't' have insurance, they'll get busted for that but that's their problem. But the law clearly states you have to file this form. More info is available on the DMW's website.

I've unfortunately been in a similar situation (I've been rear ended in similar situations many times and only twice did the person hitting me have insurance). I called my insurance company after the accident and through subjugation, they took care of everything, including suing the uninsured motorist for the damages (including my uninsured motorist deductible). They won the judgement but they've not collected. After a year, they sent me a letter saying they are writing off their loss as a loss and would not expect getting their money back, but if they ever do, they'll send me my $500. In the accident where someone had insurance, I used subjugation and I was able to get my deductible back.

I prefer just having my insurance do the subjugation to save me time. After, all I've been paying them for years for just such a situation. I drop my car off at the body shop of my choice, I get a rental until it is fixed, and I get my car back in a few days. My insurance company has a vested interest in getting the money from the other driver or insurance company and my rates haven't gone up.
posted by birdherder at 2:53 PM on November 13, 2011

Yes, call the insurance company to get started. They can guide and advise you.

(I believe birdherder here: "after the accident and through subjugation" means subrogation.)

Just as a data point, my insurer sends me a new card every six months and I am NOT AN ORGANIZED ENOUGH PERSON to put a new insurance card in my wallet/car every six months. The policy number never changes. Last time I was in a fender bender, the other driver got freaked out because my card was three months expired (lucky her, a year before I was carrying around a five-years-expired card!). Anyway, I invited her to feel free to call the company and verify the policy was current, which she didn't, but I have to imagine I am not the only person who forgets to change over the cards.

But how it goes with his insurance isn't your problem; I would call your insurer and let your insurer handle the claim.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:59 PM on November 13, 2011

don't take the lack of obvious mechanical fault as a sign nothing is wrong - your powertrain could have been significantly affected by the impact/resistance and you'd not know unless a thorough and honest mechanic (i.e., not the insurer's guy) has it up on the lift.

1) file a police report
2) call your insurance company
3) take it to a mechanic that isn't beholden to the insurance company

Good luck!
posted by batmonkey at 3:35 PM on November 13, 2011

FILE A POLICE REPORT, IMMEDIATELY! Yeah, there's a very good chance he doesn't have a driver's license and/or it's been suspended, plus as you suspect he's probably uninsured. AND, at a guess, that license plate on his car you carefully took that picture of? I'd bet good money that plate does NOT belong on that car.....

(why yes, I WAS hit by an unlicensed, uninsured dude in a stolen car with a stolen plate last year, why do you ask?!? And my fun times with the body shop began pretty much exactly like your accident.....)
posted by easily confused at 4:09 PM on November 13, 2011

Best answer: Call your insurance company. This is what you pay them to deal with.

Good luck.
posted by herrtodd at 4:12 PM on November 13, 2011

File a police report and call your insurance. It's highly unlikely he got insurance w/o a license, and you can track him down through his passport info. And while his insurance might have expired--it's hard to get new tags in CA without proof of insurance. But I wouldn't sweat this too much. You know who he is and where to find him.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:23 PM on November 13, 2011

Did you agree to some sort of deal where you wouldn't contact his insurance company? Because if not then absolutely, call his insurance company right now and verify his coverage. When some clown side-swiped my car (while my wife was driving) we had to make a first effort to go through their insurance company. They eventually paid up but there were some delays getting the car inspected and then the check cut. No big deal for us other than annoyance - all cosmetic and I am not a person who worries about the look of my car.

But it certainly never went as fast as it should have, so dont delay in getting the process started. Specially not if the process may include discovering they don't really have coverage.
posted by phearlez at 4:50 PM on November 13, 2011

So when I got in an accident which was clearly not my fault my insurance told me to call the other person's insurance and file a claim with them first.

Your insurance company was being inexcusably lazy. You should always deal exclusively with your own insurance company, regardless of fault. The other guy's insurance company is always out to get you and to cheat you. Your insurance company might feel that way if the accident is your fault, but in a case like this, they're out to protect your interests and get you covered. If that isn't your insurance company's philosophy, they're doing a discredit to their industry's already paltry reputation.
posted by litnerd at 6:12 PM on November 13, 2011

We just had a similar experience, and our insurance company (Mercury) took care of everything because we had uninsured motorist coverage. They also told us -- explicitly, and repeatedly because we wanted to make sure we were clear on everything -- that this would not cause our rates to go up, because we were not found "at fault" in our accident. (Like you, we were rear-ended.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:13 PM on November 13, 2011

Your insurance company was being inexcusably lazy. You should always deal exclusively with your own insurance company, regardless of fault.

This is not necessarily true. Not all states work this way. I used to think this was true everywhere - it was in Florida - but when when we had someone sideswipe us in Virginia some months ago I called my insurance company. They told me that they could handle it for me if I so desired but then our deductible would apply. So I called the company for the folks who hit us and they eventually covered the entire estimated repair cost.

The other guy's insurance company is always out to get you and to cheat you.

This is dismissive of the professionalism of many people and unrealistic to boot. Insurance companies are regulated business and deal with an amount of money daily that makes whatever they are paying out on a single claim seem like pocket change. It is not in their interest to cheat or lie. They will most certainly endeavor to have general policies to reduce their total payout but it's more expensive to engage in deception on an individual basis.
posted by phearlez at 7:46 PM on November 13, 2011

Your insurance company was being inexcusably lazy. You should always deal exclusively with your own insurance company, regardless of fault.

Both insurance companies are equally out to screw you, the biggest issue is that once fault has been accepted then at least you know which one is stuck with the bill.

Here was my experience. I called my insurance (Progressive), he told me to file a claim with the other company and that I was free to file a claim with my insurance if that didn't work. I called the other company and gave my statement. Within an hour the other insurance company called me back and told me "My client said it was your fault.... Just kidding" he then let me know I could get my car fixed wherever I wanted but if I went through one of their "approved vendors" (or whatever they called them) it would be easier. He then gave me a claim number and a list of their vendors and also told me I was entitled to a rental car (didn't take one, used my bike). I popped the recommended shops into Yelp and picked one of the 3 body shops with 4.5 to 5 stars. Dropped my car off the next day, and got it back in 3 good as new.

I have no idea how this could have been easier going through my own insurance, except I would have had to pay my deductible. But if things got strange I always had the option to go back.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:18 PM on November 13, 2011

When my car was rear ended, the man who hit us gave us fake insurance information. We ended up having to pay the deductible for our car's repairs, but our insurance paid for the rest (over $8,000, as I recall).

Our insurance company tried to get the money out of the guy but eventually gave up. They said we could pursue it ourselves, if we wanted, to try to get our deductible back, but we figured we couldn't do anything they hadn't already done and didn't bother.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:22 PM on November 13, 2011

If you're a member of AAA, they'll put you in touch with body shops who won't scam you.
posted by brujita at 10:02 PM on November 13, 2011

I'm 90% sure that the insurance info in my friend's wallet expired sometime in 2009 - it's literally all the same info, my friend just forgets to replace the old piece of paper with an updated piece of paper. And no offense, but I'd hold on to it too - you could have grabbed it and kept it. I'm not sure you have enough evidence to support an inference that he has no DL or insurance.

Forgive me not knowing the law here, so I could be off base - but the guy is responsible and you know who he is, whether he has a license or insurance is kind of beside the point, no?

I will give you the advice my dad gave me once when I got hit by a guy who seemed super nice and willing to just take care of it - even nice people may change their mind and try to screw with you. You have to accept that risk if you go outside the police report/insurance system.
posted by mrs. taters at 6:18 AM on November 14, 2011

Response by poster: So, I ended up contacting AAA (my insurance provider) to explain the situation. They were very helpful and got back to me this morning to tell me that I was correct about this guy not having insurance. Fortunately, I have a decent uninsured motorist coverage and AAA is waiving my deductible, so I can just get the car fixed whenever/wherever I like and that they'll cover the whole thing. So aside from the hassle of having to do this, I'm pretty pleased with how easy the process was.

Anyway, thanks to all for the advice.
posted by dhammond at 11:06 AM on November 15, 2011

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