Hit & Running!
October 2, 2012 2:25 AM   Subscribe

Our parked car was involved in a Hit & Run accident. Their car was undrivable and abandoned at the scene. There are witnesses! Yay! The owner of the car claims to the detectives they did not hit our car. She lives a block away from us and works in our industry. Our Insurance company (AAA) is moving slowly. Now what? It's complicated. Snowflakes inside.

This is a two part question. Part Human Relations and part Law and Government.

The facts:

A newer, higher end brand and model car hit our parked car. Our neighbor witnessed the accident. Her car was not drivable afterwards. She spoke to our neighbor, seemed to be calling for help on her cell, he went to get pen and paper to get her insurance info - she disappeared and did not return to her vehicle, which was impounded by the police 4 hours later.

The registration for the car is in an adjacent neighborhood, but the car itself has a parking permit sticker for our neighborhood. Interwebs give us two different addresses for the owner - one in the adjacent neighborhood that matches the registration, one a block away from our house that likely matches the parking permit. Yes, the police have the info from the parking sticker.

The owner of the car went into the police station and claimed, she did not hit our car. We don't know if she has a lawyer.

Google has given us this woman's addresses, her business info, and Facebook.

We checked with the businesses on the corner about their surveillance video of the parking lot near the accident site - poor quality video shows someone resembling the owner of the car getting into a vehicle that matches the shape and color of the car that hit ours minutes before the accident, but the license plate is unclear. The parking sticker placement matches the car that hit ours. Another business may have better video, but the police and our insurance company will have to make a formal request for that.


We've casually been inquiring of people walking their dogs in the neighborhood, and identified someone who likely witnessed the exchange between the driver and our neighbor before she ran off.

Is it OK to put up signs asking for additional witnesses, which are needed at this time?

Additionally, it turns out this person works in our industry and holds a high executive position, where we are small business owners. Plus, whether she lives a block away or just up the hill in a different parking district, we still all go to the same market, gym, coffee shops, etc..

It's likely our paths have crossed, that we know people in common, or that she has been a customer of ours once or twice.

If she had just given our neighbor her insurance info, none of this legal stuff would have happened. Now, we have to pursue the criminal hit & run case if we want to get our car fixed under our uninsured motorist policy, or take this person to small claims court, since we only had basic liability on the car that was hit.

The damage is $4,000 to repair. Our car is worth between $4,000 and $5,000, depending on BlueBook and claims adjusters. Our car was the top of the line for its make and model year, but has high mileage.

We do not know what to do.

If this goes under our "uninsured motorist" coverage, our very good insurance company (with which we have full coverage for our second vehicle) will become our adversary.

When should we get a lawyer?

$4,000, with no physical injuries, seems not worth a lawyer. Yet, we are looking at a situation where our car has lost considerable value, regardless.

I'm tempted to paper the neighborhood with requests for witnesses, both so that she will see them, and that it will support our claim. That's the human relations part, and the law and government part.

If we have her insurance info, we won't need to press charges on the hit & run.

We've never been involved with a hit & run before. What is your experience and best advice?

Thank you.
posted by SockyMcSockyPants to Law & Government (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd get a lawyer. If nothing else, it shows intent, because it sounds like the person you are dealing with is a shyster. Yes, gather as much info as you can while people's memories are fresh but keep it neutral and non-prejudicial - you may want to consult your lawyer before you paper the neighborhood. Quietly build a case. Hand over what you have to a competent professional. This person has an asset that can cover your costs if their insurance does not cover them.

I wouldn't worry about seeing them again or meeting them. They're the one who is going to feel uncomfortable about this. They have a reputation to protect. They're in the wrong. You don't need to make this personal - just pursue it efficiently and above board, as is your right.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:54 AM on October 2, 2012

My guess is that she'd been drinking, and is terrified of a DUI.

The owner of the car went into the police station and claimed, she did not hit our car. We don't know if she has a lawyer.

I'd want to know more about this. Is she claiming the car was stolen? Obviously her car was at the scene and badly damaged. Might the police be willing to explain to you how cases like this typically proceed?
posted by jon1270 at 3:12 AM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was involved in a hit and run accident once. The driver was never found.

I pointed the police to a gas station attendant who witnessed the accident from afar. He backed up what I said (I was hit, and the driver left the scene), and then the police filed their report. All they needed was the one statement from the one witness. I gave their report number to the insurance company. They were not adversarial at all. My car was a mess -- it was very expensive for the insurance company -- but it was repaired right away without any hassle. My insurance rates didn't go up.

So I guess I wonder, why are you doing all this extra sleuthing, instead of just handing it off to the police and then the insurance company? What makes it necessary? Why not just let the police handle the he-said, she-said?
posted by Houstonian at 3:13 AM on October 2, 2012 [14 favorites]

This seems, legally (though IANAL), like a non-issue since you have an actual witness - Get an affidavit from your neighbor, open-and-shut.

Socially, I would also say it seems like a non-issue since she hit your car, fled the scene, and lied to police about it. Do you know why someone would do that? Hint: To avoid a DUI.

Throw her under the bus, get your money, and don't lose a moment's sleep that you haven't done the "right" thing. She needs to learn what it means to act as a responsible adult, you don't need to take a loss in the process of her getting that lesson.
posted by pla at 3:45 AM on October 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is what police and courts (and, to a lesser account, insurance companies) are for: mediating disputes between persons. It sounds like you have an enormous amount of evidence that this woman hit your car -- let the police and insurance companies do their thing and stay above the fray. Yes, they move slowly. But this is not your problem with her, it is your problem with the insurance company. Call them every day and let them deal with cops and witnesses and making enemies. It's what they do in these situations.
posted by Etrigan at 3:59 AM on October 2, 2012 [8 favorites]

I'm curious about why you say If we have her insurance info, we won't need to press charges on the hit & run. If the police and your insurance company have the registration details of her car, won't they have already checked her insurance as well?
posted by Azara at 5:20 AM on October 2, 2012

I had a hit and run once, and all I needed to do was (1) contact the police (2) contact my insurance and (3) go to a body shop. Very simple.

I'd be calling your insurance agent a lot. Keep asking them about the process and what can be done to expedite it. Your insurance company is supposed to be on your side here, they should be fixing your car or getting you cash and then be worrying about going after this other person. If you're looking for more $ than the car is worth (it doesn't matter if it was top of the line for its make, model and year) then you're going to need to get a lawyer.

Due to budget constraints many cities are beginning to not investigate hit and runs unless there are injuries, but it helps to be pushy.
posted by zombieApoc at 5:49 AM on October 2, 2012

Is your insurance company fixing your car? To me that would be all that matters. It is up to the police and the insurance company whether they want to pursue charges and lawsuits against the car owner. As long as your car gets fixed I don't see what else you need to get out of it.
posted by JJ86 at 5:49 AM on October 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

I guess I also don't understand the part where you have to prove who hit you and why to your insurance company, and why you would become adversarial to them under any of the details of what happened here.

I once parked my car in a nearby lot while I went to work from 9 to 5. It was right by the entrance of the lot, and when I left for the day, I discovered the rear of the car had been totally trashed, probably by someone taking the corner too tightly.

I had no idea who had done it, could supply no evidence. Simply told the insurance company that I had been parked, it was a hit and run, and I had no further details.

They handled it (except for the deductible) and that was that.
posted by instead of three wishes at 6:33 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

How do you know that the driver is uninsured? You have a police report (they impounded the vehicle) and if she's claimed her vehicle, then she had to show proof of insurance.

Call the police and get a police report with all of the information.

File your claim with your insurance and give them all the information that you have on the other person/vehicle. Now it's their problem! They'll pursue the rest of the case and may end up subrogating the claim to the other driver's insurance.

You can sue her in small claims court for the cost of your deductable, a rental car and whatever else your expenses are. The burden of proof in small claims court is a preponderance of the evidence. You've got that in spades. A witness, the vehicle registered to her, a video, she's cooked.

Done and done.

Your insurance company should bend over backwards to help you on this. If they don't, get a new insurance company so that next time, you don't stress so much.

I have State Farm and they're great. I got hit by someone who had Progressive and they were great to deal with too.

The other option is to contact the police, get a copy of the police report and find out this woman's name, and her insurance company and make your claim through them.

Either way, you shouldn't be out of pocket for anything.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:14 AM on October 2, 2012

Mod note: Folks, must answer the question being asked and don't start a "this is a good time for blackmail" derail. OP is not anon, you can MeMail them your blackmail suggestions, it's derailing here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:23 AM on October 2, 2012

You say your insurance company is moving slowly, but are they fixing your car (or cutting you a check for the value of what sounds like a totaled car)? Why do you need additional witnesses? Has the police or insurance company been asking you for the information of additional witnesses?

I agree with the people above me, I don't understand why you need to prove who hit you or why you think your insurance company is going to be adversarial to you in this situation. If they have the plate and the registration, they will find this person's insurance. Your insurance company can look that up in two seconds. Additionally, have you spoken with your insurance company and did they tell you that pursuant to your policy, if this driver was actually uninsured, that *you* need to hire an attorney to go after this person for damages? It seems more likely that this will result in subrogation. (This is what my insurance company did, after my car was hit by an uninsured motorist, after paying to have it repaired).

And how do you deal with this person? Not by blackmailing them or attempting to public shame them by posting signs all over the neighborhood. Keep in mind this person is screwed. She hit a parked car, then fled the scene of the accident thus committing a crime, and had her car impounded by the police. If she avoids criminal charges (maybe it was a DUI situation, who knows), she's still going to be paying high insurance premiums for a long time.
posted by inertia at 7:34 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I got hit by someone who didn't run. They just hit my car, and parked it... still hitting my car. We can argue how stupid they are later.

I called the police, they sent in a report, I took pictures of the car hitting mine and my insurance company handled the rest with her insurance.

This is the EXACT reason you have an insurance agent - to do all this footwork bullshit paper chasing sleuthing.
posted by jerseygirl at 7:37 AM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Get a copy of any police reports on the subject. In the words of Mike Birbiglia, accident reports are like homework for police, and not every policeman is good at his homework. (He was given fault for an accident based on a police report that basically said that he hit his own car.. with his car.)

Anyway, review what any police and detectives have written that they can release to you, and be prepared to challenge their version of the facts, should it come to that-- for all you know, the woman who hit your car is the Mayor's mistress or whatnot. Sure, it's unlikely-- the point is to find out now rather than be surprised later.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:53 AM on October 2, 2012

Response by poster: We already called the supervisor with our insurance company to request a new claims agent.

YES, our current agent sucks and is doing zilch to help us, hence this question!

Good to know we need a new claims agent.

Thanks everyone.

PS - No one has contacted me via memail about blackmail opportunities. This is likely for the best!
posted by SockyMcSockyPants at 10:04 AM on October 2, 2012

« Older santa baby   |   Does anyone have experience of Core Process... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.