Other driver suggested settling outside insurance, now ignoring me.
February 8, 2013 3:31 PM   Subscribe

I rear-ended someone last month while on vacation and the other party, an elderly couple, suggested not involving insurance. The police were not called. After supplying an initial estimate that I agreed to pay, they suddenly realized that they are entitled to a car rental, too, and after I agreed to that they stopped answering their phone and email. What now?

-They got an initial estimate that seemed a bit high, then got a second one that was 50% higher, so I suggested that I pay the initial estimate, to the body shop, in exchange for a waiver signed by them. Their only reply, after a few days, is that it suddenly dawned on them that they'll need me to pay for a car rental too for the x or even x+1 days of the repair, no estimate attached and no comment on the other stuff.

-They went to the initial body shop because by their admission they've brought their car there before, repeatedly. I also ran a preliminary VIN check on their car and while I can't see the nature of the records without paying a hefty fee, they have nearly two dozen for a relatively late model car. (A high number of records can mean anything, but may indicate the number of accidents reported).

-Basically I just haven't read anything on askme where the person paid for anything besides the repair estimate, though I am definitely planning to cover the rental. However, I'm not sure I can afford a bunch of open-ended costs that they might suddenly realize they need paid for. Not to mention, I called the body shop and they said they are perfectly willing to pick up and drop off their customers.

-Worst of all: they've stopped communicating. I feel that I assertively laid down terms but emphasized that I was open to discussion, asked them repeatedly to phone, have tried phoning them, and they are not answering. I'm not sure if I scared them off by trying to pin down a number instead of saying "Sure, I'll pay for any numbers you come up with!"

I'm reading horror stories on askme (like this one: http://ask.metafilter.com/123079/Paying-out-of-pocket-and-preventing-future-involvement-of-car-insurance-co#1759460) and the rest of the internet about people taking the money and making claims and reports anyway, or even worse, claiming medical problems.

How do I proceed here? Keep emailing and calling? Get insurance involved stat before they do? (If possible I'd like to talk to my insurance, but I'm afraid that any inquiry at all will be considered a claim.) This is in California.

Throwaway email: insurancefilter@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (11 answers total)
Insurance is your best option. This kind of thing might work if you ding your neighbor's car with your door, but anything involving distance or unknown people -- that's why you have insurance.
posted by barnone at 3:48 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've had this happen to me when I lived in California - in a borrowed car no less! I paid for the first estimate they got, in exchange they signed a waiver including a confirmation that there was no medical issues arising from the accident (it was a rear ended fender bender - and my fault).

For me - it was not about sweating the final cost of repair, but getting them sign off on the waiver. I also made it as easy as I could for them - did not dispute the estimate at all. In your case - I think its less of an issue of scaring them off, but making them feel like its a hassle to deal with you, and having it be easier to deal with the isurance company.

You have to weigh the pro's and con's of being fully amenable - but I just wanted to get it resolved and behind me. I would reach out to them - ask them what would work best for them and settle right then and there.
posted by helmutdog at 3:54 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

You rear-ended them, and now you're stalking them through their bodyshop and VIN number, NEITHER of which has anything to do with this..... YOU hit THEM, and any previous accidents they may have been in are immaterial. (And how in heaven's name do you even HAVE access to their car's VIN number and records?!?)

They are perfectly justified in wanting a rental car during the entire time their car is not available for them to drive, not just while they're dropping it off and picking it up at the bodyshop: if the body work takes three days or three weeks, they're entitled to a vehicle for the FULL time their car is in the shop. The fact that the bodyshop might pick people up is, like their previous number of accidents, immaterial. (I just had to get my own car fixed after I was rammed by someone texting on her phone; it took two weeks..... are you saying I should only have gotten a rental for the day I dropped mine off and the day I picked it back up? What are people supposed to do inbetween those two days, sit at home?!?)

This sort of thing is why, unless it's extremely minor, there should be both a police report and an insurance report...... At this point, yes, call your insurance company, maybe you can still limit the cost.
posted by easily confused at 4:14 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and you "assertively laid down terms"..... you're the supplicant here, not them: it's up to them to accept or deny any offer you make. And they certainly don't have to take the lowest estimate!
posted by easily confused at 4:18 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mod note: From the OP:
The other party finally emailed me and said the body shop wants me to pay in person in full with ID, and also that they think I should be at the rental car place in person. No comment on the waiver still.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:19 PM on February 8, 2013

Man, just call your insurance company. You don't (and shouldn't have to) handle all this stuff. That's what they're there for.
posted by downing street memo at 4:53 PM on February 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

Um. Don't pay anything until you get them to sign the waiver, obviously. Why don't you have them meet you in person at the body shop with waiver in hand (this should include waiving rights for any medical expenses and any additional car expenses beyond $x for the body shop and $y for the rental). If they won't sign, insurance.

If this sounds like too much work, insurance.
posted by zug at 5:05 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

You should go through your insurance, but if you don't, yes, be sure they sign a waiver. And since you're paying, I don't think it's unreasonable to question the cost. I'd ask to take the car to a shop I trusted and get their estimate too. Should you pay for a rental? Well, your insurance probably would (?). I think if you are going to pay for one out of pocket it should be for a specific previously agreed-upon number of days only. And don't rust these people! Even people with the best of intentions can end up screwing you over in a situation like this when things don't go as planned.

As to why the number of past accidents is important (as I think may have crossed your mind) scam artists! Just because they are "an elderly couple" doesn't mean they are fine, upstanding citizens. They could be doing this on purpose all the time - think about the circumstances of the accident, and how quickly they came up with this plan. What does your gut say? Either way, insurance is your best bet, especially because a car rental can be a significant expense on top of everything else, but however you proceed, make sure to cover your ass. Obviously, the car rental should not be in your name - they pay it on their credit card, (and use their own choice of insurance), you reimburse them. You don't want to be accepting any further liability.
posted by catatethebird at 5:11 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is why everytime people ask about whether they should handle it outside of insurance, I say no. This is what insurance is for.
posted by empath at 8:35 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I also think the number of previous trips to the body shop should be a warning sign. Although to me it doesn't say "scam artist" it says "old person who shouldn't be driving." Rear ending someone is always the fault of the car doing the hitting, but was it completely your fault, or did they do something unexpected and/or dangerous? They may to be handling this privately because they don't want the insurance company/family to know that they've gotten into another accident.

And perhaps I live in a different universe than others, but I would never automatically notify my insurance company -- an excellent one, by the way -- unless there were a police report or I couldn't afford to settle it privately. Your insurance company is not your friend, there to make things easier for you over the little bumps in life. Your insurance company wants to get as much money as possible from you, because the purpose of insurance companies is to MAKE A PROFIT. A claim, any claim, will probably raise your premium and definitely change the category you are listed in. It takes years for a claim to drop off your insurance company record.
posted by kestralwing at 4:01 AM on February 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

The accident was YOUR fault, and THEY suggested not going through insurance?
Yeah, they are hiding something. Maybe they don't have insurance and don't want to be reported to the state. Or worse yet, since they are elderly, perhaps they are no longer licensed to drive. In which case you wouldn't be 100% responsible for damages since they should have never been on the road to begin with.

The number of past accidents doesn't tell us anything definitely, but is a good indicator that they probably shouldn't be driving, and may well have had license suspended or revoked already.

I wouldn't think scam artist unless the body shop is in on the scam - especially since they want you to pay the shop directly.

To other posters - the VIN is probably on the body shop estimate, which they presumably gave him.

My suggestion is to send one final email - tell them what you are willing to cover (initial estimate plus rental) in exchange for full waiver. Give a deadline. Unless you think your insurance premiums will go up by a lot more than you will end up paying out of pocket for this accident, stop jumping through their hoops. If they don't meet the deadline for providing the waiver and starting repairs on the car, call your insurance and let them handle it.
posted by trivia genius at 11:47 AM on February 9, 2013

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