Minor car accident - question about insurance claim & responsibility
February 25, 2013 12:28 PM   Subscribe

I was in what I think was a fender bender on Saturday, and have a question about the insurance process / responsibility. This was near Boston, MA if it matters.

On Saturday morning, I was involved in a minor car accident. I was driving down a side street, and a car pulled out a driveway on my right hand side and made to turn left. This car and mine 'brushed' past each other (in quotes because we didn't hit each other head on, but we did make contact) - I have some damage and paint scratches across the drivers side back door, and the other car has some along the drivers side front fender.

The instant i felt the impact, I stopped the car at the side of the road, and got out and went towards the other car. At the same time, the driver of the other car did also , and started yelling "Didn't you see me coming out? what were you thinking of". I hadn't seen him, and said so, and apologized. We exchanged name and numbers, I apologized again, we both drove away. Note he made no apology or said anything after the initial statement, and telling me his name/number. Despite the fact that I was going down a straight road, and he was coming out of a driveway.

Here's my question: if he files a claim, does that mean I am responsible? Should I therefore file a claim first?
I do think I am partially responsible (I didnt see him pulling out of the driveway), but I think he is too - he didnt see me coming down a straight road. I dont want to be stuck bearing the full amount of the claim (including damage to my own car). His lack of apology was something I realized only later, as I was a tiny bit shaken at the time, but I wonder if my apologizing first somehow put me on the defensive where I shouldnt have been.
Any thoughts/opinions/experience helpful, thanks!
posted by darsh to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
Next time: Never apologize. Apologies can be used as admissions of fault.

You might want to get this post anonymized, too.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:31 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

- Go to your local police department and file an accident report. You will have the opportunity to make a drawing of what happened.

- Were there any witnesses?

- Call your insurance company and file a claim.

Massachusetts is a no-fault state, so basically, you just pay your insurance deductible and they'll pay for the rest of the repairs. Be sure to call them BEFORE making repairs because they tend to work with certain repair places. He will do the same thing with his insurance company if he wishes to make a claim to fix his car - the insurance companies take care of that stuff.
posted by floweredfish at 12:32 PM on February 25, 2013

This is what insurance agents handle all the time. Typically the agents will interview both parties involved and check out the damage. Don't make repairs before an insurance inspector comes to survey the damage.

Also, never admit or point out fault. Don't apologize even if it was your fault. Typically even insurance companies tell you this. Keep in mind for next time.
posted by xtine at 12:33 PM on February 25, 2013

It's his job NOT to come out of a driveway into the street, not vice-versa.

File a police report and call your insurance company to report it.

Next time, take a picture, of the cars, where they are.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:36 PM on February 25, 2013

As others have said, no-fault insurance means you pay your deductible, he pays his, and the two insurance companies duke it out to try and recover what they've spent from each other. If your company wins, you'll get a check for your deductible.

A while ago I was involved in an accident wherein I was struck by a dark-colored van with no lights at dusk as I turned left. My car was totaled by the insurance company, and I received a check for $value minus $500. Some time later, after the two companies had decided that the other driver was primarily at fault due to his lack of lights, I received a check for $500 from my insurance company.

Of course, this all hinges on what sort of insurance you are carrying. Here in MN, the basics are:
  1. Liability: covers damage to the other guy's car, fence, leg, whatever
  2. Collision: covers damage to your car that occurs while it's being driven
  3. Comprehensive: covers damage to your car the rest of the time [tree falls on it in the driveway, home run ball through the windshield in the stadium lot, vandalism]
In your case, assuming you carry it, your collision coverage will pay to repair your car [less the deductible], and his the same. If he is found at fault, his liability coverage will be used to repay your insurance company for the loss, and you for your deductible. And vice versa.
posted by chazlarson at 1:03 PM on February 25, 2013

What Ruthless Bunny said is correct, if he was in a driveway and you were on a city street, you have right of way, not him.
posted by reptile at 1:08 PM on February 25, 2013

Not only did you have right of way, but he hit you. The front of his car hit the back or your car. Regardless of right-of-way, the responsibility lies with the last driver who could have prevented the accident. Which was him.
posted by jon1270 at 1:14 PM on February 25, 2013

I just want to echo what everyone said: You had the right of way. Unless you were driving the wrong way on a one way street, you had the right of way. His insurance should not dispute this.

"Didn't you see me coming out? what were you thinking of".

Didn't he see you on the street? What a dope.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 1:21 PM on February 25, 2013

First, call your insurance agent!

Second, anecdata alert!

This happened to me (albeit alleyway, not driveway) and the other person did indeed use my reflexive, automatic apology as an admission of fault.

After he and the 10 friends who suddenly appeared around us were done screaming at me, and after calling my cell phone over a dozen times to make sure I hadn't given him a fake number, he supposedly accepted the apology and agreed that the damage (small crack on the front bumper of his 20-year-old beater, not a scratch anywhere on my car) was no big deal anyway, not even worth reporting.

Since I only had my cell on me, it was -10F and the dead of night, my shaky cameraphone pictures were all but worthless. I left feeling quite shaken up but pretty good about providing my insurance info even though he said he wouldn't use it, and remaining generally congenial even though he and his friends were yelling in my face that I was a dumb bitch who needed to watch where she was fucking going, how did I even get my driver's license, etc. (This had all taken place on an ice-slicked road, traveling at roughly 5 MPH.)

I called my insurance company and, while I couldn't/didn't file because there was no damage to my car, they told me they would wait and see what course of action he took before they took any action; after all, he said it wasn't even worth reporting. Unbeknownst to me, he went to the police department and filed an accident report so he could file not even an hour after I left. OK, fine, except that prior to going to the police department, he busted out his own headlight and put a dent in his own hood! He basically had his cosmetic front end replaced on my dime. Final bill ended up being well over $3,000... to fix a beat-up '88 Olds.

We both used the same insurance company, which I felt was very disadvantageous to me -- they were basically paying out to themselves, so they didn't send out investigators or claim adjusters; they just went with his story as-is, even when I protested that there was certainly not a broken headlight or dent in his hood when I left the scene, and pointed out that it was highly unlikely that so much damage could have been done to his car when I didn't even have a scratch on mine. They would not even let me send them the photos I took.

I've always carried full coverage, I'd never been in any kind of accident before and had maintained a flawless driving record for 15 years, not so much as a speeding ticket... but because of this one incident, my insurance rates have nearly tripled. YMMV, but be very careful about apologizing in situations like this -- your automatic politeness may get the best of you.
posted by divined by radio at 1:43 PM on February 25, 2013

I don't know if it is true that you had right of way. I base this on the location of the damage to both cars. It sounds like at the time of impact, both of you were proceeding straight ahead (as opposed to impact that took place while he was making a turn out of a driveway).
However, my interpretation of what transpired and who is to blame is not material. Neither, by the way, is the fact that you apologized. The rules of the road are not altered because you apologized.
So don't worry if you were intimidated at the moment, and made an unnecessary apology. Your apology is irrelevant. What is relevant is who had the right of way, etc.
Tell your insurance company what happened and don't sweat it.
posted by elf27 at 1:48 PM on February 25, 2013

I live in Boston. I was rear ended at a yield sign and there was a couple thousand dollars damage to my backend. I called my insurance. They asked if I wanted to go through them or the other person's insurance. Since I wasn't at fault (and in MA, if you are not at fault, you don't have to pay the deductible), I went through my insurance so that I just had to sit back and let the process work it self out. Ask your insurance company lots of questions. You pay them to help you!

I got the estimate from the insurance company, brought it to a body repair shop, and a week later, I didn't pay a penny and I have my car back.

From what you are describing, it sounds like it is the other person's fault. Keep this in mind since if you are at fault, your insurance will go up by quite a bit next year. Let them decide who is at fault.

Some reading for you.
posted by toddst at 1:59 PM on February 25, 2013

Everyone - thank you so much! I appreciate the quick response - this is why I love ask.me

called the agent and the insurance company, they're sending an appraiser out to look at the car - will go from there.

And next time (hopefully there wont be one!) will remember to bite back the instinct to apologize!
posted by darsh at 2:12 PM on February 25, 2013

I think apologies are necessary for a civil society (but I am Canadian, sorry!).

Since 1986, MA has had the Apology Act: "Statements, writings, or benevolent gestures expressing sympathy or a general sense of benevolence relating to the pain, suffering or death of a person involved in an accident and made to such person or to the family of such person shall be inadmissible as evidence of an admission of liability in a civil action." So saying you're sorry doesn't mean you are saying you are responsible.
posted by saucysault at 7:58 PM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

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