Guy hit my (parked) car last night. I have a witness. What should I do?
March 25, 2013 10:25 AM   Subscribe

I wasn't there, but the good Samaritan left a note on my car. She saw the man hit my car - it appears he is a neighbor. If I go talk to this man, I want to be fully prepared - both to convey that I know he's the culprit, but also to respond in case he tries to deny or simply stonewall me. Any tips for things to do before I talk to him, or ways to respond if he's not cooperative? Thanks.
posted by malhouse to Human Relations (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would simply call your insurance company right away and let them handle it, giving them the name of the witness, the culprit, and the culprit's address and license plate.
posted by deanc at 10:27 AM on March 25, 2013 [59 favorites]

If the damage is significant, I would contact my insurance company first. If not, I would do nothing.
posted by kidbritish at 10:28 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

You must always contact your insurance company when incidents occur. Just a paint scratch/dent on each others cars? Agree to wave it off with mutual understanding? The next thing you know the other party claimed damages to his/her insurance and your insurance wants to know why you didn't get in touch with them about the "minor" incident.

It is highly likely your policy states it wants you to report incidents to you or your car. Do it and let them advise you on the next steps. This is slam dunk with a witness in tow.
posted by Bodrik at 10:36 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agree with deanc and others. Let your insurance company deal with it. Do not engage the neighbour at all.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:38 AM on March 25, 2013

If someone hit my car, failed to leave a note, and there was a reliable witness, I would call the police before I called anyone else, including the insurance agency. The culprit had his chance to make nice with you when (or a reasonable period after) he damaged your car. By not fessing up, he's committed a crime and likely hoped no one saw him. Let the police deal with him - I fail to see the point in talking to him at this point, neighbor or not.
posted by item at 10:38 AM on March 25, 2013 [21 favorites]

Oh wait. Maybe I'm confused here. Who was the note-leaving good Samaritan, the witness or the guy who hit your car?
posted by item at 10:40 AM on March 25, 2013

I agree with calling the police. Insurance companies might require a police report, too, especially since the person failed to notify the owner of the car.
posted by feste at 10:41 AM on March 25, 2013

This is called a hit and run and it is a crime. So I agree with calling the cops (not 911, use the non-emergency number).
posted by magnetsphere at 10:44 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with others: This person has shown that he won't deal in good faith by not leaving his information on your vehicle or trying to reach out to you. Contact the police and your insurance company and let them sort it out.
posted by spindrifter at 10:46 AM on March 25, 2013

I would ask your insurance company for advice before calling the police or confronting your neighbor. And by the way I think "confronting" might be the wrong idea, at least initially. I wouldn't back the person into a corner...give them the benefit of the doubt, like "I presume you were going to let me know but didn't get around to it yet" or whatever.
posted by Dansaman at 10:47 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think it depends on what you mean by "hit your car". Did he tap the bumper leaving a tiny scratch? If so, getting the police involved strikes me as a gross overreaction. Police are the big guns. If, on the other hand, he crumpled in the door or something then, yeah, cops. But do not contact the individual directly unless instructed to by your insurance company, whom you should call first.
posted by Justinian at 10:54 AM on March 25, 2013 [6 favorites]

If you know what car he drives, I'd try to photograph any damage to his car before his is alerted that you know about it. If the paint from your car is on his fender, that is good to have documented.
posted by dottiechang at 10:54 AM on March 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

I would agree with contacting the police along with insurance, before talking to the guy and giving him a chance to cover or dissemble.

Call the non-emergency line. If it does or doesn't rise to the level of a police matter they will let you know and all it costs them is a minute of the dispatcher's time. That's what they're there for.
posted by ftm at 10:58 AM on March 25, 2013

The insurance company will tell you if they want a police report.
posted by rhizome at 11:00 AM on March 25, 2013

Nth'ing "call your insurance company," with the supplementary advice of Do what they tell you. They want a police report? File it. They want pictures? Send them (you already took pictures, right?). They will be looking for any reason whatsoever to deny or minimize your claim, because that's how they make their money -- people paying for insurance and not using it.

Don't even bother talking to the neighbor, because he had his chance to be the upstanding citizen. If he comes to you after your insurance company contacts his, tell him that it's too late.
posted by Etrigan at 11:14 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Take photos; document everything.

Go to your local precinct, information in hand; file a police report. Leaving the scene of an accident is a (minor) crime and it will be treated like one. With your police report and information in hand, contact your insurance company.

Do not confront the man. (Seriously, what do you hope to gain? Do you think he'll say "oh, yeah, that was me, sorry -- I meant to get in touch or leave a note but I forgot since Walking Dead was on -- hey, can I just pay you cash so we don't have to go through the insurance companies?" and then give you a blank check? No? Then he cannot help you.
posted by Brian Puccio at 11:16 AM on March 25, 2013

Yes, call the police (non-emergency line) and your insurance company. This exact thing has happened to me before (my car had significant damage), and the police took care of talking to the witness and the culprit (who actually did end up getting arrested, BTW, though I think the charges were ultimately dropped due to lack of evidence, as I never heard anything past an initial telephone call from the local prosecutor letting me know that the guy was claiming that he did leave a note, but that it must have "blown away"). My insurance company covered the damage.
posted by hovizette at 11:20 AM on March 25, 2013

Does your neighbor have any malicious exes? In other words, you only have the (anonymous?) note as evidence it was him. Call the police. Let them have the note. Then call your insurance company.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:53 AM on March 25, 2013

Just watched this happen and they went to the police (who took care of it) and contacted their insurance (who took care of it). So I assume that's what you do.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:55 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Police report, then call the insurance company. Do not engage this guy.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:09 PM on March 25, 2013

You don't deal with the guy directly, as everyone else has said. You call the cops then your insurance company, in that order.

posted by batmonkey at 1:17 PM on March 25, 2013

I had this exact thing happen when I was in college, and I was not very sure how to proceed. Another neighbor had seen it happen, told me to call the police (non-emergency), and when they came they went to her and to the culprit, and I didn't have to do much. The person was not arrested. He was actually the employee of my neighbor, whose business insurance covered the damage.
posted by lily_bart at 1:46 PM on March 25, 2013

Regarding calling the police, if you've yet to act on this mess and plan on calling the cops, here's advice pulled from the files of my own personal experience in a matter that was more or less in the same category as yours:

If this were to happen to me in the major metropolitan area where I live and I were to call the non-emergency number (311), I would be told to hang up and dial 911. A crime was committed and that's where you call when you want a copper to show up at your house to file a report. If the non-emergency folks don't deal with matters of this nature in the 4th largest metro area in the states, they probably won't want to mess with it in a smaller market.
posted by item at 1:52 PM on March 25, 2013

Call the police and report and run. Then call your insurance company.
posted by jbenben at 2:08 PM on March 25, 2013

In my (affluent) suburb, what happens if you call the police when there is a hit-and-run causing minor damage and no personal injury is that the police will, and I quote from the city police log, "facilitate information exchange." That is, they'll track the guy down by his driver's license number, pay him a visit and say "Hit and run is a crime. Give the person whose car you hit your insurance information and call your own insurance company to report the accident."

Nobody gets arrested, but then again, this isn't the sort of place with lots of heavy-handed cops and arrests, so YMMV.

Definitely call your insurance company, and do call the police on their non-emergency number; they won't yell at you for wasting their time. Don't confront your neighbor, as that is unlikely to be productive.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:32 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

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