Car accident last night: Can I still drive this car?
July 8, 2013 8:30 AM   Subscribe

I was in a rather scary car accident last night. I was on a two lane interstate highway with a lot of volume. I was in the right lane next to an 18 wheeler in the left lane. The front of my car was just ahead of the front of the truck. He evidently tried to change lanes into me. I saw nothing. The truck hit my back drivers side door causing my car to spin out of control. I did a few 360's on the interstate before smashing into the guard rail on the left side of the fast lane. Luckily, there was a gap in the guard rail that my car found and I spiraled into the brush in the median strip, opened the door, and walked away. The trooper said I was a very lucky man. Nobody else hit me during my spins! And when I asked if I could drive home, he emphatically said no way. So I had it towed....100 miles.....$525. Anyway, the car now sits in my garage. All the damage was in the rear, and brake lights and directionals still work...amazingly. Do you think it is OK to drive this car for a few days before the adjuster looks at it and I get it to a shop? That piece of car that juts out behind the back wheel has me worried. I know you are not my mechanic! Here are some pics: car#1, car#2
posted by Seymour Zamboni to Travel & Transportation (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't. You don't know what happened to the frame, and that bumper looks like it's going to drop bits and pieces wherever you go. Also, you could have something rubbing against that tire.
posted by xingcat at 8:32 AM on July 8, 2013

You should be addressing this question to your insurance agent right now. They will probably set you up for a rental. They don't want the liability of you driving around with that metal sticking out.
posted by Dansaman at 8:32 AM on July 8, 2013 [20 favorites]

I wouldn't either, cars aren't meant to spin around at high speeds, there could be things wrong or about to be wrong that you can't see.
posted by ghharr at 8:33 AM on July 8, 2013

Not worth the risk. Have you called your insurance agent to see if your policy covers a rental?
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:33 AM on July 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I had a similar, though not as serious accident with an 18 wheeler changing lanes into my car. Luckily we didn't lose control and were able to pull over to the side of the road without a problem. Just from that "tap" from the truck, the entire frame on the driver's side was bent and took considerable body work to get put back together. My insurance saw to it that the truck's insurance paid for a rental until the car was repaired, and I was able to get the rental within 24 hours or so. I would recommend getting the adjuster there as soon as possible and don't drive your car.
posted by goggie at 8:38 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do not drive a vehicle you know to be of questionable safety, you are increasing your liability should another accident or anything else happen.
posted by iamabot at 8:41 AM on July 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

You should have a rental billed to that 18 wheeler's insurance. Call your agent now.

Plus if you drive that car and get into another accident - ugh.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:42 AM on July 8, 2013 [9 favorites]

No way, not after something like that.

Call your insurance and arrange for a rental.

Glad to hear you're okay, I'm telling you, cars are SO much better than they used to be.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:42 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

What's the worst that could happen?

You could die or kill someone else because something important was damaged enough to fail while you were driving. (Given what the state trooper said and that the car had to be towed from the accident, there's a non-insignificant chance that the damage is that bad.)

Put that way doesn't it seem wise to either rent a car or change your plans until your damaged car can be inspected and repaired?
posted by Jacqueline at 8:47 AM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

The trucks insurancec will pay for a rental! Make a claim ASAP!!
posted by jbenben at 8:47 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't drive it, mostly because you don't want to give the insurer a reason to say 'the damage didn't make the car undrivable' or 'you damaged it further by driving it after the accident'.

Even though it wasn't your fault it's damaged, it's now your responsibility not to put a possibly unsafe car on the road.

My mechanical concern is that something's torn or bent that's related to the right rear suspension, since the frame is clearly bent on that quarter. It might tow straight, or even get around at low speeds, but you could have a suspension failure the first time you take a corner above 30 MPH.

Rentals are really lovely, and big rigs in the States almost always have good insurance if you go after them aggressively.
posted by Kakkerlak at 8:49 AM on July 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

You will probably also have whiplash btw. By tomorrow you might have trouble turning your head and you may want to avoid entirely.
posted by srboisvert at 8:49 AM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Further, your insurance may have covered the towing, or at least some if it. Do you have towing and rental reimbursement on your auto policy?
posted by COD at 8:51 AM on July 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

if your insurance didn't cover towing, the truck's insurance should. Again, talk to your agent. The expenses here to make you whole again should likely be handled through subrogation.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:01 AM on July 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

You should probably see a lawyer and a doctor. You have suffered physical trauma, and yeah, it sometimes takes a few days to show up.

Also, I'm willing to bet the frame of your car is bent, and your car might be totaled.

My parked car was hit in the rear and pushed into the curb, and with less cosmetic damage than your vehicle sustained, the frame was damaged and the car totaled.

If you are out towing fees, medical bills, rental car, missed work - the truck's insurance owes you ALL of that, and you should retain a lawyer if your insurance company or the truck's gives you any trouble.

This is what accident attorneys are for. Insurance companies try to get away with the bare minimum, they count on you not knowing the law or what compensations you are due.

You seem out of your depth. Think about hiring a lawyer, or at least telephone a few to get some perspective on your options. This is a very responsible step to take! I hope you follow through.
posted by jbenben at 9:02 AM on July 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

Nobody can inspect your car through the internet.

You cheated death once. Do you really want to give yesterday's accident a second chance to kill you?
posted by jon1270 at 9:04 AM on July 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

You should talk to you insurance to get that tow charge looked after too. If the accident is judged the trucks fault, you shouldn't pay for that either, in the end.
posted by bonehead at 9:16 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cars nowadays are safer because they absorb the impact, you swap your car for your health/life. It's quite possible that your car, while visually not too bad, may be structurally totalled. Think of it like how you are supposed to replace your crash helmet once you've had an accident, it's done its job.
posted by Iteki at 9:27 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't drive it. Get a rental through your insurance or whatever, paid through the trucker's. The tow should be covered by them as well.
posted by Slinga at 9:48 AM on July 8, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for setting my head straight everybody. I will not drive the car. I have already contacted my insurance agent. I have rental car coverage for up to 30 days. So I should be all set. Plus that tow will be covered. All things considered, I feel VERY fortunate. Physically I feel totally fine. I got home about 2 AM, took a shower, cranked the central AC, and wrapped myself in a comforter for a good night sleep. But I am mentally still rattled. It all happened so fast---from one moment normally driving to the next moment in the ditch. The truck was from a large national corporation that apparently has very good insurance and has a reputation for handling these cases quickly--I was told. The driver was denying that he hit me. But the state police seemed to agree with my version of the events. Nobody else stopped. Just the truck. The state police are handling the investigation on their end and they will be doing some highway forensic work as well.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:54 AM on July 8, 2013 [8 favorites]

Glad you are OK and that you won't be driving it. (And if you have a long commute and are often that far from home, look into AAA Plus/Gold/whatever. I have been towed about 50 miles twice in the last 2 years, including from an accident last week. Worth it to me.)
posted by wintersweet at 10:21 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I used to work for a trucking company. Getting into an accident, no matter how trivial or severe, almost always resulted in being fired. Don't be surprised that the truck driver is trying to deny all responsibility, and don't let him get away with it. You might want to sit down right now and write down EVERYTHING you can remember about what happened, including anything at all about other cars on the road at the time. You never know if you'll need to seek out witnesses.

And don't touch your car! What if you inadvertently dislodge that one piece of the truck's paint stuck to your bumper that proves he hit you?

It wouldn't hurt to get yourself checked out by a doctor as suggested, even if it's just to establish a baseline should something start hurting (neck, spine) in the next few weeks or months.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:38 AM on July 8, 2013 [13 favorites]

Nthing the recommendation to still get checked out by a doctor. Sometimes, injuries from accidents like this don't start hurting for days or even a little longer.
posted by scody at 11:37 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Been here, done that, with the exception that I wasn't hit by anything. I hydroplaned on all four tires and took my old BMW offroading, complete with 360s and median driving. I also didn't hit any guardrails or other vehicles, I just went bouncing around. The list of damage from just that included the motor knocked off all four mounts, bent frame, mangled brake dust guards stuck in the front brakes, a bent transmission line that wouldn't go into lower gears (auto transmission), and four damaged but not flat tires. I drove it home, but I shouldn't have and neither should you.

And on edit, I see everyone else told you the same thing and you aren't driving the car. Good luck. Seconding the recommendation to get AAA, I did after this accident so I never have to drive a damaged car home again or pay hundreds to get it towed.
posted by jennaratrix at 1:19 PM on July 8, 2013

> But I am mentally still rattled.

Could you take a day or two off from work? I was in a less serious accident and it left me as shook up mentally as it did physically. I think it would be good for you to try to relax today, if possible. Maybe get a friend to drive you to the doctor's office to get your neck checked out -- whiplash can take a day or two to set it, in my experience.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:17 AM on July 9, 2013

Response by poster: were all totally correct. The insurance adjuster just inspected the car and it is totaled. And the frame bar is crushed in the back (just like some of you said might be the case) and the car is seriously compromised in other ways. When I told him about my thoughts about driving the car he was like "OMG no". So y'all nailed it. Thanks again for the excellent advice and keeping me safe and sane!

No physical aches, pains, bumps, or bruises have appeared 2 days out, so I am physically fine. It was really an amazing experience. When I replay it in my head I get a little addled because I was so lucky in so many ways. I am on summer break (professor) so I can take the time I need to get my head straight.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:52 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

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