Someone's car hit my mailbox and left, should I file a police report?
August 13, 2014 7:45 PM   Subscribe

I came home after work today and noticed that my mailbox is tilted. Then at around 6 PM, one of my neighbors came over and told me that she witnessed a car backing up and hit my mailbox and then drove off. She was able to write down the license plate number of the vehicle for me. I'm not sure on what to do now. It's an old mail box that I've own for about 10 years and I do not mind replacing it. So I don't know if I should just go buy a new mailbox and let this incidence go. I'm a bit bothered by the fact that the driver drove off and did not accept responsibility. How should I go about handling this situation? Thanks for the suggestion!
posted by missybitsy to Law & Government (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can file a police report. Include the plate number. You don't have to do anything beyond that but if the folks driving this car get into some more scrapes then there may be a trail. Many places now have reports you can file online.

If it were me, I wouldn't file a claim or anything, honestly. But, that's up to you. If you have a deductible in play, it might just not be worth the trouble.
posted by amanda at 7:52 PM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's a 10-year-old mailbox. Replace it, and move on. The police have better things to do. (And not being unsympathetic, as have had the same thing happen to me - just pragmatic.)
posted by Salamander at 7:52 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

We had a similar thing happen to us (mailbox got vandalized, neighbor witnessed it, and actually reported it to the police for us along with the report of his own mailbox destruction). The guilty part was caught, tried, and paid us $30 restitution. Absolutely no effort on our part.

I don't know where you live, but in our small town, if the police were not going after things like this, I don't know what they'd do all day.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:55 PM on August 13, 2014 [10 favorites]

i'd report it with the plate number, if they're driving drunk or something it might be cause to get them off the road if spotted later, which is good for everyone, even if it doesn't pay for a new mailbox.
posted by TheAdamist at 8:14 PM on August 13, 2014 [8 favorites]

I mean, you can report it if you want, it's up to you. Just, you know, the driver might have been a 17 year old girl with four months of driving experience on the way to pick up a friend who needed a lift to Planned Parenthood for a hastily procured secret pregnancy test, and the police may or may not conduct an investigation that involves eyewitness interviews, the DMV, and a specialty ATF lab that analyzes paint chips, and a VERY TERRIFYING MORNING VISIT from the cops on the day before Thanksgiving. It will probably net you a heartfelt apology and a new mailbox. So, uh, do what you want.

I don't know anyone who ever did anything like that, obviously.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:15 PM on August 13, 2014 [29 favorites]

I imagine that if I walked out and saw this the caught-in-the-moment me would be pissed and would want to call the police, but the calm reading-this-on-the-internet me thinks it's not worth it and the driver might be someone who could use a break (maybe even in a vivid scenario similar to the one Snarl Furillo shared).

If you do decide to report it try to get a description of the car from your neighbor and include those details as well -- it's possible your neighbor misread one of the plate numbers in the heat of the moment. Reporting the plate number and identifying details together will make it less likely for some innocent person to be accused.
posted by duoshao at 8:56 PM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you want someone to be charged with a hit-and-run over your mailbox, sure, go for it. But if it's not a big deal to you and not expensive, don't. Personally, I would not. My guess is it was just an honest mistake. If they drove over your mailbox, that's one thing, but if they just bumped it, I'd give them a break.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:26 PM on August 13, 2014

Fwiw, I drive a big truck and if I backed into a shaky mailbox I might not even notice it. I think it all depends on your goal. If it is to take responsibility, then I guess report it. If it is restitution, probably not worth your time.
posted by 724A at 10:07 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

If it were me, I wouldn't file a claim or anything, honestly. But, that's up to you. If you have a deductible in play, it might just not be worth the trouble.

I think the idea is you can make a claim against the driver, so his auto liability insurance would kick in rather than your own, and it would be his deductible he'd have to pay, not yourself. Although it's almost certain this is under any deductible. What's a new mailbox, $100? Its a pain in the ass for sure but in the end it's totally up to you whether you want to put the effort in on principle of this guy being a jerk vs just paying out of pocket for this guy being a jerk.
posted by Hoopo at 10:18 PM on August 13, 2014

A few years ago I found a piece of Land Rover exterior trim embedded in what was left of my mailbox. I went over to my neighbor's house, who owns a Land Rover which was missing this same part, to return it. Turned out neighbor had gotten halfway down the street before realizing she had left behind something that she needed for her trip, did a 3 point turn in front of my house—taking out mailbox in the process—and never felt a thing in her giant well-appointed land yacht. She was utterly aghast and was quick to come by later with a bottle of wine and a Home Depot gift card.

So, give it a few days, maybe your errant driver will have an epiphany.
posted by jamaro at 11:30 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm a bit bothered by the fact that the driver drove off and did not accept responsibility.

I would be, too, and I'm not sure far-fetched scenarios and miscomprehensions of the term "honest mistake" [emphasis added] would necessarily persuade me otherwise. So rather than concocting equally likely scenarios where the paint chips on your mailbox prove to be the smoking gun by which the FBI busts a child-kidnapping ring, or recounting the incident when I was seventeen and accidentally scraped another car in the commuter train parking lot and left a note with my contact information...I'd just say this is one of those situations where life gives you a gut instinct for a reason. Take a couple deep breaths, count to ten, sleep on it, and then do what your gut tells you. Your gut knows more than we do.
posted by cribcage at 11:44 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Personal opinion: don't file the report for the sake of replacing a mailbox. File it to help rid the road of heedless drivers. As a paramedic I have witnessed countless tragedies caused by irresponsible attitudes toward the act of operating vehicles. Someone who drives off after even a small mishap is committing a huge breach. This is not a good driver or a responsible person. Nor an ethical one. If there are consequences, then maybe - just maybe - one person will be motivated to take a hard look at his or her own actions.
posted by wjm at 11:56 PM on August 13, 2014 [12 favorites]

A mailbox can cost as little as $35 or less. Installing it is a pain, sure, but will you feel good if you end up causing some single mom who can barely make ends meet to pay a bunch of fines? If you can afford to let it go, consider doing so.
posted by salvia at 12:24 AM on August 14, 2014

Someone who doesn't notice backing into a mailbox won't notice backing into a child, either. Report it.
posted by alexei at 12:52 AM on August 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

"I'd report it with the plate number, if they're driving drunk or something it might be cause to get them off the road if spotted later, which is good for everyone, even if it doesn't pay for a new mailbox."

Yeah, the cost and your inconvience is as you say incidental and isn't a concern. It might however be someone driving drunk or with bad eyesight or an elderly person [I'm getting there myself] who shouldn't be operating a car though and they and their family might not know that they are having difficulties.

"but will you feel good if you end up causing some single mom who can barely make ends meet to pay a bunch of fines?"

First of all it was the backing into the mailbox that caused the damage and perhaps a resultant fine, not being a single parent. Plenty of single parents don't back into mailboxes and are competent at operating a car.

Wow. Seriously? People that object to bad driving and less death on the road = people objecting to single parent families.

Go ahead and cite your Tumblr. Wow.
posted by vapidave at 3:06 AM on August 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

Ya thank god the opinions on here turned!

"Give them a break"??? Give ME a break. Report it to the police. A bad driver hits things. Mailboxes are child sized. Maybe you help prevent a future careless incident.

In the meantime replace your mailbox. It will make you feel better and if by some unlikely chance restitution comes, save the receipt.
posted by chasles at 4:12 AM on August 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

The cops around my area don't take your first hit-and-run that seriously if it's just property damage -- anecdata: Someone I know had her car hit and the dude took off. She found the dude and reported him to the cops, who weren't really taking it that seriously... until the dude hit and ran SOMEONE ELSE and then got into a fight in a bar. Over the next two weeks. (And the dude knew the cops weren't taking the original H&R that seriously, btw.)

So if you report this, and this person only hit-and-run your mailbox, and they stop destroying mailboxes, I wouldn't expect the consequences to be that bad (and you can even ask the cops about this when you file the report). But if they've got other issues on their record, it can help to have a consistent file with all the info. If they are in fact a dangerous driver, more reports are better.

And yes re: elderly person. We had a damn hard time getting one of my older relatives off the road. Everyone knew she shouldn't be driving, but we couldn't get that license out of her hands (and believe me, we tried). If she had hit and run a mailbox and been reported it would have been a freaking blessing -- a reason to convince the cops to take her license. We were terrified that she was going to hit and run and kill someone.
posted by pie ninja at 5:36 AM on August 14, 2014

You didn't exactly say whether the mailbox was damaged or destroyed or even just scratched. If it was destroyed I would call the police with the evidence. It could potentially be someone who shouldn't be behind the wheel and could just as easily run over someone as your mailbox. You never know. An honest driver would have realized and left a note.
posted by JJ86 at 5:52 AM on August 14, 2014

When I was a teenager, the hood of my Moms evil Ford station wagon flew up as I was driving . I was able to pull over, but wiped out a rural mailbox. The owner hollered at me and I still remember it, 40 years later. This driver was at fault, was a jerk to leave, but even so, I think you'll feel better ignoring it.
posted by theora55 at 8:16 AM on August 14, 2014

Since your neighbor witnessed the incident, what was her take?

Shaky scared 17yo kid?
Shaky, scared 77yo person?
Entitled, clueless, cell-phone-wielding-while-yelling-at-the-kids-in-the-back-seat 37yo?
Weaving, drunk, off their meds?
Genuine accident and horror on their face as they drove off?

I think having some idea about the driver would inform my actions here. Fwiw, I generally fall on the side of report to the police, but replace the mailbox on my own and leave insurance out of it.
posted by vignettist at 8:56 AM on August 14, 2014

You had a mailbox. Now you have a trashed mailbox because someone hit it with their car.

I'd report it. Filling an online police report takes about 5 minutes.
posted by 26.2 at 9:00 AM on August 14, 2014

Reading this thread again has me leaning on the side of reporting it, in case it was a drunk driver, elderly person, etc. If it was someone in an SUV with bad sight lines or a person rushing to the hospital to comfort their dying parent or similar, I would hope the police would be lenient (but it's not your responsibility to not make a report in case they aren't, if that makes sense).
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:09 AM on August 14, 2014

Story time

I got my license the day I turned 16. The very next day I took my parent's car out to go see my girlfriend. We drove around a while, but while I was driving her home I didn't pay attention and ran off the road and knocked over a mailbox (this was a rural area with no curbs). She told me to go, so I just took off. I dropped her off, and then on my way home I saw the homeowner outside with the knocked over mailbox and a cop car. I couldn't take the guilt, so I drove over and admitted that it was me, which was lucky because he had my license plate number. He asked if I would come back the next day and repair the mailbox, and when I agreed he declined to press chargers so the officer left. I went back and helped him repair the box and everything was fine. I think it cost me a few bucks for materials.

That experience taught me a lot about responsibility and owning up to your actions. I suggest that you file the police report, but decline to press charges if anyone is caught.
posted by I am the Walrus at 12:03 PM on August 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

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