Allowing an at-fault party to pay out-of-pocket.
November 10, 2005 1:36 PM   Subscribe

I got rear-ended by a drunk driver. They're offering to pay the damage outright versus going through the insurance company. Do I take the offer?

Long story short: I had been stopped at a red light for over a minute. She plowed into the back of my truck. The cops cited her for DWI, and she's listed as completely at fault on the police report. We're both OK healthwise. There was damage to both cars, both were drivable.

I filed a claim with my insurance; she has a policy with the same company. They contacted her about the claim (she didn't report it) and she said that she was willing to pay my damages out of pocket to avoid the claim. On the other hand, I could continue with the claim through my insurance. Either way, my deductible will be covered because she's fully at fault.

So, do I take the offer? It doesn't do much for me, really, but it'd be nice for her, given that her policy won't skyrocket as much as they normally would (note: the insurance company already knows about the DUI). On the other hand, she was driving drunk -- this is the second time I've been hit by a drunk driver, it scares me to death that people are driving drunk, and to be honest, I don't feel a whole lot of benevolence here.

Which, then, is the better thing to do, financially and ethically: allow her to pay out of pocket, or pursue the claim with my insurance? If I allow her to pay out of pocket, will that impede or change in any way her drunk-driving citation? (I really don't want it to make that penalty more lenient with the law, and I don't want it to go off her record). Or is it a bad idea to allow the other driver to pay out of pocket at all?

Any advice would be appreciated, thanks!

(I'm putting this under "law and government," since I have no idea where else this would go -- it touches on so many categories.)
posted by eschatfische to Law & Government (40 answers total)
it is my personal belief that those who drink and drive get all that is coming to them. thankfully you weren't hurt, but go through insurance because if things like whiplash surface in a few weeks, you will still be protected.
posted by ruwan at 1:38 PM on November 10, 2005

Why is this up to you and not your insurance company? I'd understand it if this was between you and her, on a personal level, but it seems like a peculiar position for your insurance company to put you in.
posted by odinsdream at 1:39 PM on November 10, 2005

My suggestion would be to do it through the insurance company, if for no other reason than to make sure you're not stuck with the repair bill because the other driver refuses to pay.
posted by Godbert at 1:41 PM on November 10, 2005

As long as the insurance company knows about it and you are sure you will get your money, go for it. We did something similar about ten years ago on the recommendation of the insurance company (no one was drunk, just a broken headlight on a neighbor's car).
posted by briank at 1:41 PM on November 10, 2005

It is more ethical to pursue the claim. If the driver makes a habit of this, skyrocketing insurance rates may be an effective way of modifying their drinking and driving behavior, or at least getting them off the road.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:42 PM on November 10, 2005

Let your insurance company handle it--fewer possible hassles from the company than trying to work out payment from a person.

The only reason she's offering to pay is the mistaken belief that her insurance won't go up as much.
posted by Marky at 1:42 PM on November 10, 2005

I wonder what the difference between the policy rate increase for DUI and a small claim. I would imagine that a DUI would be quite a bit, I don't know.

And anyway, why are you asking this question? You have all of the information, and we have just this post? How could we make a decision? The only thing I can think is that people's posts will simply reflect how much they dislike drunk drivers.
posted by delmoi at 1:43 PM on November 10, 2005

Well, I don't know about where you live, but she might want to check if it even is a BENEFIT to do that. I've learned the hard way that even if you pay out yourself for an accident, your insurance will still end up ridiculously high. They don't care at all.

If that's the case where you live, it'd be in her best interest to let insurance pay for it. She's going to save in the long run.
posted by shepd at 1:44 PM on November 10, 2005

By the way, did she allow herself to be brethalyzed? If she didn't she could fight the DUI and maybe win, in which case the claim would be the only thing her insurance company would have to rase her rates.
posted by delmoi at 1:45 PM on November 10, 2005

Continue with the claim through your insurance because she will find a way to fuck you if you do not. An insurance company is easier to collect from than some fucking worthless deadbeat drunk driver.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:47 PM on November 10, 2005

I agree with ruwan. She chose to drive while intoxicated. Rear-ending you was the end result. She, and you, are lucky that there were not serious injuries involved. Then again, you never know what's going to creep up down the road. Just because you're not hurting today does not mean that you weren't injured.

My advice would be to file the claim legitimately. I wouldn't have a whole lot of sympathy for her, and you want to be sure all your bases are covered legally.

Good luck!
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 1:47 PM on November 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

Go through your insurance company. When there's a way things are supposed to work, you're almost always better off doing them that way. As Godbert says, there's a possibility that you won't actually get paid by the driver (even a cashier's check is no guarantee). And as Marky says, her insurance rate is going to go up anyway as the company already knows about the DUI.

You're putting yourself at risk for absolutely no benefit, and you're not doing her any real favor either.
posted by zanni at 1:49 PM on November 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

If you didn't file a police report (no DWI) there would be no insurance increase. There might not even have been an insurance increase in certain circumstances. I had something similar happen sans DUI that no one found out about the person at-fault just paid. A lot less hassle on both ends. She's probably mistaken that her coverage will not go up.

But seeing as how it's all recorded, if she doesn't pay I don't think because you chose not to immediately go the insurance route she gets off scott free as some are implying. Also what's with all this moralizing "teach her a lesson" responses. That had nothing to do with the question.
posted by geoff. at 1:53 PM on November 10, 2005

File it. Fuck her.
posted by blag at 1:53 PM on November 10, 2005 [2 favorites]

I would agree about going through the insurance company. I was rear-ended and tried to be benevolent and let the driver off the hook. He paid to fix the damage to the car, and all seemed right with the world. Then I woke up a month to the day later and couldn't move my neck. It was then that my doctor explained to me how whiplash can take a long time (a month, sometimes even longer) to make itself known. It wasn't that bad (I didn't need physical therapy, just some painkillers and rest) but I shudder to think what would have happened if I had.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:56 PM on November 10, 2005

You pay your insurance company to handle claims, so let them do their job.

And why would you try to do a favor for someone who could have killed you?
posted by sageleaf at 2:04 PM on November 10, 2005

Since the accident is on file and the insurance company knows about it, her premiums are going to go up, period. Her paying you is dumb. The insurance company is going to JACK her at the next renewal - if they even let her renew - whether she pays this claim or not. This is the insurance company trying to screw her by getting her to pay something that is their responsibility.

You would be doing her a favor to simply continue with your claim against the insurance company rather than accepting any money directly from her.
posted by jellicle at 2:10 PM on November 10, 2005

If anything about this situation is going to come back for a bite on the ass, years down the want its teeth on the insurance company, rather than you. Let them handle it. Have no further contact with her.
posted by cribcage at 2:15 PM on November 10, 2005

DEFINITELY go through the insurance company. Visit a doctor now, and DON'T ACCEPT A SETTLEMENT for at least 6 months to give any latent injuries you may have had time to manifest. If you let them pay the damages now, you'll be out of luck for any pain that comes up down the line.
posted by jasper411 at 2:29 PM on November 10, 2005

Also what's with all this moralizing "teach her a lesson" responses. That had nothing to do with the question.

Actually, it does. He asked about the ethical implications, and is clearly considering the weight of 'not making things easier on a drunk driver.'

I'm siding with most people. Getting the money to fix the car and any problems, and blah, blah, blah, is a big hassle. It's a hassle your insurance company has many thousands of people trained to do. Going through your insurance and getting your claim paid and letting them recover from her or her insurance (who quite likely won't cover the incident because she was drunk at the time) is the easiest, safest, most hassle-free thing for you to do.

I'm in favour of cutting the other guy a break if something is a truly an accident and they're contrite and sorry and cutting them a break will really help them, out of proportion to the risks I take on when doing it. But the risks here are high for you, the benefits to her are basically non-existent, and she's a drunk driver, so it wasn't an accident, it was negligence and stupidity on her part.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:38 PM on November 10, 2005

Really, you could just take some cash from her. And then go persue through insurance. That would certainly be the financial decision, albeit not as much the ethical one.

In all seriousness, you really do need to go through insurance. Insurance oftentimes offers other benefits when you have a vehicle repaired through them. For instance, after my car was broken into, they (Progressive) told me if I went through them for the repairs, then my rental would be provided no matter how long the repairs took, AND I wouldn't have to deal with a 3rd party repair shop's estimate vs. the claims adjuster's. Additionally, they warranty their repairs for a full year.

Also, the medical issue is something you should be weary of, and have a chance for recourse here. Since you've already reported it, just go ahead with getting it fixed. She's going to pay the price regardless.
posted by disillusioned at 2:54 PM on November 10, 2005

I agree with most here - they all have excellent reasons that I won't reiterate.

Except one, because I am a vengeful bitch. She drank, she drove, it's time for a little negative reinforcement. As jacquilynne said - it's her own fault, and she should pay for it.
posted by kalimac at 2:59 PM on November 10, 2005

The bottom line:

- she doesn't have the deep pockets and resources to take care of you and your car, because if the estimates are X the final bill could be X times 2 or 3.
- you don't know how much this incident will cost in the end, in neither medical nor property terms. You may need medical treatment in six months, or the body shop may discover more damage than originally suspected. It could drag on for a year or more.
- using your insurance company to subrogate against hers is the safest way to protect your interests.
- drunk drivers need a wake-up call. It's likely she's never had one and is trying to use you to protect her own interests when she's the one who violated yours (and ours, as drivers on the same roads on which she drives).

This woman is trying to weasel her way out of her obligation to you. Don't let her do it.
posted by lambchop1 at 3:16 PM on November 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

That's weird. Today I was rear-ended by a coworker. My body was jarred but I didn't feel any pain afterwards. My bumper got pushed in and my coworker asked if we needed to call our insurance companies. I said no, that her deductable would cost more that it would to fix my bumper. Geez, I hope I don't wake up in a month with whiplash.
posted by any major dude at 3:27 PM on November 10, 2005

She's fucking lucky that noone is dead. (You are too, of course!) It's too bad that you are now stuck with a decision that affects how likely she is to kill someone in the future. Put that way, I would feel myself morally required to take whichever course of action makes her less likely to drive drunk in the future.
posted by Aknaton at 3:32 PM on November 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

Tell her to contact your insurance company, whom you pay for their services, if she would prefer that they deal with her directly instead of with her insurance company. If she wants to cut her own insurance company out of the process, that's one thing, but there's no reason she should cut your company out of it - that can't benefit her and can only harm you.

This has the side benefit of preventing her from screwing you over in any way, be it collusion to commit insurance fraud, not getting your money, not getting the benefits you're entitled to, etc.

Incidentally, I might actually take her money without giving her a receipt and without ever mentioning it to my insurance company. That'd be a kind of stupidity tax, but drunk drivers deserve no better.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:36 PM on November 10, 2005

I think pursuing through insurance is a fine way to go so that you don't have to put yourself at increased risk.

However, re: ethics and retribution, if she was cited for the DUI, she is paying for it. She had to spend a day in a sobering cell (eschatfische's profile says he's in SF, CA which is the only place I'm familiar with DUI laws) and will have to go to court where she will be charged with a DUI or possibly plea bargain down to wet or dry reckless (dependent primarily on what her blood alcohol level was).

The prices of those things? Thousands of dollars for a wet wreckless alone (that's not including if she chooses to hire a lawyer who will likely bank on her ignorance and charge her far more than what the citation would cost), days off work to attend court hearing, a suspended license, and probation.

She's already at an increased risk of higher penalty if she drinks and drives again (see: probation).

I'm discouraged by the moralistic and vengeful posturing.
posted by birdie birdington at 3:43 PM on November 10, 2005

Oh, and mandatory drunk driving classes once a week that may conflict with her work schedule, parenting, and/or schooling and will spout the religious dogma of AA.

So while driving drunk is stupid and bad and we can all agree on that, her life might be considerably fucked right now with no way to get around, if she's an hourly worker the days off will be costly, she might have to spend money she doesn't have to hire a sitter to attend classes, and yay! on top of that she gets to go to classes that have the same 5% efficacy rate of people who quit drinking on their own - all while learning totally dogmatic "You have a disease" bullshit.
posted by birdie birdington at 3:51 PM on November 10, 2005

People are being moralistic and vengeful because drunk drivers kill people. It's too bad that she's being inconvenienced, but when she has to take the time off work to appear in court she can thank her lucky stars that the charge is DUI and not manslaughter. All drunk drivers are potential killers, and people should take the responsibility _before_ they get wasted to make sure they won't have to dwi.

And to the op: you definitely flagged the best answer...I know people who have gone around insurance to pay for accidents, and it was a really difficult and painful process. You pay the money to the insurance company, so you may as well take advantage of the services they offer.
posted by apple scruff at 4:01 PM on November 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

odinsdream, the insurance company would prefer an out of policy settlement because they happen to insure both parties this time around. They'll save money that they might not be able to recoup from premiums.
posted by substrate at 4:05 PM on November 10, 2005

Hold on, I don't get this at all.

The insurance company already knows about the DUI. She's already been cited by the police for the DUI. Nothing about how you're paid will change these facts. Her rates are going to skyrocket; she might even be kicked off her policy entirely and forced to find a high-risk insurer.

It seems that she's confused as to how these things work and that she believes that it'll somehow save her money to pay you out of pocket. This is not the case. Her rates are going up no matter how she pays, because the insurance company knows about the accident. Why does she think that "her policy won't skyrocket as much as they normally would" if she pays the claim herself? Did her insurance company tell her this? It seems possible that they may have insinuated it in an attempt to avoid paying the claim (which they are, after all, responsible for), but I'd be very surprised if they told her this outright. I'd also be surprised if it were true.

I think the nice thing to do would be to go through the insurance company. If you want to screw her over, take the money from her directly.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:51 PM on November 10, 2005

There is no question. Go through the insurance company. This is what you pay them for.

She drove drunk; and not only that, the circumstances of the accident are such that it's extreme negligence (you were stopped for over a minute, you said!). I would not feel sorry for her one bit under those circumstances.

I had a very similar accident years ago (it was a hit and run -- the carload full of seemingly wasted guys took off at about 70mph up a city street, weaving all the way, after hitting me while I was stopped at a red light -- they were never found) and though I did not have immediate injury effects that night (mostly I was just in shock), I developed complications over the next couple of weeks. (It didn't help that I was already in treatment for a different car accident's residual injuries. This really complicated that situation.) If you work this out privately, and you have any further complications, you are screwed. Do not let that happen.

This is a completely cut-and-dried claim. You are clearly innocent here. This is when you should use the insurance. If you thought you'd be found partly at fault, that might be different.
posted by litlnemo at 4:53 PM on November 10, 2005

My parents had ongoing, low-level-but-problematic neck and back problems for years after an accident. Even if you're fairly confident that you weren't injured, her insurance will cover you no matter how long you have problems.
posted by Geektronica at 7:17 PM on November 10, 2005

Go through the insurance company. As others have said - you may have injuries that won't show up for a while.
posted by mrbill at 9:29 PM on November 10, 2005

Continue with the claim through your insurance because she will find a way to fuck you if you do not.

such as declaring bankruptcy and naming you as a creditor ... or moving out of state ... or just being hard to find

let your insurance company deal with it ... it's their problem because you hired them to make it their problem ...

what happens with her is her problem, not yours
posted by pyramid termite at 9:36 PM on November 10, 2005

Incidentally, I might actually take her money without giving her a receipt and without ever mentioning it to my insurance company. That'd be a kind of stupidity tax, but drunk drivers deserve no better.

You say "stupidity tax," I say "insurance fraud." Bad plan, though I understand your frustration.
posted by zanni at 1:08 AM on November 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

Lots of good comments her. Not adding advice, but will share an experience. I got rear-ended by a drunk driver while seated at a stoplight. I wasn't really harmed, but I did decide to go the next day to the hospital to have my neck checked cause it was a little sore. A year and a half later, I was still trying to deal with a mess (1) my insurance saying it wasnt an emergency cause I went the next day and (2) NJ being a no fault state so my rates going up. I regreat not going after the guy and suing just because of all the trouble I ended up encountering. Ultimately I spend hours of my time and tons of money and I was the guy rear-ended by a drunk while parked at a redlight. Moral of the story (at least for me). When you're dealing with auto accidents and insurance issues you have to be aggressive. It doesn't pay to be a nice guy and try to cut someone some slack.
posted by BigBrownBear at 2:16 AM on November 11, 2005

Make sure your insurance company is NOT one of these notorious "off shore" companies that exist in California. They can refuse to play claims and the State can't touch them. I got caught this way after a being rear-ended by a hit-and-run. This was back in 1989.

Also, do heed the words about time delay on neck injuries. I was fine for a week or so before the trouble began.
posted by Goofyy at 4:33 AM on November 11, 2005

do I take the offer? It doesn't do much for me, really, but it'd be nice for her

I'll join the chorus. This kind of situation is the reason you've been making those insurance premium payments. Letting her (promise to) give you cash (even if she actually does) doesn't use the thing you've been spending money on.

It might be nice for her; It'd definitely be nicer than her having her car rear-ended. If she was blind drunk enough to miss seeing a stopped car at a red light, what are the chances she'd notice a motorcycle, or a child crossing the street?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:28 AM on November 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

For the life of me, I can not imagine being nice to a drunk driver.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:42 PM on November 11, 2005

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