Not at fault - make a claim?
November 30, 2014 11:29 AM   Subscribe

I am in California. Yesterday while stopped at a red light I was hit from behind. The visible damage on both cars is minimal and no one was hurt, but it was still a jarring crash. The person who hit me is insured but does not want me to make a claim and has offered to pay for my inspection and repairs out of pocket. Is there any reason that I should not make a claim in this situation?

I had been stopped for at least 30 seconds and the red-light was mid-way through its cycle. There were a few cars in front of me. There was a screeching of breaks, before the car hit me - he was coming pretty fast, but had had slowed down before he hit me.

While I appreciate that the other driver does not want his insurance rates to go up, I am concerned about potential internal damage to my car. It seems like it is in my best interest just to pursue a claim through my insurance company, but for some reason I am feeling guilty about making a claim. The other driver was very friendly, apologetic and seems genuinely willing to pay my costs. On the other hand, isn't this why I have insurance? Going through the insurance company will definitely be less of a hassle and the other driver certainly should have been paying attention when he was driving; we are lucky the accident wasn't worse.

I always try to be helpful to others, but this seems like a situation where I need to do what is right for me and not worry about the friendly stranger who hit me. What would you do?
posted by The Architect to Work & Money (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is exactly why you have insurance, yes. It's tough because you want to be "polite" when someone is asking you to do them a favor, but realistically, this is something that your insurance should be handling. There is also a small chance that saying "I'm going to file a claim" may turn this person from being friendly to being not-friendly (they may have points on their license or other reasons why an insurance claim would be a real problem for them) and it's still fine to just proceed through channels and file a claim.
posted by jessamyn at 11:33 AM on November 30, 2014 [26 favorites]

I am of the opinion that being kind to strangers does not extend to failing to report traffic accidents to your own insurance insurance company because you carry your own automobile policy for your own needs. And you have need of it now. In the end, you may choose not have your own insurance cover your costs from the incident, but if you need it, you can't have it without filing your claim.

On preview, more of less what jessamyn says.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:34 AM on November 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: What would you do?

I'd file an insurance claim for three reasons:

(1) This is why you have insurance. It's their job to sort this out so you don't have to.

(2) I would not be convinced that the other driver would be so reasonable if the repairs turn out to be more expensive than expected.

(3) Bad drivers (and slamming into someone who has been stopped at a stoplight for 30+ seconds is indeed bad driving, regardless of whether or not he tried to stop) should, in my opinion, be penalized. I'd not be troubled at all if his insurance premiums went up, especially if it hammered home the need for him to focus more when he's behind the wheel. And lest I be accused of being holier than thou on this one, I once rear-ended someone in a similar fashion when I was in high school. It was embarrassing and I learned a lot from the whole process. This dude should, too.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:44 AM on November 30, 2014 [18 favorites]

Best answer: Well, from the other perspective-- I had someone let me do this when I stupidly rear-ended them and it was a godsend (she offered, incidentally). I had gone 10 years without being in an accident prior to that and my rates would have gone up and there wasn't any visible damage to the other car (which was older anyway).

BUT there's definitely a certain level of risk to taking someone's word that they will do this and I wouldn't begrudge someone not being willing to take that risk. That's why you both have insurance and it is completely understandable if you're not willing to put your neck out for this stranger. Don't feel guilty about it, this is how insurance is supposed to work. Reporting it is standard; letting them pay off-record is not standard.
posted by geegollygosh at 11:48 AM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

"The person who hit me is insured but does not want me to make a claim"

You didn't want him to hit you, but he did anyway. What he wants doesn't really matter. Of course you should make a claim.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:48 AM on November 30, 2014 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Basically the exact same thing happened to us, and we did decide to file a claim. A few weeks later, when it became clear that the repair hadn't been done 100% correctly it was so, so easy to deal with getting it re-repaired. I remember thinking that if we hadn't gone through insurance, having to deal again with the guy who caused the accident, and deal with the repair shop again, probably would have been an enormous hassle. Report it.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:48 AM on November 30, 2014 [8 favorites]

Whiplash can take a few days to appear but months of PT to treat. Your insurance may exclude coverage for an auto accident.
posted by Dashy at 11:49 AM on November 30, 2014 [8 favorites]

I'd file the claim. What if you wind up with some injury that didn't show up at first, like whiplash? Or if the other driver does? File the claim, that's what insurance is for. I hope that you don't have any injuries that become apparent later, once the adrenaline rush has worn off.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:50 AM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Always file a claim. Always.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:57 AM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Previously, previously, and previously.
posted by saeculorum at 12:10 PM on November 30, 2014

Best answer: I let someone pay me instead of filing a claim, once, and I won't do it again. It was a pain getting them to pay, and when the costs ended up being more than we'd originally thought it would be they never paid up.

Plus they probably shouldn't've been driving at all, and having that reflected in their insurance could have been a good thing for society.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:14 PM on November 30, 2014 [8 favorites]

Someone on this board had posted that the person never paid. File a claim.
posted by jellyjam at 12:18 PM on November 30, 2014

Best answer: Yes, file the claim. If for no other reason than to actually guarantee payment. Easy for this guy to offer, huge headache trying to collect if he balks at all.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:20 PM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: File the claim. Get it on record. Sometimes, people aren't so responsive when it is discovered that the damage is a bit more than originally thought. Your insurance has far vaster resources to deal with things.
posted by kellyblah at 12:42 PM on November 30, 2014

I had this exact situation happen to me back in 2001. I was rear ended while sitting at a red light. Long story short, I agreed to let the guy pay for repairs out of pocket (about $1200) and then he stopped answering my calls. I ended up eating the $1200.

Longer version: I didn't have a cell phone back then, but this fellow (who owned a chain of pawn shops in the Jackson, MS area) did. As a show of good faith to buttress his claim that he would pay for repairs, he offered to call the police to "see if we'd even need to file a report". The officer showed up and told me I was wasting his time and that these sorts of things were usually handled between individuals without dragging cops and insurance into it.

In retrospect, I realize that the policeman was almost certainly a "friend" of the pawn shop owner and that I was taken. Still, to my youthful eyes, the pawn shop owner seemed honest and genuinely sorry for his mistake and the policeman seemed genuinely peeved that I was wasting his time on trifles. Now, I recommend to everyone - file a police report and contact insurance unless you really, truly are planning to pay for the damages yourself.
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 12:45 PM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: File a claim. People are friendly and say they want to pay for your repairs out of pocket but only until they find out how much it actually costs. It's always more than they think it should be.

You're going to end up calling your insurance company in the end; might as well do that sooner rather than later.

My car got hit in a parking lot by a student driver (not with a driving school, just unlicensed and learning) which damaged two doors and the rear quarter panel. The quote was $2100 at the Toyota dealer. Her parents felt this was excessive but said I should bring it in to have it fixed and they would pay the Toyota dealer directly.

Problem 1: If they don't end up paying, I'm out of a car and somebody still has to pay.

Problem 2: I am not required to fix anything (it was cosmetic) - they did the damage; they owe me the money. They have no right to dictate that I must have the car repaired.

So this went back and forth for a while and eventually I just called my insurance company. They sent me a check for $2600 and extracted the payment from whoever and I didn't have to do a thing.
posted by shihchiun at 12:57 PM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I worked in insurance claims for a long time assessing damages and payment for auto accidents. I would encourage you to file the claim for a few reasons.

1. You don't know that the person will follow through like they say that they will. It can go downhill fast for a number of reasons.

2. You will almost certainly get a little extra for the hassle in a case like this, as the other insurance company will be interested in settling a possible future exposure for an injury claim from you. Neck injuries are common in rear-end accidents and potentially ongoing, and if you aren't hurt, they will like to settle in a way that closes the case definitively. (If you are hurt, their bodily injury liability will almost certainly be more substantive than your limited medical coverage on your own policy.)

3. That is what insurance is for. It covers you, but it also does the hard work of figuring out the hassle of paying the body shop, looking over your car for further damages, getting payment from the right party, etc.

4. That is also why the other guy has insurance. I'm sure he's worried about his premiums, but to be frank, he should be. In almost every case, rear-end accidents are coded 100% of the fault of the person who hits the other from behind. He was negligent, and you have no good reason to protect him.

You can go through your own policy and pay the deductible up front. If you know his insurance company, you can also call them and file a claim. This is what I would do, as you are certainly going to receive 100% of your damages in a situation like this, and you don't have to worry about the wait time of your company trying to get your deductible back from the other company.

I hope this helps a bit. I'm happy to answer any other questions if you have them.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:06 PM on November 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I got swiped a few days ago. The husband of the woman who swiped me offered to pay out of pocket, if I got a quote. There were several problems with this: I had to get the quote, I had to sort the work out, I had to figure out the way I would receive a large sum of money from a stranger (direct bank deposit? Cash?) and I would be the one without a car that I need for work for several days.

Calling the other person's insurance means I don't have to worry about any of those things. The repairs are sorted and the insurance company is paying for a courtesy car so I can still travel to work and get paid.

The guy is worried about his wife's insurance going up, which is reasonable. But I care more about my own comfort and convenience than I do about someone else's, which is also reasonable. Situations like this are the reason people have insurance. If you don't use it when you need it, you're spending money every year and getting nothing in return. Get your money's worth from your insurance and let the other person worry about their own problems.

If he doesn't want his insurance rates to go up, then he should be driving in a fashion that makes them less likely to. That's entirely within his control. You're under no obligation to put yourself out for someone who has harmed you or your property.
posted by Solomon at 1:14 PM on November 30, 2014 [10 favorites]

File the claim. Go see a doctor and get checked out. Follow all the doctor's orders, so that you can be showed to have taken steps to mitigate problems right from the start, if you do need a whiplash claim.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 1:14 PM on November 30, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the responses. I could not pick a single best response, since they all were helpful to me.

I have contacted my insurance company and will speak with their claims representative on Monday. I will then have my car inspected and determine exactly how to proceed. As SpacemanStix suggests, it may make sense for me to pursue this through the other driver's insurance instead. Either way, I will feel more comfortable with the insurance companies involved.

In the end, the security of the lifetime warranty on repairs offered by my insurance and the concern of up front money and the ability to collect from the other driver were the main factors in my decision.
posted by The Architect at 1:23 PM on November 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If he'd hit you a bit harder he could have caused you back and neck injuries that would leave you with lifelong chronic pain problems, and if he'd hit harder than that he could have paralyzed you.

I'm very glad that he did not, but maybe he should be paying higher insurance premiums.

You have no existing relationship with this person except that he hit you with his car. You owe him no consideration and no favors beyond ordinary courtesy, which certainly does not extend to concealing his mistake and accepting a part of the risk for ongoing problems. File a claim.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:24 PM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I let someone pay for repairs out-of-pocket once (she backed into my parked car & crushed the hood). Never again. The hassle level was much higher than the times I let insurance deal with repairs. And I hadn't thought to ask her to pay for a rental, which would have been ok if the repairs were done in the one day that was estimated, but got to be an expensive problem when they dragged on for a full week.
posted by belladonna at 1:47 PM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The person who hit me is insured but does not want me to make a claim and has offered to pay for my inspection and repairs out of pocket.

Their concern about their own premiums going up is not your problem.

Is there any reason that I should not make a claim in this situation?

No. Make a claim. Doing as this person asks presents no benefit to you, only risk.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:39 PM on November 30, 2014

Best answer: I have 2 recent experiences with this. First, a driver tapped me gently on the rear bumper when I was stopped at a crosswalk. I took a look, judged virtually no damage, and gave her a break.

A few weeks later, I tapped somebody from behind at a red light. (Yes, I admit it: Looking at my phone, I had drifted forward 6 feet.) We pulled over, the damage was all but invisiblel, and I offered to 'self-insure' and pay all. But he declined. Both of us had reasons like those in your situation.

I don't think either of those responses was wrong. If anything, my leniency in the first case could have turned out badly if I had internal damage to the car -- or worse, to me. By the same token, in the 2nd case, I certainly didn't begrudge the guy filing a claim. If I were you, I'd go with the process and file a claim.
posted by LonnieK at 2:48 PM on November 30, 2014

I should expound on my earlier answer, for future reference:

If your neck or back started hurting in a while but you had decided against filing, you would go to your doctor, who would send you to either PT or a spine/physical medicine specialist. Those practices, on their intake forms, will ask you: were these injuries a result of an auto accident? This is a standard question. It will appear.

Your own health insurance would then look to be reimbursed for whatever they pay for your services, from the car insurance(s). If there is no claim, your car insurer will deny the charge, and your health insurance might also decline to pay for something that, in their opinion, should be covered by the car insurer of the party at fault in the accident. Which would be the person who hit you, but if there is no claim, the bills could end up on your doorstep.
posted by Dashy at 6:35 PM on November 30, 2014

Response by poster: Dashy and others. Thank you for your comments about possible whiplash injury. The "jolt" really did not seem to be hard enough to cause physical injury, but you provide good advise.
posted by The Architect at 11:14 PM on November 30, 2014

« Older What's the best productivity solution for managing...   |   Older games with active modding communities Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.