I am really angry at the guy who hit me with his car. What should I do?
June 23, 2016 7:25 PM   Subscribe

A few weeks ago, I was hit by a car while riding my bike. I know I need to contact a lawyer, and one is calling me tomorrow for intake, but really what I need help dealing with is my anger.

It was 100% the driver's fault. He admitted it, and was extremely apologetic. He agreed to cover the cost of my bike, which belongs to my roommate, and in return I was (probably excessively) nice. I didn't call a lawyer, and I told him as long as he paid for what it cost to replace the bike, we were good. Now, he's gotten super technical and aggressive, trying to argue me down over the amount of money he will give me (not enough to cover a new bike) and asking me to sign a waiver his lawyer wrote releasing him from any damages. I am furious.

I think what's bothering me is this. He was careless. He scared me. He hurt me (I didn't have major injuries but I had lots of bruises and road rash). And I was so fucking nice to him - I invited him inside while we waited for the police, offered him water, did everything I could to reassure him and make him feel better because he was shaken up. At the end of the exchange, I felt good about it, because I'd acted like my best self and in exchange he was going to do the right thing. And now, I'm just like, you fucking idiot. There were witnesses at the scene who offered to stick around tell the police that he'd driven right into me - I brushed them off. The guy actually offered to buy me a new bike that afternoon - I said, no, let's see what the cost of the repairs are first. My friends told me to contact a lawyer, but I didn't, because I didn't want to be 'that kind of person,' 'it was an honest mistake,' etc. Now I feel like such a sucker, and that feeling is making me incandescent with rage.

The problem is, I don't think that suing this guy is going to make me feel better; it's going to make me feel worse. I won't be in control of that situation - maybe I'll win, but maybe I won't, and if I don't, I'm going to feel even more powerless and angry at my past self than I do right now, because if I'd taken the steps I should have at the time, I would without question have won. So basically I'm just setting myself up to have my face rubbed in my mistakes. Every time the subject comes up, I will have to think about this again and it will make me furious, and now that it's come to this, there's no amount of money that will make me satisfied - all I want is to look him in the eye and tell him he's a garbage human and I don't want his money anyway. Like, if you asked me what I deep, deep down want from this situation, it's to shout at him about what a bad person he is and make him cry.

This is obviously a really bad and useless way to feel. Yes, I am in therapy. Can you talk me down, and maybe give a script I can recite in my head over and over again every time I have to deal with this situation and I start to spin out into a rage?
posted by pretentious illiterate to Human Relations (25 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
This sounds like a very angering situation to me. Maybe it will end up being like grief or sadness: you'll just feel this way for a while until you don't. I hope not!

Are you getting enough exercise, since you don't have your bike now? Maybe exercise would help?
posted by amtho at 7:40 PM on June 23, 2016

My husband and I were you a long time ago when the unlicensed 15-year old nephew of a car rental driver hit my husband in front of a cop and witnesses. But, no, we didn't want to be litigious and let the whole thing go. Decades later, my husband requires surgery on the hip that was hit.

Struck by a flying retractable dog leash about ten years ago, at the end of which was an untrained dog, I started to let that go, too. Because dog. Because neighbor. However, I had three broken facial bones and permanent peripheral facial nerve damage that will never heal. I didn't hire a lawyer, but threatened to get one a few months before the statute of limitations expired with the neighbor's insurer. I finally accepted the other party's insurance offer and glad I did because I suffered a permanent injury. A lawyer would've gotten triple what I got, but I didn't want to be "litigious."

Fast forward to two weeks ago, I was rear-ended by an impatient 18-year old. He was so distraught and apologetic, I almost decided to drive away and swallow it. But I came to my senses. I called the cops on the spot, filed a claim, got totally reimbursed by my insurance company and will pursue this further to get the "diminished value" of my car thanks to a Mefite who told me how he did the same. The father of the driver who rear-ended me wanted to work it out between us. Hell, no. I've wised up. I'm tired of careless people. While I'm still not getting a lawyer, I'm not apologizing to anyone, settling with anyone, or moving on without reimbursement.

You do not need therapy. You need an attack-dog lawyer. So line up the police report, witness statements, and all the paperwork. Let a lawyer handle this.
posted by Elsie at 7:54 PM on June 23, 2016 [69 favorites]

So sorry this happened to you - and SO GLAD it wasn't worse. This terrible guy hit you with his car. You - miraculously - suffered nothing worse than bruises and a wrecked bike. Can you think of it this way - that your trajectory through life happened to touch this guy's - and focus on how glad you are that it was such a light touch? It's wonderful luck that there need be no lasting effect to you.

And I get that your feelings are less about the damage and more about him not acknowledging that you were extremely kind to him. "Pearls before swine," you know? Save that love and light for your friends and other folks who haven't hit you with their car.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:58 PM on June 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

Your being very nice and humane is not invalidated by his being a litigious robot. I'm glad you did what you did, which is behave in a way that people wish other people would but are frequently too afraid or angry to do themselves. (This is not to invalidate the idea of protecting yourself right away--different reactions for different people in different situations. I am 90% of the time too afraid and angry to do this stuff.) I wish it had ended with both of you being nice and humane, and if it makes you happiest to exercise what control you do have and tell him you don't want his money etc., then do that. If it doesn't, get a lawyer and try your best to allow yourself to keep it out of mind.

But whatever you decide, don't let your brain reframe this as "I was a sucker because I did what I thought was right, and now this craven doofus I want to punch in the mouth wins." If the No. 1 force we we were all driven by was the fear of being a sucker, everyone would act like this craven doofus you want to punch in the mouth. You weren't driven by it, and you should feel good about that, however you proceed.
posted by Polycarp at 8:04 PM on June 23, 2016 [9 favorites]

You have a right to be angry with him. On top of the fact that he injured you, he's being a jerk about replacing the bike and is not acknowledging the seriousness of what he did. Stop corresponding with the guy who hit you and let your lawyer take care of everything.

I'm sorry you're dealing with this, but I'm glad your injuries were fairly minor.
posted by smich at 8:06 PM on June 23, 2016

Mike Birbiglia did a piece on This American Life about being hit by a car that he later expanded into a show (Netflixable) called My Girlfriend's Boyfriend. It had a big impact on how I see my own anger over things I can't control, and I recommend you watch it.
posted by rikschell at 8:10 PM on June 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

My own experience of having been injured through somebody else's carelessness and negligence is that getting a monetary settlement from them did a lot to relieve the anger and resentment I felt about it. I'd suggest pursuing it through your lawyer, then seeing how you feel.

And although feeling that angry isn't a pleasant experience, it sounds like you have legitimate reason to be angry! He spun you a line that sounded generous and remorseful while you had invited him into your home — I would be angry as hell! It will probably take a while to pass through it and come out the other side. And as long as the issue is unresolved (until your claim/lawsuit is settled) it's difficult if not impossible to go through that healing process, because it will keep getting reactivated.

Best wishes.
posted by Lexica at 8:10 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

A horrible man screamed at me, up in my face, on and on, in the street in NYC when I was 9 months pregnant; it was over HIS mistake that had caused a near collision with me as a pedestrian and him on a bike. I said nothing at the time and later was so filled with anger that I felt poisoned.
I also needed something to tell myself "over and over:" and it was this: Flourpot, you just got a tiny bit of this man but he has to wake up and be that guy every day of his life."
The fact that he changed after seeing a lawyer suggests that the driver is weak in the way that makes people bad. You should get what you are owed but you should also think of him as pathetic, not powerful. Over and over remind yourself: He is pathetic. He has to be that guy.
posted by flourpot at 8:12 PM on June 23, 2016 [30 favorites]

I just wanted to say this is not the first time I've heard this happening - a cyclist getting hit by a car and the driver totally takes responsibility at the time... Only for them later to do a 180 and refuse responsibility.

You were decent because at the time he was being decent.

Now he's changed course, so you can change course.

If you get angry, be angry at human nature - the tendency to cover ones own ass, or to default to "nice mode" in a time of stress. It was a stressful time. You're both only human.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:17 PM on June 23, 2016 [15 favorites]

And I was so fucking nice to him

I did something similar myself at the culmination of an event where I had a gun to my head. I was so polite in my verbal response to the gunman in the micro-moments after the direct threat was averted. Soon after, when I thought about it, I was angry for deflecting attention from myself when I had been severely traumatised. It was like I invalidated my own experience.

I think this is the 'fawn' response (fight/flight/freeze/fawn) to a physical threat. It's been some years since that event but I have recognised fawning in my repertoire of responses to danger/threat/shock. In your situation, maybe car-guy was subconsciously still a threat to you so you responded to that ongoing conflict by playing nice in order to reduce the threat of further assault (emotional or psychological).

There is no 'right' way to respond when under shock and threat. If you acknowledge that both your actions then, and your current anger now, are acceptable responses to the trauma of your accident, you can then decide to enter the cold-hard 'fight' response, characterised by a determined goal to achieve justice for your Self.
posted by Thella at 8:22 PM on June 23, 2016 [21 favorites]

Oh, this really resonates with me. A few years ago I felt very similar about something that had happened to me. Basically, someone told me a sob story, and I gave them some money - not a huge amount, but still - and then it turned out they just made it up to get my money and I felt so stupid. I felt embarrassed. I was angry at that person, but I was also angry at myself, because I thought I should have known, and of course they were lying, and what was I thinking. I had a really hard time getting over this.

But I actually got over it, by realizing this: I wasn't stupid. The other person was an asshole. It is not my job in life to become so jaded and cynical that nobody can ever take advantage of me again. The same is true for you: You did the thing a good person would do. If everyone acted like you, the world would be a better place. The fact that that guy decided to be an ass does not make that untrue. If I was in my old situation again, I would probably ask more questions and still give them the money; and maybe future you would let those witnesses make a statement and not send them away, but still be nice to the person who hit you with their car. That's okay. I think you are a good person, and if you are like me, you will feel better acting according to your own ethical standards than trying to never ever get taken advantage of again.

I frame it like this for myself: there will be situations in which I can decide to do what I think is right, and it will make me somewhat vulnerable. Sometimes people will try to exploit that, but other times people will really depend on me being a good person and it will make a huge difference in their life. I won't know in advance which situation it will be. I realize as I get older that the balance that makes me feel okay with the world is more on the "believe-in-other-people" end of the spectrum than most other people's, but that's okay. And this internet stranger says what you did was okay, too, you don't need to be angry with yourself.
posted by CompanionCube at 8:37 PM on June 23, 2016 [37 favorites]

Your anger is one of the damages of the incident. Make sure you are compensated for that in your suit, as well.
posted by Miko at 8:57 PM on June 23, 2016 [8 favorites]

OP you have a kind heart. You gave someone the benefit of the doubt and trusted that he was a good human and just some one who did a bad thing. Feel good about your compassion for your fellow human and stop being mad at yourself. Now. He's shown to you that he is not a good person who did a bad thing but a shithead who did a shithead thing. So fuck him. Get your lawyer. Get your money. Don't feel bad about doing it.
posted by teamnap at 9:47 PM on June 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

I don't think you did the wrong thing. I think you did the right thing at the time, as did he, and now he's being an ass and as a result you're in a difficult situation. You're feeling mad at past-you for this situation, but the real problem here is now-him.

Just because you didn't lock your front door doesn't make it OK for someone to sneak in and take your stuff. Just because you didn't throw up every defense initially doesn't make it OK for him to treat you unfairly now.
posted by samthemander at 9:49 PM on June 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Are your insurance companies involved? I think you need to make sure they are, and tell this guy never to contact you again. Stop listening to him. And get a lawyer, because he has one.

Listen, getting hit is scary. Being nice is a pretty reasonable way to handle someone who just hurt you... It's disorienting and weird. Don't beat up on yourself for how you behaved.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:00 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Your anger is not at him but at yourself as you may be someone who is too nice. Also that might be your response to a situation that is unexpected. I was mugged once and I was super nice to the person who was mugging me-go figure. Basically we go into shock and have different responses to a sudden situation. Being nice was your response, now get over it. Acknowledge that it was a reflex response and next time you will be more present. Less reason to be angry at yourself.
posted by metajim at 10:03 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

First off, sorry about the accident getting hit on a bike is no fucking joke man.

Secondly being in the midst of a still ongoing lawsuit (so I will say what I can) from getting hit by a car I will say get a lawyer now. And don't say another word to the guy, have that lawyer say everything and anything that needs to be said to him. Feel no sympathy for him, he fucking hit you man. After my wreck, of which I shattered my elbow and have 3 surgeries from, I still didn't want to get a lawyer because I thought I could handle it all myself. It totally helps with so much little daily stress you have no idea.

Third and lastly, everyone feels anger, especially in these moments. It can be for all different reason, just like another poster said taking advantage of you or whatever it may be. I know all to well those feelings, while in the Abulance I was consoling the person who hit me and forgiving less then 10 mins after they would change my life. I felt anger for months afterwords and only recently have moved on. What I came to understand, I wasn't anger at their faults and taking advantage of my kindness, it was that I didn't allow myself to go off on them. To allow myself to express how much they mentally and physically hurt, those emotions overflowed into anger. Once I understood this, my lawyer and I sat down and wrote a letter to them explaining how much my life has changed and will change by their simple actions.

Again, as some still in a getting hit by a car cycling lawsuit. Get a lawyer, and get one that takes a cut of the return. Good luck and best wishes
posted by bigbadbehr at 10:49 PM on June 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

The Kubler-Ross "stages" apply in whole or in part to many sudden and traumatic events in life. Anger is number 2.

The first response to an accident is typically shock. You are jolted out of whatever "normal" path you were following and then ingrained habits like your solicitude take over, without you even thinking whether they are warranted. It took a while for the other emotional responses to bubble up.

But the anger stage also passes with time. Sometimes it takes help.

Consultation with a lawyer is highly recommended, but note that litigation is not one of the coping stages to a life event. It is often just an unpleasant necessity.
posted by megatherium at 3:47 AM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Talking to your lawyer may help. It did with me. I mentioned hesitating to take a hard line with the other party and my lawyer said something like, "Oh for Pete's sake; you've already been way too nice to those people." It was really freeing to see that an outside observer had this perception. You may not want to get into a big thing about your feelings with your lawyer, but they are used to helping clients who tried to work it out in a nice, human way and got screwed over for their trouble. Sadly it is a very very common scenario.

Also, a couple of weeks is not very long and you are still probably feeling shocked and traumatized
and having it play over in your head much more than it will down the road. Hey, this guy could so easily have killed you! Hopefully, some of that anger will turn into relief once all the adrenaline burns off.

Good luck with this!
posted by BibiRose at 4:55 AM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'll be honest...I'm never nice during an accident, whether it's my fault, someone else's or undetermined. I don't think you should be. I'm never mean but I'm always direct, to the point, (I make it a point to ask if the other person is ok) and what some people would consider cold. I've learned that once everyone gets back home and insurance and Lawyers are called friendly demeanors can flip 180. This time you didn't know, but now you do. Lawyer up, make sure you see a doctor to check for any injuries and consider it a lesson learned. It sucks and it's really frustrating but the feelings will pass and I bet you'll feel better after you win.

Also, seeing a doctor usually guarantees a settlement of some sort and considering you were on a bike is a definite necessity. You may not feel bad but heavens knows if you have a small fracture or ligament tear that could become apparent in a few months times and be very expensive or painful. It's ok to be angry and right to be angry, just use that anger as fuel to go to court. Don't bother with him, he's defending himself because he's scared and honestly when something like this happens it's not uncommon. Just protect yourself and hold your ground.
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 6:31 AM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

The problem is, I don't think that suing this guy is going to make me feel better; it's going to make me feel worse. I won't be in control of that situation -

You might find that your feelings of powerlessness actually disappear when you hire a lawyer. You don't trust your own judgment right now because you were nice and the guy took advantage. So hire someone who isn't nice/mean/personal at all: a pro. It removes the emotional element in a huge way. Once you feel confident that you are in good hands, you will feel much more in control.
posted by headnsouth at 6:49 AM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

You were in an accident and you were hit by a car and even though you are ok, it was traumatic and scary. Now, the person who hit you is being an asshole. SO. I don't have a script for you but you are totally doing a thing I would be doing, which is this insane mental calculus about how to do the best thing and be the best person you can be because how will you feel about this vs. that down the road? And this buttface is basically doing the opposite and you don't want to be him.

BUT YOU'RE NOT HIM. And protecting yourself with a lawyer and a potential lawsuit if you don't get reimbursed for what you're owed would not MAKE you into him.

Here's what I would focus on:

1.) Accept that you are a smart and kind and compassionate person and that means you don't need to run an in-depth analysis algorithm on every action you take to make certain you are doing your absolute best.

2.) Remember that being a kind and compassionate person also includes being that to yourself. How would you counsel a friend in this situation? Remember to hold yourself to the same standard.

3.) Accept that you are going to probably feel bad and angry about this situation no matter what happens because it was traumatic and you are dealing with an asshole. So, look at the field in front of you, make sure you are compensated and well taken care of, forgive yourself for anything you wished you did differently in the moment because you were traumatized after an accident!!! and gurl. Hire that lawyer.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:29 AM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've been the cyclist hit by a car (twice), and I've felt that anger. It's gone now, and I think that it did help to actually use a lawyer and see the thing through to its conclusion, which penalized the driver('s insurance) heavily. But I was angry for a while, including what you said -- that all I wanted to do was yell at them.

My lawyer got mad on my behalf. I think that's part of their schtick, but it did help me to know that someone was just as outraged as I was, to have someone justify my feelings with me, instead of me having to explain why hitting a cyclist is a bad thing.

It also eventually helped to think of how the driver must have felt. I know this is hard. But the driver was horrified to have caused that much injury to me -- honestly I think people drive SUVs so they'll be in an isolated bunker, and don't at all realize that their choice of vehicle raises dangers and harms others. The reality of it can be harsh. I think any human is horrified to see that they have genuinely harmed someone else. I sure would feel awful. So the driver's reactions -- first apologetic, now defensive -- do make sense, and it's not aimed at or personal to you.

But sic a lawyer on him anyway.
posted by Dashy at 10:40 AM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Your story reminded me of John Green's story about being hit by a bike messenger (he was a pedestrian). He made a great video about it. TL;dw: he had several facial fractures, a long term untreated infection, and has had to endure hundreds of hours of oral surgery.

More anecdata: I was hit by another driver (in my car). He was changing lanes, on the phone, and going 40 mph. He ploughed into the back of me while I was at a full stop. My car was on the edge of being totalled (it was a Honda Civic and was only few months old at that point), but (miraculously) I didn't hit anyone in front of me. I was totally shaken up and had a bit of a concussion, but otherwise wasn't injured. Or so I thought.

Eight years later, I have degenerative disk disease and chronic pain. He barely had insurance (this was at least his fourth accident) and no assets. His insurance even said they wished they could give me more - they could only give me the maximum his plan covered - and they didn't argue with me at all. But honestly, 10k doesn't come anywhere close to compensating me for the loss of the health of my spine.

You may not have an injury now, but that doesn't mean you won't eventually. Get a lawyer you trust and do what they recommend. Good luck.
posted by guster4lovers at 1:25 AM on June 25, 2016

You need an attack-dog lawyer. So line up the police report, witness statements, and all the paperwork. Let a lawyer handle this.

Fuck this guy. Elsie is exactly right.
posted by Aizkolari at 1:25 PM on June 30, 2016

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