Too stressed out to figure out what to do in this situation
August 3, 2017 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Visiting out of state family members of a neighbor backed into the side of my car, hitting the back driver side bumper. It looks like fairly mild damage to me, but I'm not a car mechanic. These people tried nearly every trick in the book to get me out of taking down their insurance information and it's left me very frustrated and unsure of what to do.

There's some mild scrapes on the outside, but a quick glance underneath shows a piece of something plastic has been cracked nearly in half. Maybe that's all there is to it, I don't know, but I certainly want to get it looked at.

It was an older couple. First they tried starting off with "Oh, gee sorry, I didn't see your car, but as you can see it's pretty much nothing, so you don't want our information, do you?" When I said "yes, I do," they were taken aback and then started taking pictures of my entire car because they didn't want me trying to come after them for damage from another accident and the general wear and tear. Then they started talking about their sick relative before they made pointed references to how they are cops, making sure to make eye contact as they said it. The part that really set me over the edge was when the woman got up close to me, put her hand on my shoulder, said "I hate to say it, but the car doesn't look that great anyway" and laughed.

I had to bite my tongue to get through it.

Yes, my car isn't great looking, but that doesn't mean people get free reign to back into it with no repercussions or compensation for damages.

About 6 months ago my grandmother backed into my car. It left a huge dent to my driver side door. My grandparents told me they would take care of it so I didn't report it to insurance. I've brought it up a couple times since then and they pretty much laugh it off like it's a joke.

After today and the way those people were talking to me, I ended up speaking to my grandmother and saying I wanted something done about the damage. We'll see how that goes.

Now, should I get an estimate for the damage and send this couple the bill without involving insurance (they suggested this), or do I do it the right way and go through my insurance? I don't know how much my frustration with people talking down to me about my car is clouding my judgment. I do know that I want any damage repaired. What would you do in this situation?

Thank you for any help.
posted by blackzinfandel to Work & Money (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Go through insurance! That's what it's for. They made a mistake, they have insurance, their insurance pays for it.
posted by radioamy at 1:12 PM on August 3, 2017 [56 favorites]

Insurance. If you got it, use it.
posted by AugustWest at 1:13 PM on August 3, 2017 [10 favorites]

Always go through insurance.

Also, those people sound horrible, and I'm sorry you had to interact with them at all.
posted by mordax at 1:15 PM on August 3, 2017 [35 favorites]

If you want to have a bit of fun you can send them a high-ball estimate, including a $100 "insurance avoidance fee".

But that's kind of mean, you should just report it to your insurance immediately.

"Keeping insurance out of it" is an extremely generous favor , reserved for people you already like and trust, not strangers who gave you a bad vibe and who sound kind of like asshats.
posted by SaltySalticid at 1:16 PM on August 3, 2017 [26 favorites]

I would go through insurance regardless - that's what it's for - but in this case I would especially go through insurance because, well, I love seeing assholes put in their place.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:16 PM on August 3, 2017 [26 favorites]

Go through insurance. I'm sorry they treated you rudely. Years ago, I had a roommate who backed into my car (I watched her from a window, she didn't know I saw) and I had to go confront her about it after she walked in and didn't say a thing. At first she denied it, then she went the route of 'well your car is old anyway.' Honestly, if she had just been honest and said she was really sorry and asked how I wanted to go about resolving it, I probably would have written it off.

Screw these meanies.
posted by rachaelfaith at 1:17 PM on August 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If they were that shady about giving you basic insurance information what reason do you have to trust them to do right by you when actual money is on the line. These people damaged and then insulted your property you don't owe them any favors.
posted by edbles at 1:25 PM on August 3, 2017 [74 favorites]

Somebody backed into the only new car I've ever purchased 2 weeks after I purchased it. It was dark, the car was parked at my friend's house, and I left shortly after it happened. The somebody was the friend's neighbor; he approached my friend a couple hours later, gave his name and insurance information, and asked me to get an estimate and maybe he'd pay me in cash rather than get insurance involved. I got the estimate, it was significantly higher than his deductible, so we got insurance involved and it was painless and we got the car fixed.

That's the kind of person who deserves this kind of courtesy. Not your people. Get insurance involved from the get-go.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:31 PM on August 3, 2017 [25 favorites]

Someone backed into me and I let it go and then started to have brake and alignment issues. Go through insurance.
posted by 4ster at 7:02 PM on August 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

Let me tell you about the time I exchanged information with someone who gave me fake info.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:06 PM on August 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm just joining the dogpile at this point, but good God, these people are total dickheads. Absolutely do not trust them to do right by you, as they have made it painfully obvious that they won't. Go through the insurance.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 7:31 PM on August 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Go through your insurance.
posted by Pax at 7:31 PM on August 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

One of the reasons to use insurance is that you won't have to deal with these people again.
posted by juliapangolin at 8:39 PM on August 3, 2017 [8 favorites]

If they are cops, they are even more dastardly in not wanting to go through proper channels and to coerce you to proceed under-the-table. I hope you got their names and registration down before they skip back out of town. Definitely do not assume they'll pay you back later.

And you know, criticising your car is a dumb thing to do - even if you are indignant about the slight and this is guiding your thoughts about this accident, so what? They are the people who are asking you to do a massive favour, so criticising your car just makes that even more unlikely. Sucks to be them, for being assholes to the person from whom they want a biiiig favour, and for being shit drivers who need to pay for their mistake[s].
posted by honey-barbara at 10:29 PM on August 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

Agree with everyone else. Going through insurance means it's all their problem, none of yours.

Also, are there rules in your jurisdiction about reporting certain kinds of accidents to the cops? I am not advising this*, but I know some people who would be very tempted to file a report no matter what the value of the damage was, and mention that the two cops involved tried at first to intimidate them out of getting their insurance info. That is an offense in some jurisdictions.

*They might escalate.
posted by rpfields at 3:43 AM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm usually a big proponent of offering the offender a chance to pay without involving insurance (and I'm usually against the grain of mefi on that), but given how they acted and reacted to you, I'd say forget that - go through your insurance with their insurance info. If you've caused an accident, you should be apologetic, not obnoxious and condescending. Don't deal with them at all.

If your neighbor brings this up, I think that I'd be point blank about why. "Oh, I wanted to consider offering them a chance to make me whole without going through insurance, but after they were demeaning and were so slow to even offer their insurnace information they kind of showed that it would be an exercise in frustration. If they'd been nice and apologetic about it I'd have gotten a quote and offered them the chance to just fix it. Sugar, flies, vinnegar and all that."
posted by nobeagle at 6:52 AM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

but I know some people who would be very tempted to file a report no matter what the value of the damage was

This is me. I will call the cops every time unless the damage is so small that I don't care about it. I know this doesn't help you now, but it's a life lesson I learned the hard way.

If no other reason than to have a record of the incident and liability. Lying to a cop in the moment about what happened is much harder than lying to your insurance company (I don't know what you mean. I don't know blackzinfandel and I was nowhere near their neighborhood on the day they state this happened).
posted by archimago at 8:18 AM on August 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

Contact your insurance provider. Give them your photos and the couple's contact info. Make sure you take photos the area around the incident as well as damage to your vehicle. Show previous damage, and label it clearly. Talk to anyone who might have witnessed the event, and get their contact info. Mention to your insurance provider what you wrote about them trying to discourage you, and that they purported to be police officers. These people are bullies and deserve only the courtesy you would extend during any business transaction.

I don't know what to tell you about your grandmother. I've never been able to collect money owed me by any family members. Or in-laws. Maybe you'll have better luck. I'm trying to think how it would turn out if I turned my insurance company on any of my relatives or in-laws, and I can't come up with any good scenarios.

I had a similar situation that was resolved without contacting my insurance company, when the driver who hit my car accompanied me to a body shop, where my car was inspected, and an estimate covering the damage (to include a paint job) was issued. The driver wrote the mechanic a check, and we all went on our way. My understanding was that a non-injury accident on private property didn't need to be reported to the police. BTW, we got the service-station manager--a disinterested person--to suggest a body shop, and I would never ever accept a personal check under these circumstances--the vender who accepts the check can verify it.
posted by mule98J at 11:08 AM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

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