I was just in a car accident and I need your advice on how to handle it.
May 16, 2008 10:54 AM   Subscribe

I was just in a car accident and I need your advice on how to handle it.

I'm a little shaken up and I live alone so I have no one to advise me on how to handle this.

While dropping my friend off at the airport, I approached a police checkpoint (just police cars and cones, not a parking structure with an arm that lowers) where two lanes merged into one to stop for ID Check. I was ahead of a parking shuttle van (privately company owned), 90% merged, and at a full stop as I waited for the two cars ahead of me at the checkpoint.

The parking shuttle, who I thought was just riding rather close because he was overly aggressive, didn't stop and dented/ scraped the left rear of my car with the right front of his van. I guess he didn't see me or he wasn't paying attention. It happens.

I pulled up to the checkpoint and the cop had me pull over. He said since there were no injuries no police report was needed. He did note that there was major paint transfer from his van to mine, but none from mine to his (does this prove I was stopped and he was the one moving up?).

I was shaken but it was really slow accident so it wasn't bad. We exchanged info, but he didn't have the insurance info in the van so I had follow him back to the parking office to get it.

That's where everything got crappy...

The owner and manager at the van place were complete jerks. I've been in accidents before and I always strive to make it amicable despite adrenaline and emotions. They didn't want to listen to my side of the story, claimed I was in the wrong lane and it was my fault, and talked about calling the cops. I told them I was fine with that. When we did exchange info, they photocopied my insurance card rather than writing down. When I asked if they could just photocopy theirs to save us time they said "that's not our problem". At one point I said, "You know this doesn't have to be adversarial, we can still be amicable" and they just grunted. They just generally made an unfortunate situation really crappy. I got the sense they were kinda shady jerks.

I don't like conflict or making things worse, so I'm honestly more shaken up by their attitude and behavior than the accident itself.

And here's the thing: 6 Months ago a guy rear-ended me. It was low speed, no damage was done. The guy was so nice and apologetic about it I told him to forget it. We didn't need to make claims. He even offered me cash and I turned him down. It's an older car and it's not in perfect shape so I didn't want to hassle either him or me.

If they had been nice to me I might have done the same this time. But they're behavior makes me want to be formal about it and teach them a lesson. But is this shooting myself in the foot? I think I have a $500 deductible--so it might not even been covered AND my rates might go up, right?

So is my desire to win overshadowing my own best interests?

Other minor details:

-98 Honda Civic, not in great condition

-Progressive insurance, customer for 9 years

- Picture: imagevenue link

-Could they claim whiplash or something (by one of the van passengers) and sue me?

-I really don't like that they have my address-- will they retaliate against me? I'm probably paranoid but they seemed like the kind of guys who could do that.

Mostly I just want this to go away, but I'm trying to fight through that to deal with it in the best way.
posted by sharkfu to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
Remember, I'm no lawyer. But in pulling together different stories from friends who were in accidents, here's what I would advise.

1 - They had no duty to help you get information beyond letting you see it. Which doesn't mean they had to be jerks about it, but they did what they were supposed to on that front.

2 - I would have been tempted to let them call the police right there, or done it for them. With police witnesses already, that could have been fun (for all the wrong reasons of course).

3 - I doubt they could sue you for any damages if the accident was their fault. If anything, the passengers could sue the company for causing them whiplash. But they shouldn't be able to sue you when you were also a victim of the van company.

Again, I'm no lawyer. So my final piece of advice is to find someone who is and get better advice from there.
posted by theichibun at 11:10 AM on May 16, 2008

- I would have insisted on the cop filing a police report. Once you have that, it's game, set and match in a case like this. And it makes things a lot easier with the insurance. In any wreck on a public road, no matter how minor, always get a police report.

- Did you get the cop's name? If not, go back there and get it! He's a potential witness.

- Did you actually get the other guy's insurance info? They actually have to give it to you.

- Call your insurance agent and find out if this is something your coverage will let you subrogate. This way, you pay the deductible, but you get your car fixed, they get the money out of the other guy, and then they return your deductible. Trust me, the insurance company will have an easier time getting them to pay up than you will. If it's not your fault, your rates won't go up.
posted by azpenguin at 11:13 AM on May 16, 2008

I'm not a lawyer.

I used to work for a trucking company. One reason that those guys were jerks to you is because trucking companies, delivery services, livery services and the like almost always get blamed (and sued) in any accidents in which their vehicles are involved, whether or not they are actually at fault. (Please note I am NOT excusing jerky behavior, just trying to give some insight into what they are thinking.) Companies like that are easy targets for lawsuits. So they were trying to bully you into making a potential big problem go away quickly. Drivers (and possibly supervisors) get fired when they have too many accidents or cost the company money in some way.

What I would do is get that police report. Get a couple/three estimates on the damage to your car. Then write the owner of the shuttle company a polite letter explaining the situation, along with a copy of the report and copies of the estimates. Ask for a fair reimbursement. You might be surprised that they will do this just to make you go away quicker. (The company I worked for did this because it was cheaper than negotiating new insurance rates.)

If that doesn't work, then you still have the option to escalate it with lawyers and insurance companies.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:35 AM on May 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I worked as a auto insurance adjuster for a couple of years. I would recommend letting your insurance company handle it, if you can arrange to pay for the deductible. It's worth the money up front not to have to deal with the headache. It is absolutely not worth getting into a discussion with the other party about who was at fault and who wasn't. Your insurance company will investigate the accident, and if they feel that the other person was primarily at fault, they will attempt to recoup damages from the other party (or their insurance), including a percentage of your deductible. I will say that being fully stopped and having the damages to the rear of your vehicle makes for a compelling case of the other person being very nearly 100% at fault. Your insurance company will likely go for most, if not all of, the damages from the other party. Take note that the other party's insurance will investigate the accident as well, but if they feel they have a case against you, will pursue damages through your insurance company, and not you directly.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:38 AM on May 16, 2008

Sharkfu, listen to SpacemanStix, that's the right way to go. Call your insurance, explain the situation, and they will take it from there.
posted by LN at 11:51 AM on May 16, 2008

Why do you have to pay a deductible if it's their fault?
posted by mecran01 at 12:47 PM on May 16, 2008

Another vote for letting the insurance company handle it.
posted by kimdog at 12:52 PM on May 16, 2008

The standard answer here is that without a a police report there is no OFFICIAL WITNESS. ALWAYS ALWAYS call the cops or in your case insist that they fill out a report. Without it it is a he said she said situation. The cop is the best way to insure that the other party and the insurance companies will cooperate.
posted by Gungho at 2:08 PM on May 16, 2008

Response by poster: Hey everyone, OP here.

Oddly the police were right there at the security checkpoint and even though they were 20 feet away didn't witness it. The cop refused to do a police report (claiming one wasn't needed since no one was injured) and wouldn't even give us his name / badge number in case we needed to contact him ("I'm just here as an advisor"). This seemed like a really cushy gig for him and I got the sense he didn't want to muck it up with paperwork. I knew at the time this was bad, but I didn't know how far to press him before he might side with the other driver.

Anyway, I ended up reporting it to my insurance agency. I don't know if I'll make an official claim, but I figured I should protect myself. Hope my rate doesn't go up.

Thanks for all your help in a distressing moment.
posted by sharkfu at 3:24 PM on May 16, 2008

You need to call the OTHER peoples' insurance and file a claim against them to make sure your rights are fully protected. You already informed your insurance ahead of time, which is good. I have been in this situation before and the first thing I did when I got home was call my insurance and inform them, and then call the insurance of the other person (who was trying to deny fault at the scene despite having literally changed lanes into my care) and filing a claim.

I had to go get my car inspected by the other person's insurance, and they ruled their insured at fault. I got a check for $800 and all was well.

Just as note to some of the comments, the cops don't have to do a police report if there are no injuries, at least in my state. So demanding it does no good.
posted by fructose at 8:02 PM on May 16, 2008

*even if you don't want your car fixed or money for the damages, if they are going to be jackasses about it, you need to take every step you can to put them at fault so you don't get saddled. The reason they are doing this is because their jobs could be at risk for getting into an accident on the job. That's why they want to blame you.
posted by fructose at 8:03 PM on May 16, 2008

My understanding is that there is no deductible when you are not at fault.
posted by GardenGal at 8:44 PM on May 16, 2008

« Older Dill recipes?   |   Cheap device for song lyric display? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.