They say paybacks are hell. But who are they hell for?
Last week I was in a car accident while I was driving with my 4-year-old daughter.
Her school has chapel services that begin at 8:15. I don’t ordinarily get to take my daughter to school because of work commitments, and so being able to attend chapel with her is extra special.
Many of the parents attend with their children, and I’m hypersensitive about being an “absentee mom” who is always at the office.
I don’t want to fast-forward twenty years and hear my kids are sitting on a shrink’s couch humming Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle.”
As I was at a stop light waiting to turn left once it changed from red to green, I felt another car slam into my bumper and heard a corresponding crash. I looked at my daughter, who was safely in her car seat, and made sure she was ok.
I looked into the rearview mirror and saw a series of cars behind me, also waiting to turn left at the light. I assumed it was a multi-car collision, with the person in the very back at fault.
Once the light changed, I stopped at the first available street and got out of the vehicle, preparing myself for the potential damage.
The right part of my bumper was dragging on the ground.
Great! One more car accident.
I’m like a magnet for other people hitting me.
And let’s be honest, I’ve had my share of mishaps as well.
This is why I drive an old Volvo SUV. Because I can’t have nice things.
Oh, and because it’s paid off.
Another driver pulled up behind me, a middle-aged white man in an Acura sedan. The front of his car didn’t have nearly the amount of damage as the rear of mine. I glanced in his car, and it appeared he was alone.
He got out of his vehicle looking worried.
The following exchange is crystal clear in my mind.
What happened? I asked. Did you hit me, or did you get pushed into me by another driver?
It’s all my fault, I wasn’t paying attention, didn’t stop on time, and just rolled into your vehicle. Nobody hit me.
I called 911, reported the accident, and asked for an officer to come to the scene and write a police report.
As I checked on my daughter, who was still in the back seat, she became hysterical.
Please don’t wait for the police man, we’ll be late for chapel (!!!)
Her eyes were sad and desperate.
She was right.
It was 7:40 and if we waited for an officer to arrive, conduct an investigation, and prepare a report, we’d be late.
She doesn’t do well when she’s late and out of her routine.
Please don’t wait for a police officer to arrive, he said.
I’m a driver for UPS and if they find out about this, it will put my contract at risk because I’ll have an accident on my record. I’ve been insured with State Farm for 23 years and will pay for all your damage. It was my fault. Take a picture of my driver’s license and insurance card, and let’s exchange phone numbers in case we need it.
Like my daughter, the man was desperate for me to not make a police report.
He was just shy of begging.
I looked at him and judged him.
Seemed like a nice enough guy. Appeared “normal” (read: not a derelict or a drug addict). Was being honest about his mistake and since nobody was hurt and the property damage was minimal, getting everything paid for shouldn’t be an issue.
I gave him my number, he called me, and I saw his number appear on my phone’s caller ID. He took a picture of my driver’s license.
I photographed his driver’s license and insurance card and was on my way.
I called 911 and canceled my request for a police officer.
We got to my daughter’s school in time for chapel.
When I arrived at work, I called State Farm and reported the loss using the information contained on the man’s insurance card. The agent said someone would be in touch with me after they contacted their insured and verified he was at fault for the crash.
Later that evening after we put the kids to sleep, I returned a call from State Farm.
The insurance agent advised liability was being contested because the man who hit me was claiming the crash occurred because another vehicle struck him from behind and fled the scene.
Well, that’s a complete lie, but what does this mean for me? I asked.
We’re going to go to his house and check out his bumper. If there’s damage that jives with his story, then we’ll treat this as a hit-and-run and will not be paying for your property damage or any injuries, if you have any.
My initial reaction to being told the guy who hit my car was blaming it on someone else and his insurance company may not pay for my damage.
I couldn’t believe it.
I did this guy a favor and he turned around and tried to screw me.
And I didn’t throw out my “I’m a lawyer” card at the time of the crash (because I’m not a dweeb) but what an idiot!
No good deed goes unpunished.
Of course, I advised the insurance adjuster that the guy was lying.
If he was hit from behind, why didn’t he call 911? Why did he specifically deny getting hit from behind? What if he had pre-existing damage to his bumper that he’s trying to pin on our accident?
The adjuster couldn’t have cared less. When liability is contested and there are no witnesses (except my four-year-old daughter), they have to side with their insured.
Blah, blah, blah.
They would investigate and get back with me in 2-3 days.
I then realized I had this guy’s phone number from when he called me after the accident.
So I called him.
And, again, he was dumb enough to answer.
Then my irrational alter-ego, “Jenny from the Block” took over, and he got an earful.
Said if he continued these shenanigans, I would report him for fraud to the department of insurance. Make a complaint to the State Attorney’s Office. Call UPS, report the accident, and advise if they kept him on board as a driver, they’d face potential issues for negligent retention if he was involved in another accident. And worse, if State Farm didn’t pay for my damage because of his lies, he would be seeing me in small claims court. I would blast my picture of his driver’s license and insurance card all over my the blogosphere.
He. Didn’t. Know. Who. He. Was. Messing. With.
I then called the police, called my own car insurance company, and lost sleep over it.
Those are 12 hours I’ll never get back.
Long story short, State Farm conducted an investigation and accepted liability for the crash. My car’s in the process of being fixed on their dime.
I was subsequently on the phone with my mother venting about this hassle and how I couldn’t believe this guy was dirtbag enough to throw me under the bus after I did him a favor.
Then, my mom said something wise, mature, and true.
You could report him to his employer and do all these things to “get back and him,” but is it really worth all the trouble? He has all your contact information and knows where you live, what if he does something crazy? Sometimes, it’s just not worth it.
(Yes, mom, I am publicly admitting you’re right. I need to write a blog post about all the things in my life my parents were right about that I didn’t believe at the time due to my lack of experience and maturity.)
I’m still immature and part of me feels defeated for letting him off the hook so easily without any ramifications (that I’m aware of.)
There’s a fine line between being a doormat and setting boundaries, and I felt (feel) like a wimp.
But the reality is I’ll never see him again and his insurance company is paying for my damage, so going out of my way to make this dude’s life a nightmare will only waste my own time.
Karma will catch up with him.
There are times in life where seeking vengeance on someone is truly worth it. To me, this was not that time.
And I hate that my mother was right. Just a little.
Cheers to moving on.