Friday, August 29, 2008

Responsible citizen or big meanie?

My spouse, H, was in a fender-bender yesterday. She was stopped at a stoplight, and all of a sudden the guy in front of her backed up to make room for someone to pull out of a driveway, and WHAM! He backed right into her. At a stoplight. FFS.

He smashed the front-left turn signal light, dented the bumper, and pushed it in a couple of inches.
When he got out of his car, he said he had no insurance and no license (or it was suspended, or something). He said he didn't have any ID, but he did show H a paycheck (which was for only $251) with his name and work name on it. He gave her his work number. He said he'd be there during the day.

He said he would pay for everything, but please don't call the police or our insurance company. He said his life would be ruined if he got caught driving with no insurance or license. He also said he was already late for a really important appointment.

H is a very nice person. She didn't want to ruin the guy's life. So she said OK, and let him drive away.

Last night, I googled the guy and the place where he says he works. I found a picture of him, and H confirmed that at least he is who he said he was. This morning, I got a couple estimates for fixing the car. The whole bumper needs to be replaced. The cheaper estimate was $505.55.

I doubt the guy could pay that much (since he apparently only makes $251 a week and can't keep his life together enough to hang onto his driver's license), but I called his work anyway. I called at 11:30, 2:00, 3:30, and 4:00. No answer; no answering machine. It's a bar & grill, so maybe nobody's usually there during the day, but he said he would be. He didn't give H a home or cell number. He didn't bother to get H's phone number either, so he can't call us. (He obviously has no sense at all. I mean, if the ruination or non-rumination of your life depended on the kindness of a stranger, wouldn't you at least get her phone number?)

So I gave up. He caused the accident, yet we're going through this trouble, getting estimates, worrying "Is he gonna pay; is he not gonna pay." I didn't want to wait any longer; it had already been more than 24 hours since the accident. So we called the insurance company and reported the whole thing. We didn't mention that the guy has no license, but we did tell them that he has no insurance, which is a crime, and gave them what little information we have on him.

So I guess maybe his life is on the way to ruination. And I feel a little sorry about that, even though I don't know him. See, if you put it to me that way, I wouldn't ruin a guy's life for $505.55. It's a significant amount of money relative to our income, but it's not life-changing or anything. The damage isn't really that bad either. The car is perfectly drivable. If I did that much damage myself -- like, if I ran into a tree or something -- I probably wouldn't report it, to keep my insurance from going up. I'd replace the turn signal light myself and live with the dent and the pushed-in bumper.

OTOH, doing nothing could end up costing us more money down the road. The car's only worth about $1,200 max, so leaving it damaged would destroy what little resale value it has left, plus it could make it hard to get future insurance claims filled. Last time somebody hit it, it cost way more to fix than the insurance company would pay. Preexisting damage would just make that more likely. And we really like the car. It serves us well, and gets killer gas mileage. (On the last long drive I took, about 370 miles, it only used 11 gallons. And that was mostly at around 80 mph.)

Not only that, the guy is kind of a menace on the roads. He backed into somebody at stoplight, for crying out loud. And that's after he already did whatever he did to lose his license. Plus, he should have been riding a bus or a bike anyway. We have a good bus system -- both the street he was on and the street where his work is are right on bus lines -- and bike lanes everywhere. Our city is always ranked in the top 5 or 10 in the country in bike-friendliness.

I'm not really sure what I think right now. I don't like screwing somebody over (in a way) for something that isn't actually that important. OTOH, I don't want to be taken advantage of either. And maybe I really am being a responsible citizen by ignoring the guy's needs and taking care of my own business. Or maybe I'm just mean. What do you think?


  1. I'd say storm his work and get him to pay up.

  2. It's too late for that. I thought about it, but with the insurance we're guaranteed payment, a rental car, etc.

    If we'd kept trying to work with the guy, we'd most likely be chasing after an obviously irresponsible person with apparently quite limited financial resources like we were bill collectors or something, when the whole thing was his fault in the first place.

    So I guess we made the right decision, but I feel kind of sorry for the guy if he's in trouble.

  3. My guess is that he caused himself much of the trouble he's in. I don't think it benefits him in the end to allow him to continue to break the law.


  4. yeah, he's brought it on himself for poor driving

    nothing that happens to him as a result of this is worse than what happened to him already because of himself.


What do you think?