In a previous column I told the story of an automobile accident in which I was involved. The main character of the story was a little old lady from Fresno whose car rammed into mine. Today I conclude that story.
As perceptive readers may remember, I confessed that I had flunked the “What You Should Do if You’re in a Car Accident” test. Because the person whose car had hit me seemed so fragile, I failed to get all the information I needed, just this sweet elderly woman’s name, address, and phone number.
When I tried to call her, as I previously reported, I discovered the phone number she had given me had been disconnected. I then felt I had been bamboozled by a little old lady who must be a con artist. (I’ve seen this kind of character in movies.)
I didn’t give up, however. I still had her mailing address. (Rhonda, my insurance agent’s assistant, had checked for me if the address was real. To her and my amazement it was; it wasn’t a vacant lot.)
So I wrote a letter to that address, saying something like, “Dear Mary, I’m sure you simply miswrote your phone number. So when you receive this, could you either call, email, or send me a note via the U.S. mail with the name and contact information of your insurance company?”
I needed to ask for the insurance information since Mary told me (after she rammed into the back passenger side of my car) that she didn’t have that info with her (even though by law she should have).
A few days later, lo and behold, I received a letter from her insurance company (let’s call it XYZ insurance). The letter said that they had been informed by a client that she had been in an accident with me, and they were in the process of “investigating” it.
Well, what do you know, I said to myself. Mary wasn’t a con artist after all. Maybe she was just a little discombobulated after the accident. My faith in her, for a time badly shaken, was at least partially restored.
I drove over to my insurance agent’s office and talked with Rhonda, who along with Sylvia, does such a great job for their boss, Joe. I showed Rhonda the letter.
“Oh, man, XYZ again!” she said with some exasperation. “They’re the worst company to deal with. They always put up a fight. I’m sure they’re going to claim, as they did with another client of ours, that their client was not at fault and they’re not going to pay.”
The good news, however, was that my insurance company wouldn’t be deterred by this. They would pay for the repair of my car, except for my deductible. If XYZ Insurance comes through, eventually, I’d get my deductible back. (I’m not holding my breath.)
And pay the repair bill my insurance company did. After I took my car into the local auto body shop, it was repaired and the bill was paid in full, except for the deductible I paid.
It’s a good thing it happened that way, since the bill came to more than $8,000 (for what I thought was a fender-bender). But I’m told auto body repairs these days, done correctly (which was the case here) don’t come cheap.
Meanwhile, if I’m in a car accident again, I’m determined to do what I’m supposed to do, not what I did with Mary in Fresno. In my car I’m now keeping a little red folder from Rhonda next to me, which lists everything I need to do if I’m in an accident.
First of all, if it’s a serious accident and there are injuries, I need to call the police, wait for their arrival and make sure a report is made. If it’s a minor accident with no injuries, I still need to make sure I follow several steps as a minimum.
I was off to a good start after the Fresno accident getting the other driver’s name, address and telephone number. I also made a note of the exact location of the accident and the time it occurred.
But here’s what more I should have done, at a minimum:
Ask to see the driver’s license of the other driver and take a photo of it with a cell phone camera.
Ask to see a copy of the other driver’s insurance card, which should be carried in the vehicle, and take a photo of it.
Take a photo of the other driver’s license plate.
Take a photo of the damage to my car.
Take a photo of the damage to the other car.
Of course, it will be equally important and fair to share my information with the other driver. (My insurance company also suggests that I should call the police even if it’s a minor accident.)
I think I’ll be ready the next time a little old lady (or anyone else) runs into me or (heaven forbid) I run into someone else. I think I should also tell myself as I get out of the car, “Take a deep breath. Don’t be in a hurry. Take the time to do everything by the book.”
I hope, dear reader, you can learn from my experience. Although I wish that you never get into a car accident, I trust that if you do, you’ll do the right things.
When confronted with the “What You Should Do if You’re in a Car Accident” test , I hope you earn an A+, not the F+ I achieved on my Fresno little old lady test.
John Spevak’s email is email@example.com.