Social Question

girlofscience's avatar

Who should pay for the damage to my car, and how should I go about acquiring this money?

Asked by girlofscience (7449 points ) September 6th, 2009

Last night, I attended a party at a colleague’s house. There were about 30 people in attendance, all of whom I know, at least tangentially. (Most are in my department or one of several related departments…so they could all be tracked down.)

The majority of people parked in a random parking area behind my colleague’s house. Everyone ended up blocking everyone else in. Around 1:30am, I was ready to leave, and I had had a few drinks, so I decided to be responsible and call a cab. I then left my car key with the person whose house it was in case my car needed to be moved to let someone out.

Today, I returned to my colleague’s house to retrieve my car. There is a gigantic dent on the left front bumper. This was not there when I left my car last night. I just bought this car two months ago…it’s an adorable silver Honda Civic, and I love it to pieces. While it still functions perfectly fine, I don’t want to just accept the existence of the dent in my front bumper… It looks like someone drove into something.

The person whose house it was was entirely unaware of this accident occurring. He is unsure who moved my car. He did say, however, that another attendee had informed him of damage to her car as well. As of yet, no one has come forward to either one of us.

The other girl just sent out an email to the party attendees, and I replied-all about my car situation as well.

How should I proceed from here? I really don’t want to have to feel guilty about holding another person responsible for this. I think I should expect someone to man up and pay for the damage…even though they were technically “doing me a favor” by moving my car. I was being responsible by getting a cab, and I shouldn’t have to suffer car damage because of it, right?

How would this situation work with insurance, people, etc.? Any advice?

Also, does anyone know how much it would generally cost to replace the front bumper of a Honda Civic?

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54 Answers

switchboard's avatar

Not a cheap fix. I think that the person who dented your car should man up and tell you that he/she did it and is willing to pay for the damage. Maybe you could offer to split the damage cost also.

girlofscience's avatar

@switchboard: Why should I have to offer to split the damage cost? I don’t feel I should be responsible for paying for this at all…

Supacase's avatar

Someone backed into me in a drive-through (note, not a back-through!!) and dented the front bumper of my Civic (black, also adored.) Insurance gave me a check for about $200 but I never got it fixed because it randomly popped back out not long after. There was a scratch left, but that was it.

As for responsibility, I don’t see it as any different than if you had left your car somewhere and could not possibly track down the person. Unless someone is willing to own up, there is nothing you can do. You can’t make someone pay even if someone tells you so-and-so did it unless so-and-so admits it and agrees to pay or you are willing to take it to court. That is what insurance is for.

girlofscience's avatar

@Supacase: I think someone is going to have to own up to it… Everyone at that party knew everyone else, and we all work together and respect each other. There aren’t a lot of scumbags around…most people are pretty good people. Someone has to know who did it…

What do you mean this is what insurance is for? How would my insurance pay for this without any information about who did it? I don’t want to say that I did it…not only because I didn’t, but also because that would cause my premiums to increase…

avvooooooo's avatar

That’s what uninsured motorist insurance is all about. If you’ve got that on your insurance policy, you just contact them and tell them about it. Its for when people without insurance hit you and hit-and-runs.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Get your insurance involved.

I think the person you gave the keys to is the first place to check. If they drove it, get their insurance info. If they did not, find out who they gave the keys to.

It’s also possible that some one hit the car our their way out of the party so it cannot be assumed that the person who moved your car is the one who damaged it.

Way to go on calling a cab by the way.

SeventhSense's avatar

Well if in fact no one fesses up then your only recourse is to put in an insurance claim with your own company or pay for the cost out of pocket. That is assuming you have a comprehensive collision policy on the car. I would get an estimate first though because the cost may be small and the insurance company will pay (if you have full coverage) for an act of vandalism regardless of whose fault it was. But your insurance rates will go up regardless, if your insurance company has to foot the bill. It may be less costly in the long run to pay out of pocket. I would not put blame on the home owner though. That just seems like bad form to me. I would chalk it up as a learning experience in where to park your car at a party.

poofandmook's avatar

I think if she got insurance involved, she would have to tell them that she handed her keys to someone else… sounds like she would probably get screwed at that point, or at least when it comes time to renew the policy.

casheroo's avatar

Definitely get insurance involved. This was not your fault, you will probably still have to pay your deductible (I think) since they don’t have the person who did it. But what sort of damage was done? Was it just to the bumper itself? Would you say the body was damaged? I was hit from the back, they blamed me no clue how they came to that conclusion My father and husband took a rubber hammer and banged the dent out themselves, it’s not perfect..because my paint got messed up from getting hit..but if yours is just dented in, you might want to ask your boyfriend to give it a shot, he really can’t make it any worse.

That is totally shitty though, I hate assholes who do that. Do you think it could have been someone who was drunk? Why did the person who lived there let someone else move your car??

Also, thinking about it more…I’d call the insurance company and ask them if you should call the cops. The cops came to my accident scene, that’s who the insurance company talks to, to determine who is at fault.they get a report from them This may help you, since you were not present.

nikipedia's avatar

I am so sorry to hear about your car!!!! What a shitty situation.

Your insurance premiums may not go up. Once upon a time I had a Honda Civic, and it was totaled by a cab driver who ran a red light. The insurance company was unable to determine who was at fault, but they did not raise my premium a single penny, and they cut me a check for a new car within a few days. The bad news was that I still had to pay my deductible, which was $1000.

I’m not sure how an insurance company would handle this (assuming no one comes forward, which I think is unfortunate, but likely). It probably depends a lot on the terms of your policy. I would give it a few days, then contact them and file a claim.

Dog's avatar

It seems to me that if anyone was going to “man up” to the responsibility they would have left a note or done so already.

SeventhSense's avatar

@nikipedia yes but they had the other driver’s insurance policy. That’s not the case here. There is no other assured who has come forward.

poofandmook's avatar

oh, and personally, I think that if nobody actually admits it, the person you handed your keys to should be responsible for paying the damage, because you trusted him with your property and he let someone else move the car.

SeventhSense's avatar

The bottom line is that the owner is the one responsible regardless of fault and that is what insurance is for.

nikipedia's avatar

@SeventhSense: How is that relevant? The other guy’s insurance company was super shady and wouldn’t pay for a cent.

Also, I thought your comment about “where to park your car at a party” was really rude and uncalled for. @girlofscience would need to be psychic to know that parking a car behind someone’s house, where every other party guest was parked, and presumably many previous party guests from previous parties had parked without event, would turn out badly for her.

And the owner is not responsible regardless of fault. That’s why insurance companies assign fault. If someone else breaks the law or does something really fucking stupid, that person is at…fault.

avvooooooo's avatar

Could someone have run their car into yours and the other person’s? Did it have to be someone driving your car that did the damage?

SeventhSense's avatar

@nikipedia
It has much to do with it. There was a clear incident and two distinct parties to argue the case. The other company may well have paid your insurance company and/or it was determined in deliberation. But maybe her rates won’t go up if it was a clear that she was not driving. As to me being rude, it’s just common sense. She clearly stated that the parking was really tight everyone ended up blocking everyone else in. If you can’t pull out, you don’t pull in.
applies in unwanted pregnancies as well
The truth ain’t always easy my friend. And I’m sure GOS can speak for her own self.

augustlan's avatar

I’m thinking along the same lines as @avvooooooo. It seems more likely that someone leaving the party hit your car, than someone moving your car hit something with it. In any event, if nobody admits fault it will be treated as a hit and run. All you have to say to the insurance company is that you left your car parked there overnight and someone hit it. In which case, your insurance company will pay for the damage (less your deductible) but your insurance rates might go up. If it’s a cheap fix, pay for it out of pocket.

SeventhSense's avatar

@nikipedia
Responsibility and fault are two separate things. If I lend you my car and you crash it into a wall then it is my responsibility regardless of whether it was your fault, because I am the assured.

girlofscience's avatar

I am so fucking bummed. :(

SeventhSense's avatar

@girlofscience
You’ll get through it. This too shall pass.

augustlan's avatar

@girlofscience Well, it could be worse. My vehicle was hit by a tractor trailer while it was parked! Sorry about your car, though. :(

avvooooooo's avatar

@girlofscience I was backed into in the parking lot by someone I had to see every day. Had to pretend I wasn’t mad when I wanted to punch her for being an idiot.

Urban's avatar

it likely wouldn’t work with insurance even if you were covered for that since your deductible is going to be around or higher than the cost of dent removal.

in my opinion, the person who dented the car is obviously responsible, but if they are not coming forward, it’s on you.

bumpers are not usually costly to fix though. although bumpers are meant to be bumped.

galileogirl's avatar

In the US you have to be able to name the individual who actually hit your car, in this case not very likely. If your car is new and you are making payments, you are required to carry comprehensive car insurance for just this kind of thing. You will have to pay a deductible and your insurance premium may go up but you did learn something, rtght? If you’re going to a party where there will be alcohol, take a cab both ways and save $$ hundreds!

girlofscience's avatar

Soooooooooooo…an update!

The guy whose house it was, we’ll call him Andy, sent out an email to the party guests on Sunday night, informing everyone of the damage done to by my and the other girl’s (we’ll call her Nancy) car. [This is the same email mentioned above that I said Nancy sent out… In actuality, Nancy sent Andy the email she wanted sent to the group, and Andy emailed it, but that isn’t really relevant anyway.]

One guy, we’ll call him Doug, responded to this initial email and said that he was the one who moved my car to let another girl (we’ll call her Celia) out. He went on to say that Celia was watching him the entire time and guiding him out, so she would have noticed if there was an accident.

I replied-all and said that if the damage didn’t happen when my car was moved, then someone must have backed into it at some other point. However, Andy initially only sent this out to like 6 people, and there were way more people in attendance.

Yesterday morning, I sent out a similar email to a larger email list (everyone at the party whose email I knew / could find), informing them of the situation and offering the option to fess up anonymously by creating a fake email account and handling the payment anonymously, as to avoid embarrassment/etc.

After I sent that out at work (yeah, we all had work on labor day for some reason…), I gchatted Doug and asked him to meet me for coffee to discuss everything he knew about the positioning of my car so that I could begin to figure something out.

Doug obliged, and we talked for awhile, but his story didn’t seem that coherent, he kept repeating himself, and he kept trying to almost convince me that the damage couldn’t have logically occurred at the party (even though it most certainly did). When I said, “Well, now that I offered the anonymous option, hopefully someone will take advantage of handling the situation that way.” And I saw his throat gulp! I had already had my suspicions that Doug was the one responsible because he is the only person in my department I’d consider shady enough to hit a colleague’s car and not say anything about it. And after the throat gulp and the incoherent story, my suspicions were nearly confirmed, but I still had no proof.

…until later yesterday afternoon, when Celia emailed me and Nancy. She said that she was appalled and disgusted that Doug hadn’t come forward yet and that she felt morally obligated to inform us that she happened to be observing when Doug was backing out my car and that he accidentally collided my car with Nancy’s. Celia went on to say that she also emailed Doug, prodding him to come forward and that she wished to remain anonymous if either of us were to eventually confront him with the information she provided.

So, after receiving Celia’s email, I decided to give Doug 24 hours to sleep on it and come forward on his own (anonymously or otherwise). He doesn’t yet know that I/Nancy know.

If he doesn’t come forward by the afternoon, I need suggestions for the next plan of action! Help!! :)

augustlan's avatar

Holy crap! What a terrible guy. If he doesn’t come forward, is there anyway to say that someone witnessed the accident, perhaps ‘from the house’ so as not to implicate Celia?

girlofscience's avatar

@augustlan: Yep, totally. I can easily say that I received an anonymous email reporting what someone had seen “from the porch,” as there were consistently people smoking on the back porch, which directly overlooked where all of the cars were parked. And Celia said it was OK for me to do that.

I mean…he might be suspicious that it was Celia since she confronted him too, but who knows.

Either way, I need some advice in how to proceed (with confronting him in some way). This is gonna be SO awkward!

poofandmook's avatar

It’s Doug’s fault if it is awkward, and I would say as much. When you do confront him, or whatever happens, I would add, sort of like an afterthought… “yeah, I’m sorry this got awkward. Didn’t have to though, such a shame.” I’m a bitch like that.

casheroo's avatar

@girlofscience That is truly messed up that he felt he had to lie to you. What would his motive be? Embarrassment??
I was thinking about this, and I think regardless of who did the damage, it is still your car insurance that handles it. Like, I drive my parents car everyday…I have my own car insurance on my husbands car, but this is my parents car. If I get into an accident, I have to show them the car insurance for the car, not myself…and then it’d go through my parents car insurance for repairs and what not.
I think the cops should have been involved the day you picked up your car, you should have called them to report the “hit and run” accident, that guy may have confessed to the deed before thr cops showed up, and it could have been handled immediately.
I’m not sure how it works with your car insurance, or in your state regarding who is at fault. But, I do think you’ll have to pay your deductible…but I feel the guy responsible should pay for it. Deductibles are usually around $500–1000, in my experience, and that’s a lot of money for something you weren’t even involved in!
Something needs to be said to this guy, I don’t know…I’d call the insurance company and see how it would work out since you know who caused the accident. I’d maybe try to freak the guy out by telling him you’ll be getting the police involved, maybe he’ll fess up? Ugh, do you have to work in the lab with this guy??? How awkward!

galileogirl's avatar

Hey, Columbo, are you sure this is worth the fallout. There will be bad feelings in the workplace and some people will take sides, others will call a plague on both your houses. You’ve let him know you suspect him, he isn’t taking responsibility. What next? A public accusation? A whispering campaign? Trying to get the company involved? Tread softly, in the long run it may cost you more than the deductible.

girlofscience's avatar

@casheroo: Yeah, it is seriously effed up that he lied to me! I have no idea what his motive could be, other than not wanting to admit responsibility or not wanting to pay.

It doesn’t seem helpful, in my case, to get my insurance involved because I only have liability not collision (or whatever those terms are), so damage to my own car isn’t covered. Additionally, I do not want my premiums to go up. And finally, the cost of repairing the bumper is probably roughly equivalent to the deductible. I am just going to have it repaired at a body shop, and I think he should be responsible for paying for it!

Thankfully, he is not in my own lab (YIKES, that would be HORRIBLE), but he is in another lab in my department… which means I see him in the halls / at talks / at meetings / at department functions. But of course there are tons of other people at those. So yes, I would see him on a regular basis before, and things will certainly be slightly awkward now, but I could probably avoid seeing him reasonably easily.

I don’t want to get other people involved. I don’t want to be uncivil by notifying the department (@galileogirl, I have no idea what that would solve), and there’s nothing the police could do either, nor do I feel the need to take it to that level.

I do think he should, quite simply, take responsibility and pay for the damage! End of story.

After discussing the situation with a good friend of mine in my lab, we concluded that a very simple, direct approach was best. We carefully devised a one-sentence-long email, which I sent 10 minutes ago.

Here it is:

Hey Doug,

I guess there was a misunderstanding before, but since it has now become apparent that you were responsible for the damage to my car, could you please help me repair it?

Thanks,
girlofscience

girlofscience's avatar

Also, @galileogirl, I never let him know I suspected him… I met him for coffee to find out what he knew about the situation, but I was not accusatory at all, even though I did suspect him.

Secondly, the only bad feelings in the workplace would be toward him. But I’m not trying to create that either. That’s why I chose the simple and direct approach. We’ll see what happens now, but I’m certainly not being rude or unreasonable. I shouldn’t have to drop a grand of my own money because he screwed up my car.

galileogirl's avatar

Unless Doug isn’t very bright he probably knows what you are driving at. And what if he doesn’t respond or just says it wasn’t him? The outright accusation could cause problems, especially if he is innocent or suspects you are discussing this with others. We all know you can be tenacious and I suspect that is reflection of your noncyber personality. Let it go.

girlofscience's avatar

@galileogirl: When I met him for coffee, it was very clear that I was simply trying to get a handle on what the situation was. And I really came across as if I did not think it was him.

He can’t just not respond… well, he can, but I mean, he is going to see me around work, and that’s just not how things work around here. Everyone has respect for each other. He can’t just…do that.

He knows it was him, and so do I, and those who observed him and have contacted me about it. He’s not innocent, and he knows the email went out to everyone at the party, so it’s no secret I’m discussing this with others and trying to find the truth.

I did nothing wrong in this situation. He damaged my car. He is responsible for paying for the damage. I’m not. This is why I am confronting him. Wtf. It would be ridiculous to let this go. He deserves to be held accountable, and I deserve to have him pay for the repairs. The only damage this is going to do to the workplace is potential awkwardness between me and him, and I’m ok with that. It’s not like he was ever a close friend. This has nothing to do with the rest of the workplace.

My civil “confrontation” of him and the potential resulting awkwardness between the two of us is worth my not having to pay $1000+ out of pocket for something I didn’t do and not having to drive around with a junky looking bumper.

casheroo's avatar

@galileogirl I personally would not “let it go” either. I don’t think she’s looking for him to admit guilt and apologize, I think the money is the biggest issue here…not some “Ha, you caused it, admit it!” who freaking cares. I would be most upset about the damage, especially to a newly purchased car. Hopefully the guy owns up to it and accepts responsibility. I don’t know how you can force him to pay without making it a legal issue. Hopefully, morally he just pays.

girlofscience's avatar

@casheroo: I think the environment of department camaraderie will force him to pay more than his morality will…since it doesn’t appear he has very strong morals! Haha.

galileogirl's avatar

Guys, if he felt any moral duty he would have left a note or approached her directly the next day. And there is also the possibility that he didn’t do it. Gnawing at it like a dog with a bone will cause more trouble than it’s worth.

poofandmook's avatar

Well, it’s her choice, and I think she made the right one. No reason to snipe at her about it.

SeventhSense's avatar

Why does this tool keep coming to mind?

avvooooooo's avatar

@girlofscience You need to get the police involved. They should have been called when you found that your bumper was damaged. If someone damaged your car, they need to pay for it. True. However, they have no real reason to do so unless they are identified and legally obligated.

girlofscience's avatar

Getting the police / insurance / work involved really isn’t the answer here. I feel like everyone is neglecting to realize that all parties involved are a close-knit group of colleagues. I am now in communication with the damager. I am going to get an estimate from a body shop this weekend and work out things with him privately.

It would have been incredibly uncivil of me to involve police or some other force. In the environment of my workplace, such would be considered offensive.

We are all reasonable adults who care about maintaining positive relationships with our colleagues. It is unfortunate that the individual who damaged my car was not up front about it, but now that it has become apparent, he is more than willing to cooperate.

avvooooooo's avatar

@girlofscience Even if you’re at a family event, no matter how close-knit, if your car is damaged you need to call the cops. Period.

How is it that he is “more than willing to cooperate?”

SeventhSense's avatar

@avvooooooo
No that’s not necessary unless someone was injured or it’s a gathering of the US INSURANCE convention. Besides, then she would really resemble the aforementioned tool
It’s always better to work it out in a civil arena. Mediate don’t litigate.

avvooooooo's avatar

@SeventhSense If someone has the potential to be held legally responsible (and are) then they are more likely to do the “right” thing. And there is some recourse if they don’t. I’m not saying sue anyone right off the bat, but having that as an option by establishing who caused the damage on the record is the smart and responsible thing to do.

Its absolutely necessary.

galileogirl's avatar

You guys are totally not getting the reality of the situation.

1. The police are not going to investigate a fender bender that occurred on private property with no witnesses after the fact.

2. Gos has every right to take anyone she wants to small claims court but to what end? Again no witnesses-no finding of guilt. She will be stuck with court costs and probably tick off the guy she accused and others at work.

3. She can complain to the company but this was a private function not on company property so basically she can pound sand and again look like a troublemaker in the workplace.

4. She may have the wrong person in her sights, which makes all the fol de rol almost look like a personal grudge or nut case.

5. If she’s looking for a Perry Mason moment where someone breaks down and admits their guilt-it aint gonna happen.

6. Nothing good is going to come of this if Gos pursues it. Sometimes we just have to write things off as lessons learned and move on.

casheroo's avatar

@galileogirl In one of her responses, she said a girl emailed her saying she thought the guy would have come forward..and told Gos who caused the accident, so there is a witness a witness who assumed the guy at fault would have come forward Also, any car accident I’ve been involved in, the cops were called. I’ve never had success in locating the culprits of hit and runs, but I do call the cops regardless…and the fact that it’s coworkers would mean nothing to me, I still would have called as soon as I saw the damage.

poofandmook's avatar

and apparently she didn’t read when GoS said that she emailed him and he’s willing to cooperate.

So, end of story.

jca's avatar

she’s lucky he is willing because if not, she would be paying. she would either be paying the deductible or the whole thing. sometimes, if deductible is high enough and then rates go up, you may as well just pay out of pocket.

SeventhSense's avatar

@avvooooooo
As galileogirl mentioned it’s far beyond an accident report, it’s not criminal and GOS has a good lead but sometimes you just have to make the best of it. And those with age and experience will tell you that some things are just not worth it. Facts do not decide life. People decide how they want to live life based upon facts. And sometimes acceptance of things they can’t change is just wise.

avvooooooo's avatar

@SeventhSense As someone who is no infant and who has experience with car accidents (not caused by me), hit and runs (college town with lots of drunks), and all kinds of other things that you have no knowledge of when you’re making your assumption, I still know that filing a police report is the right thing to do when you discover damage to your car. Its not rocket science.

Just because you don’t agree with me here or on the religious nonsense doesn’t mean that I’m an ignorant child.

SeventhSense's avatar

@avvooooooo
I’m not implying anything. I didn’t mean to be condescending if that’s how that sounded.
I just think that we all have to pick our battles. That’s all.

john65pennington's avatar

First, you are to be commended for calling a cab, instead of attempting to move and drive your vehicle, while intoxicated. second, this accident occured on private property and the police will not make a report. thrird, call your insurance company and explain the situation. if it were me, i would not call my insurance company for such a trivial amount of damage. you want to save your insurance for a major event. your insurance will pay to have your vehicle repaired, but your rates may change, so expect this. fourth, no one seems to want to confess to your cars damage, so, here is a suggestion. i know you love your Honda. i also have one and feel the same. do you know of a private auto body shop? maybe a friend there that can assist you? if not, here is what i would do, if i were in your position. go to a hardware store and buy a plunger. you know, the kind you use in the toilet. they are cheap at Dollar General Stores. once you have a plunger, wet the bumper of your Honda for a good suction and slowly attempt to bring the bumper back to its original position. i have done this many times on vehicles i have driven that have a mysterious bumper damage. it works. if you are not able to make this work, ask your boyfriend to help you. remember to keep the bumper wet. let me know if it works. john

robertanderson's avatar

Only way is you report this to insurance and they will help you out in all this otherwise just stop complaing its looks like you was at your own fault to leave your car and keys….

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