Social Question

missafantastico's avatar

How do you handle a false accusation?

Asked by missafantastico (685points) June 17th, 2011

So this morning as I was getting out of my car in the office parking lot a woman approached me and said, “A few days ago someone hit my car and never left a note, and I notice that you have red paint marks on your white car. Were you the one that hit my car?”

Quick background: My car looks the part. It is over 12 years old and is in very good shape besides a minor ding over the driver side wheel (from my spouse hitting pole whilst backing out of a parking garage) and a decent amount of paint chips on the front and rear bumpers from my time living in DC and having to endure inexperienced parallel parkers. So while my car does look like a POS I did not hit this lady’s car.

I explained that the red paint on my car bumper has been there for months because I used to live in a metropolitan area and I have many a paint chip from careless folks trying to parrallel park.

She then continued with, “Well I parked in front of the security cameras so I hope that it wasn’t you.”

I can definately understand her frustration because it sucks to have your car damaged, but I thought the accusation was a little harsh.

I tried to empathize by letting her know that my car was broken into at that same lot 5 months earlier whilst in front of the security camera. Unfortunately after several weeks of correspondance with the security folks it was clear that they had no idea how to access the security footage.

She then responded by saying, “Well you better hope that you don’t get caught.”

This is where I got a bit snippy and said, “Thank you for the accusation?”

which prompted an equally sassy reply, “Well, I’m sorry you feel accused, but I have the right to ask.”

I don’t know who this woman is, but she and I obviously work in the same building each day. I can’t remember the last time I spotted her arround the building, but I don’t want chance encounters to be awkward.

How could I have handled this situation better?

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36 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Shoot her with your gun.

SavoirFaire's avatar

I think you did fine. Telling her that security wouldn’t be able to access the footage, however, might have sounded like a veiled “I did it, but you’ll never prove it.” I think I would have just said something like: “I understand how you’re feeling. My car was broken into in that same place a few months ago. But it wasn’t me. I hope you find out who it was.” Then it doesn’t sound like you’re trying to get out of anything. I don’t think it really sounds like that in the first place, but it might to someone who is angry and looking for the person who wronged them.

ucme's avatar

Given the scenario you just described & after all attempts at mediation were exhausted, i’d have done the following…..
Raised my hands in the air, waving them about the place, while at the same time sticking my tongue out, bulging my eyes & making what can be best described as a “na-na-nanana” type sound ;¬}

jrpowell's avatar

It sounds like she was already convinced so I can’t think of a way you could have convinced her it wasn’t you. I would have not been as nice as you were.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You did fine! She was just a bitch.
I, personally, can hear myself responding firmly, sort of with a “How dare you accuse me of this!” tone in my voice: “Maam, if I had hit your car I would have left a note.” and then walked away.
But from what you’ve told me she probably would have yelled “They have it on tape! You’re going to get caught!”
I’m thinking that she’s a cheat and a liar herself, and can’t imagine people who aren’t.

Coloma's avatar

Nothing worse than accusations without fact to back them up.
If worse came to worst I am sure you could prove the mismatch of paint through a body shop.

If she harasses you again tell her to pay for some forensic paint detective to put her scraped mind at ease. lolol

chyna's avatar

Maybe when she mentioned the security cameras you could have just said “good luck with that” and left the explanation out, but I think you handled it well.

thorninmud's avatar

I don’t know that it would have any effect, but I might have said something along these lines:

“I’d be pissed off too in your situation. But there have been lots of times when I’ve thought up some convincing theory about who’s to blame for something, only to find out that I was completely wrong. I’ve always been very glad that I didn’t go accusing based on my suspicions. It’s saved me a lot of embarrassment.”

janbb's avatar

I hate that feeling too. I doubt there was a right or a wrong way to handle the situation. It is likely that you won’t see her again and if you do, you could ignore her or ask “Did you ever find out who hit your car?”

The important thing for you is not to ruminate over it too much. Easier said than done!

Dutchess_III's avatar

She was in the wrong. Totally. And what was she thinking? If you were the kind of jerk who ran into her car and then just drove off, did she think you’d be the kind of person to tell the truth if confronted?

Coloma's avatar

Good point! haha

Oh oh, this has me thinking now ( dangerous) I have a bit of white paint on my silver cars rear drivers side from scraping up against one of those damn big white poles next to the gas pumps, I better buff it out, or, not park near any white cars. lol

Dutchess_III's avatar

No…park near a white car and then accuse them of running into you!

seperate_reality's avatar

She does not sound like a very nice person to begin with. Usually though, it’s not what happened this time that upsets you, but the times in the past that were similar to this , but much worse, and you forgot about these. You might have trouble getting a grip on this occurrance and wonder why when it’s really not that big a deal. Now you know why. The past can haunt us unknowingly at times like this.

Zaku's avatar

Well ideally you can train yourself to notice your reactions, get where they come from in your past, acknowledge and process them, and then respond freely to the present situation. Having completely de-fused yourself, you might be able to completely calmly and compassionately say something like,

“Look. I appreciate that you are upset about your car, but I assure you that those marks are not from me driving my car into yours, nor am I denying anything now. Certainly you have the right to ask, but I answered you truthfully, and it won’t help anyone to suggest otherwise. I hope you find the actual person responsible and that you are compensated for your trouble.”

However, you are right that her extra accusations were affronts to your honest reply, and it’s good to be able to notice when someone crosses the line, and it can be useful to set them straight. I probably would have reacted as follows:

Her: “Well I parked in front of the security cameras so I hope that it wasn’t you.”

Me (laughing with calm amusement): “Well I hope so too! That would mean I have psychotic episodes where I drive badly and then have no memory of it, and that I hallucinate memories of other cars leaving marks on mine in other parking lots!”

Her: “Well you better hope that you don’t get caught.”

Me: “Well I hope you don’t get sued for bringing false charges against anyone.”

Her: “Well, I’m sorry you feel accused, but I have the right to ask.”

Me: “Yes you do, but I gave you a true answer, and if you then choose to make rude comments as if I had lied to you, I have the right to laugh and make fun of you to defuse the upset I might otherwise feel.”

Coloma's avatar


Wow…2 more self aware people, oh, if only there were more.

I did a great job recently sticking to the point when someone was trying to derail the issue at hand into a kitchen sinking of everything but…whew…keeping the brain and emotions focused, the original ‘F’ word! LOL

seperate_reality's avatar

Coloma, are you overreacting here, a bit?

Coloma's avatar


I get off on people that have some measure of self awareness, what I consider our ‘purpose’ in life.

josie's avatar

I don’t get accused of much. But in your case I would simply say “You’re talking to the wrong guy”.
And do nothing but nod and smile politely after that.

Cruiser's avatar

Not very well. Usually involves a baseball bat.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

It is completely understandable why you feel the way that you do. The woman is jumping to her own conclusion and not believing the word of a co-worker. It really doesn’t matter how the confrontation might have been handled differently, as it sounds as if she has held court and acted as the judge and jury.

If I were in your position, I’d track her down and say, once again, that I wasn’t the person at fault. Offer to allow her to have the red paint on your car removed as comparison for potential evidence. Give her the contact information for the security system company. In doing so, especially after the initial accusation, it might help ease her mind that you are not the guilty party.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I think you handled yourself fine. In the future, try to remind yourself that you don’t have to answer to anyone.

She was catastrophizing and taking it out on you due to the paint color of your car. I don’t know how many people park in the lot where you work, but I’m guessing there are a lot of white cars that park there, drive through there and are generally on the streets.

Quite frankly, our cars have been hit, but NONE of us ever noticed the scraps or dents until we were already at home. I’d question myself as to where it happened before every confronting a random stranger due to their car color.

Coloma's avatar

I’m an honest girl, once I backed into someone in a parking lot, barely a tap, couldn’t see any visable damage, but, I left a note with my contact number. They called, were very nice, no problem, and thanked me for my disclosure, even though they would never had noticed.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@SpatzieLover That’s cuz you have brains!

One time I was in the drive through at McDonalds. I slowly rolled forward to the next place in line. I braked to stop rolling, and I didn’t realize that I didn’t have my foot all the way on the brake and I accidentally touched the back bumper of a car in front of me at the McDonald’s drive through line. I mean…I touched it about has hard as it would have been touched had I poked at it with my finger!. The lady in that care started screaming, “Oh my God!! She hit me!!! Oh my God!!! She hit me!!!” Then she pulled out of line into a parking stall. I felt I had no choice but to follow, since I was the guilty party. She jumps out of her car going, “Oh my God! Are you OK?!!”
I tried to be gentle because she was obviously whacked somewhere, and I said, “Yes, I’m OK. I barely touched your car, and I’m sorry.”
She was just freaking. Holding her hand against her heart. Seriously. She couldn’t have been more freaked out if we had been in a roll over. It was WEIRD!! I wonder why some people do that?
Then I had to go to to back of the car line, all the way around the other side of the building and start all over. Sheesh.

geeky_mama's avatar

No, you’re totally fine – she sounds out of line.

True story in a similar vein. My company occupies several floors of a building downtown, the rest of the levels are occupied by some law firms and one verrry interesting marketing company. (Not sure what kind of marketing..just the employees that get off the elevator on that floor look more like they’re going to a nightclub than an office space.)

One day while I was getting take-away breakfast in the restaurant that is on the 2nd level of the office building a woman I’d never seen before reached for my food order and literally elbowed me out of the way of the take-out window. I politely said I thought the food was mine, the grill-employees cleared up her misunderstanding (pointing out she had yet to order – so even if it’s what she wanted to eat, she needed to order & pay first!) and I took the food back. Actually, she wouldn’t put it down, so I pulled it from her hands (gently).

As I was leaving the restaurant (via the door that goes into our building, so only people that work there walk via this back hallway) she CHASED ME and started calling me names and accused me loudly and repeatedly of being a racist. (What that has to do with her wanting my breakfast order I have NO idea..but apparently it was her go-to accusation.)

She followed me all the way to the elevator bays where my coworkers witnessed much of the scene. She kept screaming that I was a racist bitch who stole her food. (Her unordered, un-paid for food which happened to be my paid breakfast order.)
My coworkers, and the other strangers who were in the elevator bay had no idea who was in the wrong – just that she (a black woman) was yelling that I was a racist bitch.

I finally said: “Look, I work here. You don’t know me. My best friend is a black woman, and NONE OF THIS has anything to do with the fact that you tried to take food that wasn’t yours.”

She said: “Bitch I WORK HERE IN THIS BUILDING..” and then blah blah blah (more name calling) which scared the crap out of me. I honestly had pegged her for a mentally ill homeless person (because she was trying to steal food)...I couldn’t understand how such an unstable person could be in an office environment at all.

About this time the elevator came and two of my male coworkers made sure we made it on the elevator but screaming woman didn’t.

I was shaking all over-and thankfully they both said: “WTF? She’s a nut ball.” This was extremely comforting hearing that from my Pakistani and black coworker—who obviously knew me well enough to not believe her false accusation of racism.

Best part – yes, I DID see her in the elevator from time to time in the future. She apparently forgot who I was – but I haven’t forgotten her face. I’ve seen her grouch at other people, but she’s never said another word to me other than sweetly greeting me “hello” in the elevator.
I seriously think she’s disturbed and cannot imagine what she does for a living. (She doesn’t work for my company..but she gets off on the “interesting” marketing floor.)

So, in my book—you did great. You didn’t name call but you called her on her false accusation (because that’s what it was). She was a borderline bully (and granted, we can all understand her frustration at someone hitting her car in a parking lot-but hello, that’s life-shit happens)..and you handled it well.

Coloma's avatar


Haha, not to laugh, really, but damn, that womans cheese done slipped off her cracker. Amazing what alternate realities some people dwell in. Jesus, some one ought to slip a few hundred Xanax in that womans water cooler. lol

ninjacolin's avatar

Counter-falsely accuse!

“Well you better hope that you don’t get caught.”
“Actually, I’m hoping the tapes will prove that you hit me!” (smile)
Knowing that they likely won’t get the tapes, whatever her reply just say: “well, we’ll just have to see how it turns out. Please make sure I get a copy of the tapes.”

ninjacolin's avatar

don’t forget to thank her for her time!

geeky_mama's avatar

@Coloma – I work from home now (yay!) ...and I still prefer caffeinated beverages as a kick start to my day instead of screaming banshees at the elevator bay.

Coloma's avatar


Yay! I am self employed, home a lot too, Yay, yay, yay! I hate office dramas. Gah!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Wow wow wow wow @geeky_mama! Wow!

koanhead's avatar

“I just told you I didn’t do it. Are you deaf, do you not speak English, or are you calling me a liar?”

BarnacleBill's avatar

This comes under the heading of never have a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent. Once you stoop to their level, you are in unfamiliar territory, and will never win.

I would avoid contact with her if possible. Odds are she’s unpleasant because she has bigger problems in her life. Be glad you don’t work with her, and aren’t related to her.

If you do run into her, you could tell her that you’ve been keeping an eye out for cars in the parking lot with red paint, and have noticed one or two, and would have left a note on their windshields, but didn’t know how the people should contact her.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I think you did fine. I wouldn’t have given her an extra explanation beyond stating my car was old and had had that red paint for some time and my hope was genuine that the security tapes were able to be of help to find the culprit. After that I’d had gone on with my business.

broughtlow's avatar

You felt you had to explain yourself. You were wrong:)

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