I once heard that you learn from everybody; sometimes you learn what to do and sometimes you learn what not to do. In the light of this advice, I would like to share what not to do in the case of a fender bender. I estimate in 30 years of driving, I have logged over 400,000 miles, the majority commuting from the suburbs into Houston. When your butt is in the car that much, eventually you’re going to run into somebody, or they are going to run into you. Therefore, I consider myself a semi-expert on how to act after a fender bender since I have a handful of relevant experiences. I will use my recent situation to share my top tips.
Earlier this month, in evening rush-hour, I had another joyous occasion to exercise my expertise. I won’t bore you with the details. Simply put: a person’s front bumper made a rude introduction to my rear bumper in the middle of a busy intersection. Because were in the middle of this intersection, we pulled over onto a side street as to avoid creating a complete standstill on a busy road.
Tip 1: Don’t jack up everyone else because you have an “oopsy”. If you can steer it, clear it.
We exit our cars, and examine the minor damage to the vehicles. The woman driver and her male passenger ask me for my insurance information. They say, “You need to show us proof of insurance NOW!” Picture the scene: Me, dressed from my professional job, and they have smacked their car into my pristine BMW convertible. DId I really give off the vibe of an uninsured motorist?
Tip 2: Don’t be a butthole. Really. No one needs this kind of crap, no pun intended.
I say calmly, “Of course, please get your information and we will exchange.” They start yelling at me, “We don’t have to give you anything! We had the right of way! This is your fault little girl!” (In my forever 17-year-old brain: Little girl? Dang, that Nerium night cream must be working. Should I ask her how old she thinks I am? No that would be narcissistic. Wait – just had car wreck, focus Evelyn..)
Tip 3: Unless you are a cop and your passenger a judge, we are not going doing a trial here.
So, the guy (note: did not use the word gentleman, since it does not apply) tells me he’s going to call the police “on me”. Realizing I will be the only rational one in this situation, I look at him and say “It’s 6 PM in Houston, Texas during weeknight rush hour. We’ve already moved the cars from the site of the accident, no one is hurt, and all we DO have is two dinged up bumpers. Exactly how many hours do you want to spend with me this evening?”
Tip 4: Don’t bother cops with this type of bullcrap. Please. They have real criminals to deal with and if being a jerk was a crime, we would need to quadruple the size of the judicial system.
He continues to act belligerent with me. He wants me to immediately admit this is all my fault. I explain that in these situations, you exchange information and the insurance companies figure it out. That is, in fact, what insurance companies do.
I remain calm while the guy is now whipping his cell phone around, taking a pictures: their bumper, the empty intersection aka “the scene of the crime”, etc. As he is frantically taking pictures, I reason if he points his phone at me, I am going to inquire if it has “wide-view” or “panoramic” settings, turn around and moon him and all of creation with my ample, pristine, white southern butt.
Finally the driver tells me her name, but still doesn’t want to show me her ID. Really? Even people in witness protection have a fake ID they can flash. So, I hand her my ID and insurance card, and I offer to get her my business card, because it will be easier since it has my name and number. My business cards clearly have my title under my name: Partner. 99% of people who see my business card with no context assume I am an attorney, not an over-glorified accounting business consultant. Amazing how quickly her asshat passenger shut-up when he saw my title. (Note: They never asked nor mentioned anything about me being an attorney. I never implied it. I just gave them my card and let their I.Q.’s do the rest.)
Tip 5: Always leverage your assets to your advantage. In this case, the advantage was the passenger finally SHUT UP.
So once she has copied everything down, I think she even momentarily considered swabbing for my DNA, but reconsidered. Ready to get in my jacked-up car and go anywhere far away from them, I say “I’m sorry this has happened. It is an inconvenience but thank God no one is hurt.”
Tip 6 Someone has to decide to be the adult in the situation. Note there is very little traffic on the high road.
The driver then leans over and HUGS ME. Um, you were screaming at me five minutes ago, WTF? I am sure the look on my face was one of confusion. I am waiting for the cameras and the announcement that I am being punked.
Tip 7: Don’t hug the stranger you just yelled at. It could be easily confused with assault if they want to get you back for your crazy behavior.
The next day, I give my taped statement to the adjuster. Let’s just say, if it wasn’t bound by confidentiality, it would be on YouTube, because even he cited it as one of the most “articulately colorful” ones he has heard in a while.
To give you a taste, I asked during the taping, “I know I cannot cuss, but Dickweed is just a proper noun, right?”