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  #1  
Old 09-09-2010, 10:16 AM
Alpha Twit Alpha Twit is offline
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ALWAYS call police for a traffic accident?

Back in the day when the Earth was young, dinosaurs walked the land and I was learning to drive, I was told both by my Driver's Ed instructor and by my parents that I should ALWAYS call the police and get a police report for any traffic accident. Even the most minor of non-injury fender benders where neither party had any interest in turning it over to their insurance, you get the police there to fill out a report.

The reasoning behind this is that it prevents confusion and memory lapses a couple of days after the accident when one person suddenly realizes that he wasn't in the house I dinged his parked car. He was actually in the car when I hit it, listening to the radio and minding his own business. And I probably have pretty good insurance. And his neck suddenly hurts. Basically, a police report just helps keep everyone honest.

This all started a few days ago when I had a minor collision with a parked car. I was backing out and struck an already battered Volvo wagon just aft of the fuel filler door, pushing the panel in about 2 inches. After expressing my displeasure with my inattention, I walked over and tracked down the owner of the car to report it. There was negligible damage to my truck and neither one of us really expressed much interest in turning it over to the insurance or in making much of an issue about it but I did tell him I needed a police report for my records. I called the police, the officer came, took down all of our info, made sure that we both had each others' insurance data and left.

Since then, I've had several people tell me that calling the police was overkill and a waste of their time. All I needed to do was make my insurance data available to the owner of the Volvo. I know that my insurance agent was surprised when I reported the incident given that I doubted the other guy was going to be turning in a claim.

So, in your opinion, how right or wrong were my actions?
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  #2  
Old 09-09-2010, 10:25 AM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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1) It isn't a waste of the police's time, it is one of their responsibilities. Believe it or not even in the highest crime areas of the country, the police have a mission that is much larger than "hunt down all the rapists and murderers."

2) I always advocate involving the police because you expose yourself to trouble if you exchange insurance information and don't have an official police accident report filled out. Now, I could possibly budge on this if there was an accident in which both parties sort of shrugged their shoulders and said "meh." And no information was exchanged, because that might potentially have no ramifications after the fact. However, the truth of the matter is if someone has your license plate they can still probably hunt you down after the fact and make a claim, so even in that situation it is still probably ideal to go through the police.

3) I'm not under the impression you insurance company will always know about it just because there is a police report. A friend of mine's daughter was driving too fast one day and "missed" a rural bridge and instead flew off the side of a hill and slammed into a tree, totaling the car (amazingly she was completely uninjured.) The police and ambulance and etc obviously showed up because of the severity of the accident. My friend decided to not even file a claim because he preferred to just get another car versus have insurance involved and raise the rates. Note that the car in question was old and was essentially of virtually no market value and they only kept it around because they had a kid coming up to driving age and (rightfully) realized whatever car they had her driving would probably end up banged up a bit. Despite the police report, the insurance company was never made aware of the accident. After the accident when he bought a new car for his daughter and set up his insurance for the new vehicle, he just told his insurance agent "we no longer own the other car." They didn't press for details and never found out or raised his rates. If your motivation for not involving the police is you don't want your rates to go up, there are situations where it won't hurt you. If you're in a single-car accident I at least know it is possible to involve the police without insurance finding out.
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Old 09-09-2010, 10:26 AM
kayaker kayaker is offline
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My understanding of PA law is that a police report is needed if there are injuries or if one or both cars are not drivable. That said, I called the police in a situation where it turned out that the police report helped considerably. When the officer told me I should not have called, I pointed out that my car was not drivable. He said . I pointed out the busted headlight, and asked if he meant to imply that I was legal driving without the light. He laughed and did the paperwork.
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Old 09-09-2010, 10:32 AM
running coach running coach is offline
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I was hit by a red light runner a couple of years ago and the police dispatcher said they don't even respond to non-injury/minor damage accidents just to fill out a report. (Central Valley area California)

Last edited by running coach; 09-09-2010 at 10:32 AM..
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Old 09-09-2010, 10:35 AM
Fried Dough Ho Fried Dough Ho is offline
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There is another reason to have a police report, community demographics which help determine what areas might need additional police coverage.

Where the police are stationed and patrol is based on previously-reported incidents. I live in a neighborhood that is frequently vandalized and have been told by local cops that reporting even the most innocuous incidents helps them gather statistics which enables them to schedule more cops in my 'hood.
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  #6  
Old 09-09-2010, 12:49 PM
BobArrgh BobArrgh is offline
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The week after I moved from California to Kansas, I bumped into a guy in front of me as we were sitting at a stoplight. We pulled around the corner and exchanged information. I asked him if we needed to call the police, and he said, "No, just a minor fender-bender, nobody is hurt."

The next day, I got a phone call at my work by a police officer who was not in a very good mood. He had had a hard time getting in touch with me because I had just started a new job and the switchboard didn't know who I was, yet.

I was being issued a citation for "Leaving the scene of an accident". Turns out the other guy's wife started complaining of a sore neck the night before, and they had gone to the Emergency Room. And then they called the police and filed a report.

Several hundred dollars in fines later, I am so much wiser.

I don't hesitate to contact the police, no matter how small the incident. (I haven't hit anyone else. However, I have had several people hit me.)
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Old 09-09-2010, 12:59 PM
Alpha Twit Alpha Twit is offline
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BobArrgh, sorry to hear about your negative experience with a resident of my birth state. All I can do is say that we're not all that way.

This kind of incident is exactly the kind of problem I was trying to avoid when I called in the police.
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  #8  
Old 09-09-2010, 01:08 PM
Swallowed My Cellphone Swallowed My Cellphone is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by runner pat View Post
I was hit by a red light runner a couple of years ago and the police dispatcher said they don't even respond to non-injury/minor damage accidents just to fill out a report. (Central Valley area California)
Here, you only call the police if the traffic accident involves injury, a bicycle or pedestrian, or if it the total damage to all vehicles appears to be more than $1,000.

For all other minor collisions that involve property damage, you must go to a collision reporting center within 24 hours of the fender bender. If there's no property damage, then, meh.
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  #9  
Old 09-09-2010, 01:10 PM
CookingWithGas CookingWithGas is offline
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I had an accident, no injury, other driver rear-ended me. Didn't call police. My insurance company (State Farm) told me I should always call the police and get a police report.

So if just to cooperate with the company who is going to pay for my damage, I will from now on call the police.
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  #10  
Old 09-09-2010, 01:27 PM
Moonlitherial Moonlitherial is offline
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In Ontario we have accident reporting centres. If there are no injuries, there was no criminal activity (ie, running a light, DUI, no insurance) and you think the dmg is under $1000, you call the police and report the circumstances, exchange insurance information at the site of the accident and then each driver needs to report to the accident reporting centre within 24 hours.


I used to think that the cars had to both be driveable, but in my research for this post it appears that if your car needs to be towed you have it towed directly to the reporting center.
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  #11  
Old 09-09-2010, 01:31 PM
Blaster Master Blaster Master is offline
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I've been rear-ended twice, and once my car was hit while it was parked in front of my house, and only once have a filed a police report, and that was only because, in one of those cases, my car was the last in a multi-car collision and the one who was hit into me had called the police. The only one that did more than cosmetic damage was the one that was when my car was parked in front of my house, but considering that they easily could have gotten away with it and came and told me anyway, I didn't really see a need.

Anyway, the first thing I've always done was call my agent (State Farm) and followed their instructions, and I was never instructed to call the police, so I didn't bother. Interestingly enough, in the two cases where the cops weren't called, the other drive was also on State Farm, so maybe they didn't care because they'd have to pony up the money anyway, it was just a matter of figuring out whose account it was pulled against.

That said, I certainly wouldn't say filing a police report is a waste of time because it "should" provide a level of protection in the event that the other person decides to change their story or there's any dispute about whose fault it was. I think it depends on your state laws though, in Virginia, there's no partial fault, so having a report to help establish that could prove helpful. Also, I have heard stories about insurance companies refusing to pay up without a report, but that may depend on the laws in your state.
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  #12  
Old 09-09-2010, 01:32 PM
Joey P Joey P is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobArrgh View Post
The week after I moved from California to Kansas, I bumped into a guy in front of me as we were sitting at a stoplight. We pulled around the corner and exchanged information. I asked him if we needed to call the police, and he said, "No, just a minor fender-bender, nobody is hurt."

The next day, I got a phone call at my work by a police officer who was not in a very good mood. He had had a hard time getting in touch with me because I had just started a new job and the switchboard didn't know who I was, yet.

I was being issued a citation for "Leaving the scene of an accident". Turns out the other guy's wife started complaining of a sore neck the night before, and they had gone to the Emergency Room. And then they called the police and filed a report.

Several hundred dollars in fines later, I am so much wiser.

I don't hesitate to contact the police, no matter how small the incident. (I haven't hit anyone else. However, I have had several people hit me.)
Happened to a friend of mine. Guy runs a stop sign and bumps her car. No damage, no injuries he didn't want to call the police. A few days later cops show up at her door because she left the scene and he wants his car fixed.

Even if you live in an area where you they won't respond to minor accidents I'd think calling 911 (since it's recorded) will at least help to prove that you didn't leave the scene.
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  #13  
Old 09-09-2010, 01:32 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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I had a wreck in a parking lot once, the teeniest tiniest wreck you could imagine. With this poor 16 year old girl. Now, I was in my 1966 classic Mustang, so you can bet I was damned relieved that there was just the tiniest scratch on my bumper - but it was a parking lot. The cops don't even do anything if you have a parking lot wreck! But she insisted we call them because her dad told her to. An hour out of my life.
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  #14  
Old 09-09-2010, 03:56 PM
Jelly Roll Jelly Roll is offline
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My first car accident was a minor fender-bender in downtown Fort Worth just a few years ago. I called the police and the officer who showed up very irately informed me that I should only call the cops for an accident where the damage is more than $1,500 or if there are injuries. He further informed me that he would only be filling out a answered-call report (I forgot the actual name of the report) that would simply reflect that he had answered my call, but the report would neither assign blame for the accident nor even relate how the accident happened.

I think I mumbled something along the lines of, "Ok-thanks-sorry-to-bother-you" and then promptly went home and bawled my eyes out.

Last edited by Jelly Roll; 09-09-2010 at 03:57 PM..
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  #15  
Old 09-09-2010, 04:05 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Take a piece of advice from my experience. If you are involved in an accident, try to get witness names and contact info as well. They might come in handy. A police report might not be sufficient (although witness names are typically added to the report).

I once hit a car whose driver had turned left in front of me when I had the right of way. After the collision, the light was still green in my favor. Several bystanders came up to me and volunteered to testify to that if necessary. I took their names.

A few days later, the owner of the other car sued me for running a red light and the insurance company wasn't going to pay me anything, saying it was obviously my fault. After I called each of the witnesses myself to be assured of their story, I let the insurance company call them, too, and each gave testimony in my favor.

The insurance company paid me and the suit was dropped.
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  #16  
Old 09-09-2010, 07:11 PM
dzero dzero is offline
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For something minor, I think a camera is adequate. I've always kept at least one small camera in my glove box. Originally, I used a crappy 110 film camera. When disposables came out, I'd have one in the glove box and one in the trunk (since I also tend to forget my camera when I go on trips and end up using the disposable).

Example: forgot parking brake. Car slowly rolls back and into rear quarter panel of another car. Other driver's face lights up thinking "Ka-Ching!!!" because there was pre-existing damage to the 1/4 panel. Only damage done by my car is some barely noticeable paint transfer. Lady from other car is pulling out her credentials, pen and notebook getting ready to "fully document" the incident. I say, sure, just let me get a couple of photos. BTW, you ALWAYS do this before moving either car so much as an inch. Now she's all bummed out. She still takes my info but I never hear from her.

I guess I should feel bad for screwing up her payday, but somehow . . . I just don't.
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  #17  
Old 09-09-2010, 10:34 PM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
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In San Jose CA the police will not come to an accident unless it is major with injuries and messing up traffic. They want you to come down to the police station to fill out a report.

I got rear ended once. When I could not get any identification or insurance info from the other driver just a business card I called the police. It took me over 10 minutes talking to a dispatcher before she would send anyone. Her responce was just exchange licience and insurance info come down to the department to file a report. I kept telling her I tried that and could not get from the other driver they did not have any information. The driver was on a learners permit, it was at home. The mother the licience person in the car did not have her licience with her, the insurance information was in their office. to which the dispatcher would reply just exchange information and come down to the department tomarrow to fill out a report. I finally ask her how do I get the information? she told me to ask the other driver and I replied what do I do if she refuses how do I make her give me the information? Then she finally argeed I needed an officer. But it takes a battle to get the police in San Jose to respond to a sinple fender bender, they are too busy and over loaded with work. (you know at Starbucks)
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  #18  
Old 09-09-2010, 11:12 PM
Cyberhwk Cyberhwk is offline
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Another anecdote: I was backed into two weeks ago. She apologized and gave me her insurance information (didn't ask for mine). I took my phone out and took pictures of the situation including my insurance information. We didn't call the police.

So far, haven't had any problems. Talked to her insurance company twice and they said this morning they're "accepting liability." I only have to fax in my repair estimate. Hopefully it continues to go smoothly.
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Old 09-10-2010, 12:15 PM
MLS MLS is offline
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We had this situation occur just recently. A woman talking on a cell phone, driving a Mercedes or a BMW or some such thing, hit the back of my husband's pickup truck and mashed the bumper. After trading info, he suggested she might want to just reimburse him for the damage without involving the insurance companies. She was very willing, he got an estimate from the dealer, and she paid up. Now, the important thing is that if you don't get paid in a couple of days, THEN you notify insurance.

We once had a young driver miss a turn and smash into the back of my husband's Sting Ray, parked in front of the house. The fellow was in a panic that we would tell his mother. No problem, son, just give me ($XXX) to fix it and you're all set. Oh, and how about your I.D. and phone number, too? A few days later we had heard nothing so he called the number and as luck would have it the kid's mother answered. "Just tell him Al called about the car." We had the money within 24 hours.
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  #20  
Old 09-10-2010, 01:03 PM
robby robby is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
Take a piece of advice from my experience. If you are involved in an accident, try to get witness names and contact info as well. They might come in handy. A police report might not be sufficient (although witness names are typically added to the report).

I once hit a car whose driver had turned left in front of me when I had the right of way. After the collision, the light was still green in my favor. Several bystanders came up to me and volunteered to testify to that if necessary. I took their names.

A few days later, the owner of the other car sued me for running a red light and the insurance company wasn't going to pay me anything, saying it was obviously my fault. After I called each of the witnesses myself to be assured of their story, I let the insurance company call them, too, and each gave testimony in my favor.

The insurance company paid me and the suit was dropped.
Years ago, before the age of cell phones, I was in an accident with the exact same circumstances. Unfortunately, while there were witnesses, I wasn't able to get any names, because nobody wanted to get involved.

The guy who turned in front of me took full responsibility, said he wasn't paying attention, and so forth. No cops showed up, and there was no way to call a cop, so we just exchanged information and agreed to each file a police report. Later that day, I filed a police report, and called my insurance company.

A few days later, I found out from my insurance company that the other driver (who didn't even have valid insurance) had claimed in his police report that I had run a red light and hit him.

My insurance company paid to fix his car, while the minor damage to my car never got fixed, and my insurance company raised my rates.

Since then, I have always called the police and insisted they come, no matter how minor the incident. It's never been necessary, but if you have to, you can always claim that the damage looks significant, or that someone involved in the accident looks like they might be injured.
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  #21  
Old 09-10-2010, 02:00 PM
Angel of the Lord Angel of the Lord is online now
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When I was 17, I had my first (and only!) accident. I was picking up a friend at a car repair place in a part of town I wasn't terribly familiar with, and, concentrating on finding the place I needed to pick her up at, I crawled along at about 15 mph. However, I failed to see a stop sign, and so sailed through an intersection at 15mph. I got tagged in my back end by a woman who had the right of way.

Damage to my car: negligible-to-none. Just a scuff. The rear bumper might be a 1/4" out of alignment, but you couldn't really make me swear that it wasn't there before the accident.

Damage to her car: There's a small dent in her hood; it looks like someone hit it with a small hammer once or twice.

She immediately says, "oh, you don't have to worry about it, we don't have to call the police!" However, I insisted.

See, we were in front of the police station. We'd already had someone offer to help us. So I said--in my somewhat naive teenage way--that, no, we had to report the accident, and took us inside the station to do it. Of course, the reason she didn't want to report the accident quickly became clear: her driver's license had expired ten years ago, and she didn't have insurance. Whoops.

Then, a few months later, she tried to sue my insurance company for damages due to injury (I was assigned primary-but-not-complete fault, on the basis of, yeah, I ran the stop sign, but I was going 15 mph). However, on the basis of the police report (my account stated that she didn't want to call the police in the first place, and that we were walking about immediately afterwards) and the pictures, it was quickly dropped.

Of course, I got a ticket for running that stop sign, and I guess I wouldn't have if I hadn't reported the accident. I suppose if it happened now, though, I still would; were I sued unfairly, I'd rather have the documentation. But I still feel sort of bad about it, even after all that.

Last edited by Angel of the Lord; 09-10-2010 at 02:02 PM..
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  #22  
Old 09-12-2010, 12:04 AM
Saganist Saganist is offline
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Originally Posted by dzero View Post
Lady from other car is pulling out her credentials, pen and notebook getting ready to "fully document" the incident. I say, sure, just let me get a couple of photos. BTW, you ALWAYS do this before moving either car so much as an inch.
I learned this lesson recently. As documented in a recent thread of mine, I hit a guy when he pull in front of me into a lane that I (debatedly) had the right of way in. Since it was a pretty minor collision, we both moved the cars off the road before talking. But I found out that he claimed to the police that I was traveling on the wrong side of the road and he was just making a left turn. A couple quick photos of the cars' positions in the road would have laid that to rest pretty quickly.
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  #23  
Old 09-12-2010, 12:28 AM
JohnT JohnT is offline
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I once was hit by a car, called the police, only to have the woman who hit me (and my wife) call me a racist. It was especially nice when her husband called me @ home and called me a racist as well. Good times.
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  #24  
Old 09-12-2010, 12:30 AM
Bearflag70 Bearflag70 is offline
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Watch out for hearsay problems with police reports in court.
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Old 09-12-2010, 12:32 AM
dzero dzero is offline
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Originally Posted by JohnT View Post
I once was hit by a car, called the police, only to have the woman who hit me (and my wife) call me a racist. It was especially nice when her husband called me @ home and called me a racist as well. Good times.
Muppets seem all sweet and innocent, but when you meet them in the real world, they can be a little testy.
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Old 09-12-2010, 07:41 AM
Erdosain Erdosain is offline
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Originally Posted by JohnT View Post
I once was hit by a car, called the police, only to have the woman who hit me (and my wife) call me a racist. It was especially nice when her husband called me @ home and called me a racist as well. Good times.
Well, your wife would know. I'll take her word for it.

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  #27  
Old 09-12-2010, 09:49 AM
Shinna Minna Ma Shinna Minna Ma is offline
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I hit a car once-I was slowing for a red light, and my car slid on some wet leaves and hit him from behind at about 2 mph. Not a scratch on either car. He got out, and begged me not to call the police because he just got back from a trip to Israel and he didn't have his license with him. He said he was fine.

I called him that night to get his insurance information; his wife answered the phone and said he had gone to the hospital because his neck hurt.

Long story short, about 2 years later I was served with a lawsuit for $318,000. He threw in the whole shebang - "violently thrown about the vehicle," "loss of consortium," and other wonderful goodies.

Luckily, the guy was a slime, as was his lawyer. He ended up settling with my insurance company the day before the trial would have started for all of $2,000.
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  #28  
Old 09-12-2010, 09:50 AM
JohnT JohnT is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dzero View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnT View Post
I once was hit by a car, called the police, only to have the woman who hit me (and my wife) call me a racist. It was especially nice when her husband called me @ home and called me a racist as well. Good times.
Muppets seem all sweet and innocent, but when you meet them in the real world, they can be a little testy.
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  #29  
Old 09-12-2010, 11:52 AM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
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I had a minor accident back in the 80s, no damage, and the police refused to come out. So I went over to the station and insisted they take down, my name, address and the info of the other guy and let me say "No damages done to either party and I did not leave the scene." Then they gave me a copy.

I just did it for my own peace of mind, but the cops didn't seem happy I was wasting their time.
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Old 09-12-2010, 02:34 PM
dzero dzero is offline
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JohnT: It didn't mean anything - just a silly attempt at humor.
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  #31  
Old 09-12-2010, 06:07 PM
Clothahump Clothahump is offline
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Always call the cops. And take pictures of both cars and everyone in both cars. And the surroundings.
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  #32  
Old 09-12-2010, 06:27 PM
Bosstone Bosstone is offline
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Jeez. Reading this thread makes me realize just how lucky I've been with the few fender benders I've had. I dinged the fender of a flashy red sports car once. You'd think that would be a death sentence. Never heard from the guy again after giving him my phone number.
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  #33  
Old 09-12-2010, 09:26 PM
dzero dzero is offline
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This is a little off topic but I present it as an example of a situation where you can be at fault for the accident but win on the moving violation.

I ran a stop sign and hit the rear fender of a light truck. Virtually no damage to the truck, but my little honda looked like it had kissed a tree. Got a ticket for running the stop sign.

Went back and saw there was branch in the way of the sign but your eyes had to be at exactly the right height for it to block your view. If your head was 4 or 5" higher or lower, you would be able to see it. It was this long rogue branch from a tree at least 10-15 ft away.

I call public works and told them about it. They cut the branch. When I went to court, the cop understood what had happened and didn't oppose my not guilty plea.

The insurance co. found me at fault on the logic that I should have seen the other stop sign - the one on the other side of the road facing in the opposite direction. Completely bogus but I guess they had to lay the blame on someone.

Last edited by dzero; 09-12-2010 at 09:27 PM..
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