Cafe Witness

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pennsylvania Encourages Car Accidents

Ann was driving to work a few weeks ago when she encountered an old station wagon filled with lumber, driving slowly in the lefthand lane. She tried to pass it on the right, and while she was doing so, the station wagon veered into the right lane and hit her.

Since they were on a bridge, there were no other witnesses who'd stopped. The driver -- an older man -- got out (of the station wagon that had no damage), inspected the two dents he'd made on Ann's front fender, and proclaimed that she could get them pounded out for $15, so there was no need to call the police. Just to be safe, Ann got his license and phone number, and continued on to work.

There, she noticed that her driver's side headlight had also been dislodged, which would seem to increase the total cost of damages. Both I and her boss suggested she file a police report. Ann called the police, who came down, looked at her car, and said, "Why did you call us? You're wasting our time."

Apparently, with no witnesses and minimal damage, there was no need for Ann to have called the police. (I wonder what level of damage is required for the police to be necessary.)

The cop suggested Ann report the incident to her insurance company. (He also ran the other driver's license plate and found that it didn't exist in the system, but that's because the guy turned out to be driving on a temporary license / registration.) Ann called the other driver to get his insurance info, but when he learned the cops were involved, he became so belligerent that the cop had to get on the phone and tell the guy to calm down and co-operate. That was when the guy started insisting that Ann hit him -- which, if you looked at the damage done (or not done) to the two vehicles, would have been a physical impossibility.

Nonetheless, when all was said and done, Geico informed Ann that because the other driver disputed her claim, and because there were no witnesses, this would be termed a no-fault accident and, therefore, Geico would not be pursuing the nearly $300 extra Ann had to pay beyond her $500 deductible in order to complete the final repairs.

So, in essence, driving to work that morning cost Ann more than $700 because an old man who couldn't see out his windows because his car was overloaded with lumber veered into her lane and hit her, all because no one else stopped to claim witness.

The lesson? If no one else is around, drive as recklessly as possible, because they can't catch you.

This reminds me of an accident I had back in 1995, when I was turning left under a yellow light and a driver coming from the opposite direction sped up to beat the light and broadsided my car, forcing it onto a median. We had witnesses AND we had an admission of guilt from the driver directly to the police. And yet, in the end, it turns out that the accident was actually 75% MY fault because I was turning left. And in the state of Pennsylvania, the person turning left is always at fault.

Interestingly, that same driver who, at the scene, was apologizing profusely and telling everyone within earshot, "Oh my God, I hit you!" would later attempt to sue me for whiplash and other injuries suffered long after the accident. That case was later dropped, as far as I know.

(The lesson here? In Pennsylvania, you should always speed up and hit anyone making a lefthand turn, regardless of witnesses. It's not irresponsibility or road rage; it's called "a free upgrade" to your current outmoded vehicle.)

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  • An old guy, huh? See my post for my view on old drivers...

    By Blogger Sorgatron, at 10:17 AM  

  • If there's at least $500 in damages, then you're required to call the police in PA.

    In this case, I'm sure Ann was rattled by the whole experience. The important thing to do is to slowly and carefully inspect for damage -- if she'd seen the headlight, she might have realized the damage was more extensive, and realized that she should call the police. (I myself would most likely have been too frazzled to think clearly, so this is a case of "do as I say, not as I do.")

    But one other point is that it's not legal to pass on the right in PA; other states also have this rule. So if it came to some sort of judicial finding, it's possible Ann wouldn't prevail because she wasn't abiding by the law.

    I don't know of any law about not driving slowly in the left lane, but there should be one. If the guy had poor visibility, that might matter. But it might come down to a no-fault resolution anyway.

    Also: I haven't had the best of luck with GEICO, cute lizard notwithstanding.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:46 PM  

  • pennsylvania drivers the WORST. i've gotten hit at the same intersection TWICE in 18 months of living here. i've lived for 4 years in LA and SF (which you'd think would be more dangerous driving cities), but was never hit.

    pennsylvania people need to LEARN HOW TO DRIVE.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:12 AM  

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