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(Not-so-)instant “car”ma’s gonna get you…

18 September, 2016

So, although – as I suspected – switching to a new, subdued gray car from a bright yellow one has significantly reduced the number of speeding tickets I get (none in the two years I’ve had it, vs. one a year in the yellow car), it does seem to have increased the number of people who want to drive into me (three in two years, vs. one in six years). In this latest incident (a couple of months ago – I was waiting for closure, but I’m sadly still waiting…) some asshole side-swiped me. So we don’t run foul of any privacy laws, let’s call this asshole “J. Giblin”. No, that’s too obvious; let’s call him “John G”.

I was driving along a two-lane (in each direction) road when a guy in a black Chevy Suburban blithely pulled out of a store parking lot in front of me. As I was going the speed limit (35mph) at the time, I would have had to slam my brakes on pretty hard to avoid hitting him, so to avoid doing that (I had my youngest in the car and didn’t want to jolt him), I moved over into the other lane, passed by him (frowning as I did so, but no worse – trying to set a good example to junior), then moved back into my original lane. Asshole clearly didn’t like that I’d had the audacity to maneuver around him instead of slowing down for him, as when I looked in my rearview mirror, he was barrelling towards me at a pretty fair clip. He drove right up behind me, swerved out to go round me at the last second (when I could just about see the whites of his eyes), then when he was almost past me, cut back into my lane – clipping my car as he did so! Damn!!

There was an audible bang, and the car jolted, so there was no way he could have not known that he hit me, but he just kept driving. I honked, flashed my lights, and swore a lot (good example be damned!), but he just kept going. Unfortunately for him, the lights ahead were red, and he had to stop at them. I put my hazards on and got out of my car to confront him (he was stopped directly in front of me), but before I’d reached his car, the lights changed…and he just shot off again! What an asshole! Luckily I had the forethought to make a note of his license plate, so I pulled over into the nearest side-street, and called 911, explaining what had happened. The dispatcher told me to sit tight while they sent someone round to take a statement. But about 15 minutes later, who should appear (driving down the main road, but pulling in to the side street when he saw me sat there), but Mr Asshole himself, who probably realized that leaving the scene of an accident is actually a criminal offence here in Texas, and he’d be better off just copping to a minor fender bender.

John GJohn G. (for it was he) got out of his car, and headed towards me. “What the FUCK!?” I shouted. “You were racing!” he stated. Me: “Uh, racing who?” “That other car. He drove off. This was your fault!” he continued. “How the fuck was it my fault? You hit me!!” At which point he really did look like he was going to hit me. He was a bigger guy, but fuck it. I don’t back down when I’m indignantly in the right. He inspected our two cars. “Well my car’s OK” he pointed out. “Well fucking great for you! Mine’s not!” He seemed less than impressed with my counterpoint. Actually, I only had a dented panel, a cracked headlight, and a scuffed bumper, which I figured to be about $1,000 worth of damage, but still…not my fault, not mine to pay for. I told him the police were on the way, and just went and sat in my car.

Fifteen minutes later the police turned up, and took both of our statements. When all that was done, the officer came up to me and said that John G. had claimed that I was racing, then claimed I was weaving all over the road, finally claiming that I ran into the back of him (how?? with the damage being where it was [my driver side front wing and his passenger side rear wing], I’d have had to be on the sidewalk at the time!). The officer concluded with “But I think I know what really happened and I’ll be writing it up that way. Anyway, we’re taking him off to jail.” Jail?? That’s a bit harsh! “Oh, he’s got a couple of outstanding warrants, so we’re taking him in.” Clearly a model citizen! Great. So now I’m involved in an altercation with a wanted felon or something, who probably blames me for him getting apprehended. Knowing my luck the warrants will be for GBH or murder – and now he has my address from when we swapped insurance details; I’ll be sleeping with the fishes by the time he gets out…

But the painful part didn’t involve a beating at the hands of John G and his possible biker gang cronies, it was at the hands of the insurance companies. I’m insured through GEICO, and they were generally pretty good about it – probably because it was pretty clear that it was the other guy’s fault. But then I heard from Mr G’s insurance company, Progressive. They called me up and announced that they had determined that the ‘accident’ was “only 70% the fault of our client, so we’re only paying out 70% of the cost of the repairs.” What!? Whaaaattt??? Me: “How did you come to that conclusion?” “Well, after interviewing both of you by phone, that’s what we think happened. You should have given way when he cut back into your lane”. Me: “Did you see the police report? [Which I have...] The one where they ticketed him for an ‘Unsafe Lane Change’ and ‘Road Rage’??” “Yes…”. “And did the police cite me for anything, or indicate on that report that I in any way contributed to the accident?” “Well, no, but that’s what we’ve decided. 70% liability.” Me: “That’s bullshit!”. “Well, we’re sorry you feel that way. You are free to appeal…”.

So that’s what I did. I rejected their offer – even though the total repair costs turned out to be only $1,154.78, and the 30% they wouldn’t be paying out is ‘only’ $346.34. GEICO said they would be happy to go to arbitration on my behalf, noting that the absolute worst that could happen is that I would get only the 70% (specifically, that amount could not be reduced in arbitration), and arbitration wouldn’t cost me anything, so I figured what did I have to lose? (Well, exactly $346.34, if you want to be pedantic…). But then the kicker on that is that Progressive won’t pay out anything until we have been through arbitration (which could take six months!) – not even the $808.35 they have already agreed to pay out regardless of the result of arbitration. So I am stuck with paying it myself for now. GEICO were happy to point out that I only need to pay up to my deductible and they will happily cover all the rest, but as I have a $1,000 deductible (to keep my monthly premium down), “all the rest” is just $154.78, vs. the $1,000 I am paying. Gee, thanks Geico!

And the ‘fun’ didn’t end there… It cost me $786.19 for a rental car for the 11 days (!seriously!) the car was in the shop. It should have been $337.87, but Enterprise didn’t give me the “GEICO referral rate” (even though I asked for it, they said I would get it, and this was at their ‘branch’ inside the GEICO repair facility). They also charged me insurance of $14.99 a day when I wanted to decline it (Amex covers it for free), but they said their “special package including our insurance” would work out $2/day cheaper – it didn’t. In the words of Liberty Mutual Insurance, “Perfect.”. Maybe I should’ve used them… At least Amex have put the $448.32 difference on hold pending resolution of the dispute against Enterprise I have opened with them…GEICO take note!

So I’m currently out of pocket $1,337.87. John G – if you want your ugly mug taken off this page, cut me a check for that amount (you have my address) and we’ll call it quits. I ‘named and shamed’ the last guy who ran into me and tried (unsuccessfully) dodging responsibility, and it cost him a potential job when an employer Googled his name and pulled up my blog post where I called him a “lying piece of shit” (I took it down when he called me up and apologized, and explained what was going on – basically his “abusive and domineering” big-shot lawyer father put him up to it). Which shows that karma is, indeed a bitch. Here’s hoping karma wins out again.

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