A Woman’s View: Fender benders

No doubt you hear those words and you just cringe.  The sudden impact, metal crunching, glass breaking and the endless headaches involved in dealing with insurance and auto body shops.

Odds are that most of us have probably been in at least one fender bender at some point or another; if you haven’t count yourself as one of the rare lucky few.  Even though it is just a fender bender and not a full-out accident or tragedy, women usually find it hard to focus because the ordeal can be very upsetting, no matter whose fault it is. 

Remaining calm and rational is always the best course of action, but many times the opposite person engages you in argument or in pointing the finger of blame.  Sometimes even a minor accident can cause such ignited rage that all rationale is lost and later the accident damages and paper filing can become muddled because of the “freak outs” by both parties involved.

“When I was younger I was in a small fender bender with a guy in front of me.  It was raining and he slammed on his brakes (why, I don’t know), and I slightly tapped the back of his car so lightly I wasn’t sure if I had actually hit him or stopped,”  Katherine of Somerton said. “He freaked out and jumped out of the car, began running around my car kicking it and banging fiercely on the hood and windows screaming at me.  He wanted me to get out of the car and he kept punching the windows, and my car got all banged up because of it.  I was so scared, and there was nothing wrong with his car.”

Believe it or not, what happened to Katherine is not uncommon.  Luckily, we now have cell phones and can remain safely in our cars when a freak out happens because road rage takes over.  If you feel unsafe because the other driver involved in the fender bender is threatening harm, stay in your car, but do not leave the scene of the accident unless you think your life is truly at stake.

I have known many women who were so intimidated by the other drive they did not get out of their vehicles until a police officer arrived, and the officer understood and did not add any blame to the woman who chose to stay in her car until the officer’s arrival.

Of course, fender benders can cause heated situations and high blood pressure with the “she did/he did, I was right you were wrong” debates, but there are times when both parties involved can be very civil.  On that rare occasion, women have a tendency to be more lenient and sometimes forget that the other party could still have malicious intent despite a pleasant demeanor.

Sorry to say it, but many times in fender benders the men involved seem to try to overshadow and speak on their behalves.   Playing on a woman’s sympathy with the age old line of “we don’t need to call anyone, we’ll handle it out of insurance” may seem an inviting proposition, but ultimately you will be hurting yourself later on — especially if you were not at fault.

“I was recently in an accident with a man who rear-ended me.  It was an open and shut case: I was in traffic, at a dead stop, he wasn’t paying attention and boom!  We got out of our cars and his car was fine but mine was all crumpled,” Blue Bell resident Dana said. “He was very nice, but I still wanted to call the cops. He was trying to get me to settle out of insurance, figuring it would be a little repair, and it ended up costing over $4,000, which he refused to pay.  Then when I tried to turn it into insurance, he denied the claim and since there was no police report or witnesses I got stuck with the bill.”

Dana’s situation is not as uncommon as you may think.  I spoke with a Pennsylvania state policeman who informed me that many times people have fake IDs or fake insurance cards and give the false information to the other person involved, with the promise to pay.  Others are honest and give their true information, but later renege on their original offer.  Automobiles today are made to crumple in order to absorb impact and keep us safe.  That makes even minor fender benders more expensive since the car damage is usually considerable..

When you are in an accident and there is any kind of damage done to either car no — matter whose fault — you should always have a police report made.  It is safer and smarter to give both your information and the opposing party’s information to the police so they can verify it is correct and ligament.

Having a report made is a great idea, especially if the accident was not your fault, because you don’t want to become liable in the future.  You do not necessarily have to contact your insurance just because a police report was filed out.  Contacting your insurance company and the opposing party’s insurance company can make things much smoother when it comes to costs and repairs.

I have seen many people try to settle out of insurance and it almost never works.  The damages are too high, they feel the person is taking advantage (which is possible) or they don’t see why they should pay for a rental car during repairs.  If you have an insurance agency, you should contact the agent immediately following the accident to consult on the best course of action.  It may seem a small, messy situation, but fender benders can turn ugly so fast because of unforeseen costs and malicious intent.

“I was driving and with my brother about seven years ago, and we got into a collision with a man,who, I later learned sued several people for the same thing,” Lexia from Frankford told NEast Philly. “It was such a minor tap of the cars it only left a scratch on mine and nothing on his.  He literally fell out of his car garbing his neck and screaming.  I couldn’t believe it!  Of course we had to contact the police and later insurance, since they took him away in an ambulance.  Even though he had a history of suing people for ‘minor incidents’ he still won $40,000!  I couldn’t believe it, and my insurance [rates] went sky high, as you can imagine.”

Incidents like this are tragic and true.  Some people do look at an accident as fortunate, and take advantage of the situation for personal gain. In order to prevent this, contacting the police to come to the scene of an accident no matter how small, keep a log of everyone’s injuries and vehicle damages, listen to anyone who may have witnessed the accident and be sure to get correct contact information from all parties involved.

Fender benders are unfortunate and usually stressful. Try to remain calm no matter how the other person behaves, and always have a report made.  A few inconvenienced moments at the time of the accident could save several hours or even days of headaches later.

A Woman’s View is a column about women’s issues written by Donna Ward. The column appears every other Thursday on NEastPhilly.com. See others here. Read other NEastPhilly columns here.

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