Z.Z. asks from Montgomery Village, MD on September 03, 2010
Don't Know What to Do About 16 Year Old Son's "Accident."
I just got a call from our insurance company about an "accident" my son had. I was totally blindsided because my son mentioned nothing about it. I called him and he told me he swiped a car that was parked as he was trying to park in the school parking lot. He said the owner came over, wiped his hand across his car and said there was no damage but took my son's information anyway. Now he is claiming damages. I am furious with my son for not calling me at the time to have me come over, as we don't live but a few minutes from the school. I'm wondering if this guy has other damage he's now trying to pin on my son. He said there are scratches on his car. We have a black car with a rubber bumper. I've swiped a car once before parking in a space and there was no damage. Just black marks from the rubber bumper that you can wipe right off. Now I don't know whether I should take the keys away from my son and suspend his driving privileges for awhile or if that's overreacting. I'm more angry that he did not call me and let me know about the accident, or even tell me after the fact since it happened Saturday at football practice. For those of you with teen drivers, what would you do? Our insurance for him is already high enough, I'd hate to see it go even higher for this stupid incident!
So What Happened?™
I want to address this comment,"Your son was also responsible enough to call the insurance on his own....impressive if you asked me!" My son did not call the insurance company. There was nothing in my statement that said he did. The man called our insurance company to file a claim. I spoke to the insurance again today and asked them to come take an estimate of our car and pictures so they can see that our car wouldn't have caused scrapes. I also found out the other driver's car was a mercedes benz, so it only confirms my suspicions that this is some uppity jerk who is trying to take advantage of my son.
L.R. answers from Wausau on September 03, 2010
Beeing a person who as a teen was screwed over by an adults mistake I wouldn't take it too hard out on him. I was 16 when I was picking up a friend at her house, her mom did daycare and as we were getting into the car this lady drove up the driveway very fast and ran into my passingers door fast and bent it back. I did not have a cell phone and couldn't call the police at the time she whipped out her phone and called 911 and said I backed into her car with my door open. LOL anyhow my friend wouldn't say anything becasue this lady hat 4 of the 7 kids in her daycare...anyhow no longer friends with her. Needless to say if you don't know what happened a large punishment would not be wise.
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K.L. answers from Washington DC on September 07, 2010
My vote would be for using it as a teaching opportunity and not a punitive one. It sounds like he thought it was a minor incident and not worthy of telling you. If it happens again and he doesn't tell you, then that would be the time for thinking about taking away the keys.
S.W. answers from Minneapolis on September 03, 2010
I have raised two teenagers and had many dealings with cars. I think this is an opportunity for education (what to do next time) rather than punishment (he clearly believed no damage had been done). A 16 year-old needs to have knowledge about how to handle common incidents without having to call a parent every time (next time may not be close to home). This is called allowing them to grow up.
As for the insurance situation, I would first talk with the other car's owner calmly to determine what they think the damage is, view it if possible, and if any (likely minor scuffing or scratches) offer to take care of it personally and keep the insurance companies out of it.
As for this being a "stupid incident" - all incidents leading to car damage could be called "stupid" and we've all had them - 16 years old and on up.
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P.W. answers from San Francisco on September 03, 2010
See what happens first. It sounds like this other driver is just trying to milk the system. I can see an otherwise good teen not telling his parent about something like this when the other driver said there was no damage. It doesn't mean he's irresponsible, and it might have been a good first lesson for your son.
Now hopefully that other driver doesn't start having "neck pain" and stuff like that. Jerk.
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P.M. answers from Portland on September 03, 2010
Well, I'm an extremely conscientious person, but if I were in your son's shoes (and I have been), I would, as an inexperienced person having my first little crunch with another car, have just said "Whew, that was lucky," and kept the incident to myself, having learned already what I needed to learn from the situation. In part, for me, this was because my mom was hyper-controlling and thought punishments should be applied early and often for the good of her children.
What your son didn't realize, and many adults wouldn't either, was that the other driver might revisit the issue later, or even try to collect for other damages. This was a miscalculation about human behavior based on inexperience, but there was nothing malicious or intentional about it.
Since the purpose of punishment is to drive home a point, I'd just have a chat with my son about what he has already realized because of this incident, and how to handle similar situations better in the future. He's unlikely to make the same mistake again (unless I'm just miscalculating him based on my assumptions about what I'd be thinking if I were him).
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J.P. answers from Los Angeles on September 03, 2010
Those are called "lies of omission." You shouldn't have to ask him. He needs to fess up right away, regardless of the amount damage. You shouldn't have to know the questions to ask, to get the entire truth.
My parents classified these in our home worse than any other type of lie.
I would take his car away for a month. NOT for the accident, but rather for not telling you. Tell him how awful it was to hear the truth from a total stranger. Also, if he ever gets in another accident again, he needs to take pics with his cell, or someone else's cell right away.
I lied (repeatedly) to my parents when I was 12 over a movie I had seen, and I lost my phone line forever, wasn't allowed to talk on the phone, go to parties or hang out at friend's home for 3 months, AND I had to ride the bus to/from school everyday for the rest of the school year...which I was the FIRST pick-up in the am and the LAST drop off in the afternoon. I decided that telling the truth, no matter how bad, couldn't be as bad as this.
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C.C. answers from South Bend on September 03, 2010
If there wasn't a police report, i don't think this other driver can really make a claim against your insurance/son. There's no proof! It's his word against yours. You can & should talk to your insurance agent about the incident, explain that your son is young & naieve about freely giving out his insurance info. when there was no damage involved AND no police involved! Tell the insurance agents exactly what you told us...the guy wiped his hand across the car, said there was no damage, but took your young, inexperienced son's insurance info "Just in case". Tell them you think the man is trying to swindle you & commit insurance fraud. I can guarantee you if there is already a claim in the works, it'll come to a grinding halt. Insurance companies take fraud seriously. And, if the jerk only has scratches, rubbing compound will take/buff that out...no need to file a claim over scratches!
As for your son, i'd say talk to him to make him understand he doesn't just freely give out insurance info. And reiterate that he NEEDS to call you if there is ever any accident or minor incident in the future. My daughter is 17, and i'd hate to see this happen to her. I would probably ground my daughter for a short time from driving, but the main thing is to talk to your son & make him understand the importance of calling on his parents in situations like this. Don't be too harsh on him mom, this other man blew it off like it was nothing. Your son can't help that this guy is a scammer.
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G.T. answers from Modesto on September 03, 2010
Don't be hard on your son, he thought it was a done deal and didnt need to tell Mommy about it. He knows NOW that it is in his best interest if there is a next time to make sure you get informed. His response was pretty normal, if it was a daughter she probably would have told you right away.... girls are more apt.
I'd say wait it out and see what happens as probably nothing will. Who was the other driver, was it also a minor? Make sure you have your own "good" adjuster look at the damages to make sure they boil down to what did happen in that parking lot.
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W.E. answers from Sacramento on September 03, 2010
i didnt take the time to read the other responses so someone may have already suggested this....keep a disposable camera in the vehicle. we had a run in with a nut job one day. she decided we had hit her car, but we hadnt. we took pictures of the scene and both cars. when she saw us with the camera she shut up and left.
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S.B. answers from Minneapolis on September 03, 2010
I think rather than focus on what already happened and what he DIDN'T do, focus on what your expectations in a situation like this in the future. He was just acting like a typical person - he didn't think anything happened, he was embarrassed, he thought he would get in trouble, and so he didn't say anything.
Tell him in the future, if he ever gets in a fender bender, to take pictures with his phone (I actually keep a disposable camera in the glove box of my vehicle) of both vehicles (obviously, this is only for fender benders, etc - any "real" damage requires a police report). I actually had something similar happen to me a few years ago. I "bumped" the person in front of me on their back bumper with my front bumper - they false started out into traffic at a yield. There wasn't any damage. However, this woman lept out of her car yelling that she needed my insurance info because when she got home, she was sure she would find the damages. I told her "sure, I will give you my insurance info, but let me take some pictures first." She hopped back in her car and drove away.
If push comes to shove, ask the other party if you can pay for a buffing out of any scratches and a full detailing of the car - maybe that way you can avoid an insurance claim.
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