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Fender bender while parking

by Matt

So a few weeks ago I was parallel-parking my car on a busy chicago street. i came a bit too close to the car i was pulling up next to and scraped against the car's bumper as i was approaching the spot. I inspected the damage and it was very minor. i left a note figuring that
i a) would probably never hear from the driver and
b) at worst would pay for a couple hundred bucks to get some paint and scratches buffed out.

I was contacted by the owner who said that the estimate to repair the damage is nearly $1000 - that includes repairing damage to the headlight and replacing and painting the fender. I offered to arrange another estimate to see how much it would be to repair the current fender to try to get the cost lower.

Regardless, the estimate seems very high to me based on what i saw of the damage (and also based on the fact that my car shows NO damage whatsoever, no scratches or removed paint or anything).

I suspect that the guy that i hit is trying to take advantage of my honesty in leaving a note. i have no way of knowing that he is not trying to get me to pay for damage from a separate incident or just normal wear and tear from parking on a busy street. I called him and told him that I wanted to see some greater proof that this incident was the cause of these damages.

He threatened to file a police report against me for a hit and run (and also threatened to come to my house and damage my car). I'm really unsure as to what I'm responsible for here. I talked him down from those threats and we agreed to take get another estimate from my mechanic this weekend.

He seemed to think that the mechanic would be able to determine that i was responsible for the damage (though my car won't be there when he takes his car in for this estimate) Really, I'm just thinking about setting up the appointment to get an estimate as buying time to figure out if i have some other options and what i'm responsible for.
This is the first time i have ever been involved in anything like this and i don't have much money.

i don't know what the process would be if i tried to pick this up on my insurance or if i tried to call his bluff and see what would happen if he filled out a police report.

i'll pay for whatever i'm responsible for, but i don't know that paying to restore the car to mint condition is necessarily my responsibility if i have no evidence that the car was in mint condition before i bumped into it. what advice can you give? what should i do?

Answer: Hi Matt,

Well, this is one of the reasons insurance companies are better to deal with this type of thing. Insurance adjusters are aggressive (too aggressive sometimes), they know the law and they are not afraid to call the bluff of someone else. They also have access to records to see if a vehicle has been previously damage (some states).

Insurance companies also are able to depreciate damages. You do not owe for a new bumper with new paint. You owe for a used bumper, or the bumper he had before the accident. Insurance companies are good about getting the best deal and using comparable parts.

What can this guy do? He can call the police and they can say that you left the scene without calling the police. Some officer will take into account that you left a note and not give you a ticket, some other will not care. If I was in your position, I would call the police myself. In fact, I would go to the closest police station and report the accident. You can do a "walk in" report.

This is a simple form in which you get to write what happened according to you. This is huge because your testimony will be part of the record and not his. Remember to be truthful and write everything as you saw it happen. Note that you saw little or no damage and decided to leave a note just case.

It is unlikely that you get a ticket or that you get in "trouble". You are reporting the accident late, but you are reporting. You are also leaving a note. This shows good faith if anything else. AND when the other party tells you that they will call the police, you can tell them that the accident was already reported. End of the issue.

Regarding damages, you owe to fix it. However, the fair amount is what is in dispute. You have a right to see what you are paying for, so ask to see break downs, parts estimates. Or do what you are doing, take it to your mechanic.

Good Luck,

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