I can't sleep. I'm thinking about down payments and auto loans.
Yesterday, as I was driving home from visiting a friend, I saw a a guy making a left turn singing along to his radio. He doesn't see me, I thought. He's not going to yield! I braked hard and slammed down on my horn, knowing a hit was inevitable at that point. Don't hit the front of your car! Save your engine! I veered right, closed my eyes, and hoped for the best.
I opened my eyes and I knew I had to get my vehicle out of the intersection. It slowly rolled and I parked it along the street. I called my husband. "I'm okay, but I was in a car accident." My voice wavered. "I'm at Cahuenga and Magnolia, parked next to the Little Caesar's" "I'm on my way," he said. I stuffed my phone in my pocket and gathered my license, insurance, a pad of sticky notes, a pen, my keys, and walked over to check on the other driver. He had already moved his vehicle out of the intersection as well. I didn't see it anywhere. A guy rolled his window down and said, "Hey! He's parked over at the gas station. Are you okay?" "Yes!" I called out. "And thank you!"
The driver was still near his car. I asked for his driver's license and registration. He said he didn't have that. I asked for his license. He repeated he didn't have one. I asked his name. Oscar Gomez. I asked for a credit card, registration, anything that verified the name he gave me. He refused. Okay, I said. I went to the back of his car and took a photo of his license plate. I came back to him and surreptitiously took two photos of his face. He told me that he doesn't even live here. Where do you live? Not here. Where are you staying? Hotel. What's the name of it? Cortez Hotel. Where is it? Sepulveda blvd. What is your phone number? I don't have a phone.
Everyone has a phone.
There must be a number I can reach you at. No. He said. You must have a wife, a daughter, who I can contact to get to you. He gave me a phone number with no area code. What's the area code? He gave it to me. Whose number is this? Mine, he said.
I need to see the car's registration. Reluctantly, he finally gives it to me, encased in plastic. This is all I have, he said. The last name is different on it than the name he gave me. I could have misheard him, but I think he was scared and outright lied to me. On the registration, it had his address, the license plate, the vehicle identification number. I flipped the plastic cover over. On the back was his AAA proof of membership. I took photos of both.
After asking for his license again, he said he didn't have one. I don't know if he was lying about that.
At this point, I should have called the police, but the last time I was in a car accident in LA about ten years ago, the 911 operator told me the police don't come to car accidents unless someone is injured. Neither of us were injured. I didn't think they would come out. They probably would have if I had told them this guy was breaking the law by not giving me his information, but I knew that by the time they'd arrive, he'd already be gone. Still, I should have at least called them to make a report.
I meant to take a photo of the damage to his car, but I didn't have the wherewithal to do that. I was very shaken up and not expecting the driver at fault to be so unhelpful. Eventually, we come to the point where I understand there's no more info I can get from him. "Okay then." I said. I wrote my name and number on a sticky note and gave it to him. Maybe he'd feel guilty? Call me?
I'm on the phone with a tow truck. I tell them the name of our car repair shop I want the car towed to. I'm then transferred to claims and am on the phone when my husband arrives. I haven't taken photos of my car yet, so I ask him to do it. He does. I'm still on the phone when I ask him to take everything in my car out. He does. Super helpful. I am calm but I'm so relieved he's here I almost break down into tears. Not conducive to the claims phone call, so I'm holding it together.
You should have called the police, my insurance says. Hindsight, yes. But if I had threatened Oscar with that immediately, I don't think he would have given me his registration card. He might not be Oscar, they said. He could be a relative or friend driving the car.
That never occurred to me.
They have to go through the DMV channels. They have to see if any of the information he gave me regarding the phone number and hotel match up.
I don't have collision insurance. If my vehicle is totaled and it's my fault, I'm at a loss. This, however, is an accident that's not my fault. Oscar didn't see me and didn't yield to me. Normally, his insurance, if he has any, would give my insurance all the money I need for repairs or the value of the car.
Now, automobile insurance doesn't cover the drivers; it covers the car themselves. It doesn't matter if Oscar is a friend or relative of the vehicle owner. The car's registration also is up to date until Feb of 2013. And in order to be registered, you must have some type of insurance.
My husband and I arrived to our auto shop before the tow truck. We talk to the owner and showed him a picture of the damage, saying, we know you can't accurately judge anything until you see it in person, but here's an idea of the scope. Can your shop handle it? Yes he said. But let's wait for me to see it. Two minutes later, as the tow truck pulls into the lot, the owner, Aziz, says, It's a total loss. It's totaled. I'm so sorry. I'm going to unhook it from the tow truck and take a look under the hood, but it's not going to be good.
The car is taken off the tow and he pops the hood. "This is not as bad as I thought!" he says. He shows us to metal bars that surround the engine. "If you had hit this bar or that one, it'd be a total loss, but instead, the engine and those bars are intact. It's a lot of body damage, but it can be repaired."
At this point, however, we wait. A rep from my insurance will go see the car sometime today and see if it's worth fixing. My claims service rep is trying to find Oscar.
I am lucky.
I am not hurt. No one was hurt. No bystanders or pedestrians were hurt. I am okay. He is okay. We are shaken, but we're okay.
And hey, if the car is a total loss, I really wanted a four door car anyway.