Not everyone is nice. No surprise there.
But what if an uncooperative type slams into your car?
How do you get the bare basics from the other driver without
risking your own safety? After all, no one wants you tackling the
guy to the ground to extract his wallet.
Fortunately, you don't have to.
While the chance of encountering someone so difficult is
likely remote - most drivers are either so contrite or upset that
they sincerely want to swap information - the truth is that you
need very little from the other driver.
Get the plate number
First, let's alleviate some potential anxiety: You don't need
as much personal information from said obnoxious driver as you
might think. You don't need to see his driver's license, let
alone photograph it.
(To guard against identity theft, the National Association of
advises people not to provide their driver's
information to strangers following an accident.)
Here's the information you want to try and gather at the
- The driver's name. Ask him to write down his name, or get a
business card. It's not your job to play detective or even
assume he's lying. Leave that to the police and the insurance
- The name of the other driver's insurance carrier. Again,
just request the name of the carrier. It's not your job to see
proof of insurance, nor is the driver required to show it to
- The license plate number and a basic description of the
other car. "That information alone is going to allow the
insurance carrier to identify the vehicle's owner," says Glenn
Greenberg, a spokesman for Liberty Mutual. "Beyond that it's
not the onus of the driver to go to excess bounds to identify
the other driver."
- Description of the accident. Grab a name and phone number
of a couple witnesses, if possible, particularly if you think
the details of the accident will be in dispute later. Jot down
your own notes about what happened and exactly where. Photos
The NAIC has a free smartphone app called
, that will guide you through the steps and record the necessary
But what if the driver resists even that?
In 30 years of trial work - including a good share of car
accidents - Boston-area lawyer Daniel Malis can recall only one
case in which a driver refused to provide insurance information
to the other driver. The "idiot" in that case, however, did
provide information to police.
"There's a simple solution," Malis says. "If someone at the
scene of an accident is being an idiot, call a cop."
Easier said than done. In many jurisdictions, police will
respond only to injury accidents. If the other driver is
threatening, however, and you fear being harmed, tell that to
"Avoiding confrontation is advisable," says Greenberg. "Notify
police that there's been an incident and you need some
assistance. It removes that responsibility from yourself."
And remember, while motorists in every state except New
Hampshire are required to carry car insurance, they are not
required to provide proof of that insurance to other citizens. In
other words, it's not your job. Drop it. There's no reason to
escalate the situation.
Put your insurance company to work
Plenty of drivers complain online that they've been unable to
reach an uncooperative driver later to resolve an insurance
matter. After all, why would a driver who flees the scene without
providing information decide later to return your phone calls?
Hit by an unlicensed and uninsured driver
In truth, there's no reason to put yourself through the
Insurance information is a matter of public record. With a
plate number, you should be able to find the driver's identity
and his carrier information through your state's
Department of Motor Vehicles
If police aren't near and the obnoxious driver is leaving the
scene, grab your phone camera or paper and pen instead and record
the license plate number. Jot down later what the driver looked
like, and some details of the accident, then let your insurance
company or a lawyer do the rest.
"Let your insurance company protect your interests," says
Greenberg. "That's your premium dollars at work. That's what you
let your insurance company do for you."
Collision coverage is a powerful weapon
Your insurance company will go to bat for you only if you
carry collision coverage or uninsured motorist property damage,
putting it on the hook for repairs to your car if the other
driver can't pay. That's often the case.
Drivers are uncooperative - or flee - for a reason. An
uninsured driver faces not only the bills to repair your car, but
also fines and even a license suspension by the state.
Your liability coverage won't repair your car or win you the
help of your insurance company in pursuing the at-fault
"The only sure way to make sure your car is repaired, no
matter who hits you or even if you do the damage yourself, is
collision coverage," says CarInsurance.com consumer analyst Penny
Gusner. "Most people don't carry uninsured motorist property
damage, and even then, it rarely covers the full cost of
When it's your word vs. the jerk's
Sometimes the other driver has insurance -- and gives his
carrier a very different story than the one you told your
insurer. In that case, his company is likely to deny your claim
for damages or split the blame. You'd receive only part of the
cost of the damages at best.
"In a case like this, you'd use your collision coverage to get
paid for all of your car's damages," Gusner says. "If you're
without collision coverage, you'd have to take him to court --
and if he's uncooperative or a jerk there, it should only help
If there's even a remote chance you'll need to file a claim
against your own collision coverage, says Malis, record the
accident with your insurance company immediately. Any delay could
be grounds for denying the claim. "Your insurance company can say
that you didn't provide timely notice."
But, he warns, call a lawyer first.
"The truth is, the insurance company is out to use every fair
and legal method to minimize what it pays," Malis says. "The way
to even that playing field is with an attorney."