How to deal with jerks on the road
No matter how carefully you drive, it's not always possible to avoid unpleasant encounters with the abundance of jerks you'll find on the road.
Sooner or later, you're bound to have interactions with drivers who cut you off, are screamers, or refuse to give up their insurance information following a collision. Here are some tips on how to deal with them.
The jerk who refuses to give you insurance information
If a driver refuses to share insurance information at the scene of an accident, get the make and model of the car and the license plate information, advises Peter Moraga, spokesperson for the Insurance Information Network of California. If you have a camera, take photos of the accident scene to share with your insurance carrier.
"You can get a pic of the driver and his license plate. Also get photos of the damage," says Moraga. If there is a dispute over the facts of the accident, "at least you have a visual of what happened."
Here's more on what to do after a car accident.
The jerk who hits your car and has no insurance
What if a nitwit hits you and has no insurance?
Moraga suggests you get a name and contact information from the other driver, along with plate information. If you have collision coverage, it should cover any damages to your own vehicle, he adds.
"Report the driver and the contact information to your agent immediately," he adds.
It's a crime in most states to drive without minimum auto liability insurance, so you may want to call the police from the scene of the crime and file a report, Moraga says.
The jerk who drives away from an accident scene
"Driving away after an accident is a felony if anyone's injured, and you should call the police," says Moraga. "And if no one's injured, it may be a misdemeanor. . . . Getting the license plate of the other motorist is important because you'd still be [compensated by your] underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage. That's important, because oftentimes [other] drivers will have the minimum coverage required by law," and that may not cover your all your damages.
Moraga stresses that today's high health care costs make it very important to carry adequate car insurance.
"You may have someone in your car who got injured, and the way health costs are these days, even a broken bone can cost $10,000," he says. There are states that have smaller limits and states that have larger limits, but that [underinsured and uninsured motorist] coverage protects you."
Report the accident to the police and call your insurance company as soon as possible.
The jerk who damages your car in a parking lot and drives away
Some dum-dums will simply drive away after damaging someone else's car in a parking lot.
"Always use your cell phone and take a picture of the damage to your car," says independent Seattle insurance agent Michelle Rupp. "See if anybody saw the accident happen, and even if somebody else didn't see a license plate, maybe you can get a witness to someone hitting your car. If you can't get a witness, note the date and time that it happened and call your own insurance company."
In such cases it usually is not necessary to call the police to the scene, unless there is major damage, she adds.
The driver who is verbally or physically abusive
After an accident, you may find yourself dealing with a driver who is verbally or physically abusive. What's your best recourse? Moraga says you should avoid a confrontation. Sometimes the best thing to do is hide in your the safety of your car.
"Get in your car, lock your doors, and call 911," he says. "Take pictures if you can. Don't engage or confront the person, just call the police. . . . Don't let your emotions control the situation."
The road-rage jerk
You know that guy who makes a rude gesture, follows you too closely, or zigzags in and out of traffic. If someone is especially aggressive, try to avoid that driver.
"The best course of action is to get away from that person," says Lt. John Hotz, assistant director of the public information and education division of the Missouri State Highway Patrol."You should pull off of the roadway and report the situation. Call 911. Don't do anything that will escalate things with that person. Typically, people who become involved in road rage incidents have other things going on in their lives, and a road rage incident is the straw that breaks the camel's back."