Emotion is what happens to you right before you start thinking.
I was involved in a car accident this morning. This is the 8th car accident I've been in. Two were fairly serious, two were mildly frightening but left vehicles still (technically) functional, the other four were very minor. In none of them was I at fault.
Given my many experiences, resultant perspective, and generally detached attitude I am just about the best person you could want to accidentally run over. I know I made this guy's day...
*click* *click* *click* goes the turn signal. I am pulling out into traffic when rather suddenly *cRuNcH* my field of vision is shifted 5 degrees to the right. Here we go again...
I must admit, my initial reaction, lasting approximately 1-2 seconds, was a mixture of extreme anger and fright. To my own credit, I immediately realized I was short of sleep and these were inappropriate. I pulled back into the gas station at the very next opportunity, my accidental companion trailing miserably behind.
Remembering to smile, I got out of my car and walked back towards his Jeep as he was climbing out of it. "What a way to start a day huh!? Any damage there?" We both glance at the rubber cap on his bumper and can see there is no damage, not even flakes of paint from my wheel well. He rubs his bumper over with his hand as he attempts to gather his wits about him.
"Looks okay, what about your car?"
This is the delicate part. I know he has caused some damage, I also know it will be purely cosmetic. As we walk around to that side of my car I realize it is even better than I had hoped. No dents, he just knocked some of the trim off. "Looks okay to me!"
"Was that missing before?"
"I don't know. Doesn't matter, it is only cosmetic, the car still runs."
"So as far as I'm concerned, have a nice day." I'm thinking c'mon c'mon, take it guy, take it, they don't get easier than this.
Thankfully, he does. "You sure? I mean..." Got him. I immediately move in, put out my hand. He automatically extends his, like catching an object thrown in your direction, it is difficult to leave a man hangin. I pump his hand twice, firm grip, looking him directly in the eye.
"Sure. I'd say this is enough drama for a day, and I'm late as it is. You have a good one!" And with that I move right back around to the driver's side and get in. He shuffles back to this Jeep, climbs in, thinks about it for a second, backs out and goes on his way.
I thought about all of this rather quickly, before I'd even finished pulling back into the gas station. Once I was over the initial emotional reaction I played out a few scenarios in my head and I just couldn't see any way either of us would benefit from doing all the traditional trading of information.
We trade insurance information.
We each spend upwards of an hour or more on the phone with our respective companies.
I spend half a day having my car looked at by my insurance company's damage estimator.
I spend another half a day having this tiny piece of molding reapplied by a certified body shop.
That process probably spans a two to three week period.
His insurance rate goes up.
All of that over a piece of plastic a foot long that serves no functional purpose on my aging Oldsmobile Luxury Sedan. I lose a bunch of time, he loses a bunch of money, a mechanic makes perhaps $12 profit and an insurance company makes several hundreds, even thousands, of dollars...
Naw. Count me out. There are more important things to get upset over.
I won't presume to say everyone should react this way. Depending on the vehicle, the damage and the specific context of the accident there are differing appropriate reactions. However, I would advise keeping a cool head and striving for a bigger perspective. It is easy to get caught up in the emotion of a situation. Try to remember that a car is a method of transport, it is not an extension of personality or image. Weigh the various pros and cons, resale value and such, and do the right thing. Situations like this are the perfect place to apply The Golden Rule, the last thing to consider is 'sticking it to the insurance company.' That plays into their hands.