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Published:April 26th, 2011 10:18 EST
Meeting by Accident

Meeting by Accident

By Donna Cavanagh

As I headed to my car in the grocery store parking lot, I noticed a bit of a commotion.  Two police cars had blocked off the aisle where I was parked, and there was a woman screaming and crying.  Leaning against my front bumper was a well-dressed, elderly man. He was just staring at the mayhem, so he didn`t notice me loading my bags into my tailgate.  When I came around to the driver`s side, he stood up and apologized for sitting on my car.

"Don`t worry about it," I told him.  "What is going on?"

"A minor accident- and I guess I might be the cause. See the screaming maniac over there?" He pointed to a distraught woman. "I backed into her. It`s a little bump. I can`t even see damage, but she started yelling that she was in pain and that she wanted an ambulance. I am guessing she is getting ready to sue me."
"Really? What lawyer would take a case like this?"

"I would," he responded. " I convince people to sue for less than this."

I have to admit I was shocked, but all I managed to do was smile and say,

"karma`s a bitch, huh?"

Do you believe the old lawyer didn`t see the humor in my comment?  Anyway, even though this incident and impending law suit was happening to someone who might have deserved it, I was saddened by the woman`s reaction to this fender bender.  She knew that if she worked this accident just right, she might hit a small -- or maybe, a big payoff.

As I drove home from this scene, I started to think how much kinder the world would be if all our fender benders ended on a nicer note as it did for me a few years back. Allow me to reminisce.  I was stopped at a red light in Philadelphia. Apparently, the guy behind me didn`t see the red light because he didn`t slow down until it was too late. He hit me pretty hard, and I knew there would be damage. At first, I was a tad miffed, but as we started to talk, I felt badly for the guy. He had just picked up his new Thunderbird from the dealership and was driving it home when he rammed my rear bumper. His front had a great deal of damage, and he started to cry. 

After we exchanged information, he asked if he could pay me cash for the damage. I said I didn`t care as long as he covered the bill completely.  During that week, the auto body shop gave me an estimate of $2,300.  I thought that was high, and so did my car accident partner.  I went for another estimate and this one turned out to be $1,300.  He was thrilled with the new estimate; and he sent me a check and a dozen roses. The card said, "It was a pleasure running into you!"
I know that these mishaps don`t always turn out this well. Sometimes, the threat of a lawsuit is the only way to get results.  My husband and I were on our way way to  Home Depot when this woman veered into our lane and sideswiped my van.  My husband pulled over to get information, but the woman panicked and took off.  Yep, she gunned the accelerator and fled.  Now, being the calm-headed one in my marriage, I told my husband to chase her.

When she finally came to a stop in a shopping center, I jumped out of my car and onto her hood and shouted in my best Dirty Harry voice,

"You are toast!"

Of course, my husband took the logical route and called the police who arrived on the scene within minutes.  Let me just say that the police were a lot angrier at her than I was.  The two officers wanted to arrest her right then and there.  I would have gone along with the bust had I not noticed her son in the backseat of the car. I don`t think even the toughest person in the world would have wanted that little kid to see his mother get hauled off to the big house in cuffs. While I was feeling sorry for the kid, the mother was calling her husband, the attorney. When he got to the scene of the crime, he tried to argue to the officers that the entire accident was my husband`s fault.  That is when I turned to the cop and said,

"Go ahead, take her in. Give her the chair!"
The police explained that she could get jail time, but the death penalty was off the table -- at least in Pennsylvania. One of the officers warned her that if she didn`t pay for the damage, he would press charges and encourage us to sue her. The threat of the lawsuit seemed to squash the attorney husband`s argumentative attitude. The point of these vehicular tales is this: Accidents happen. You can either be an understanding person or a schmuck. Being a schmuck may make you richer, but there is no guarantee it will make your life better.