My First Car Accident (Er, Okay, Second)


By the light of day, I realize that what I’ve written up below was my second car accident; the first happened on the first night I went out driving with my dad, the day I received my learner’s license in Middle School. The similarities to this case are a bit surprising: it was also 100% the other guy’s fault, and it happened in an empty place. (A mall parking lot, after the mall had closed: he reversed into our car without even turning on his lights. Somehow, I spent years hearing this was my fault from my mom, in contradiction of law, insurance policy, and common sense alike. It’s actually a big part of why I never got around to really learning to drive until last year.)

Anyway… ancient history. But it’s funny that the only two accidents I’ve ever had were in nearly empty locations, and were both the other guy’s fault.

Original Post:

I’m running behind on everything the past few days. Among the reasons, is the fact I was involved in a car accident last night.

Attention conservation notice for the busy: nobody was hurt, no serious damage (to my car anyway), and I’m happy to say it was 100% not my fault. (The insurance people agree.)

Basically, the other guy wasn’t looking where he was going, while pulling out of a blind alley onto a major road. At 2am, while it was empty, sure, but he could have at last glanced at the road for oncoming traffic.

Oh, and also: it’s really, really cold outside at night here these days.

Gory details, you want ’em? Okay, I got ’em for you…

My week was pretty hectic—I was pushing hard to finish grading the midterm exams I gave recently. 1 So I ended up at the office late, and driving home around 2:00 in the morning last night, after grading the last stack of exams.

It’s funny: the road was basically empty, and all the traffic lights were set to that blinking mode I call, 네 멋대로 해라—meaning, “Do Whatever You Want.” (Yeah, from an old TV show, the only Korean TV drama I could stomach watching.) The lights blink and you’re supposed to just sort of follow typical right of way laws, which… well, people seem not to know or remember them, so it mostly only happens on side roads or in the wee hours of the morning that you see this setting.

So I pull up to the corner when I turn to drive up a short hill and into our apartment’s parking lot. I’m about two minutes from home, when… BAM. This guy drives out of a blind alley, with a restaurant on the side closest to me that practical abuts the road—there’s a small bit of sidewalk between th storefront and the main road, and he effectively appeared out of nowhere, from my frame of reference.

Appeared out of nowhere, and drove straight into the side of my car. He wasn’t speeding, he had his lights on, but… he didn’t pause to look, apparently, because I was right there, lights on and everything. I saw him just before impact, assumed he was waiting for me to pass before pulling out behind me. Nope. He must not have seen me, must have been off in his own world.

I stop, infuriated. Not because I’m worried about serious damage to our piece of crap car, but because What was he thinking? We both got out of our cars, and he almost immediately started panicking: the damage to his own front bumper was… well, not massive, but pretty hard to miss. You can’t see it here, because he’s squatting in front of it, cursing to himself in horror:


The damage to our car? I’ll put it this way: I didn’t notice it right away. Our car’s a beater. When the insurance guy arrived, I actually couldn’t convince him—nor could my wife, over the phone—that, no, the bash on the door was old damage, long before that night’s accident, and we just hadn’t gotten it fixed. There were spots where I couldn’t tell if the damage was new or old. It’s that cruddy a car, really: a 1999 Hyundai Sonata.

Th damage to our car, in all its underwhelming lack of glory.
Th damage to our car, in all its underwhelming lack of glory.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. We got out of our cars, and he panicked. He was terrified. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t drunk—he didn’t smell of booze, he just seemed worried and horrified to have bashed his fender so badly. I didn’t have the insurance information in the car, so I called my wife to call them—and, like a trooper, she woke up and called. The guy called his insurance people, and, well… they didn’t answer the phone. But our company’s representative did answer, and sent someone.

So we stood there in the dark, waiting for someone to come.


The next thirty minutes or so were weird. A bunch of tow trucks pulled up, the drivers all came out and swarmed us, discussing the damage and openly—maybe assuming I couldn’t understand them or, you know, recognize basic human behaviours?—mocked the crappiness of my car. Like, they didn’t even try to veil what they said, and they kept pointing at dents and rust spots and guffawing. Real middle schooler stuff.

Most of them took off, and the guy keeps checking my car and his car, and my car again, and trying to get me to verbally commit to the fact that only one bit of damage was caused by his car. Just a minor bit of damage on the front bumper. Then, when his insurance people don’t answer a second call, he suggests we just leave and meet tomorrow, and I have to tell him my insurance guy is coming and he has to wait. He panics some more, tries to convince me to assert what damage was new from the accident, and panics even more. It’s getting cold outside.

The one tow truck guy who stays, tells me I should move the car right onto the shoulder of the road. But it’s in a turning lane, with the emergency lights on, and there are two other lanes free on the road. I’ve been told not to move, not even with a minor accident, till the insurance people come, so I shrug and say, “My insurance guy is coming soon.” Bear in mind, I half-understand a lot of this, and my wife is on the phone translating and providing running commentary. Somehow, our son slept through it all.

Finally, my insurance guy comes. He assesses the damage, thinking all of it was caused that night. I tell him a few times that, no, this dent is old, that scrape is old, that’s not this guy’s fault. He doesn’t really believe me, and only sort of believes my wife, but insists there’s new damage on the rubber runners that skirt the side of the car. I say, “Really?” He assures me it is so, so I shrug and agree: “Okay, I guess.” The insurance guy talks to the other driver, to the tow truck driver too. I feel like the tow truck driver’s telling what happened though he wasn’t there, and I was, which annoys me. (Especially since, by this point, I’ve discovered the insurance guy speaks fluent English.)

But by the end of it, it’s clear the tow truck guy is just sort of trying to be helpful, and agreeing that obviously, I had right of way and it was the other driver’s fault. The insurance guy tells us that, at least for me case, it’ll likely be covered by the othr guy’s insurance but involve only a minor payout. He’s happy. I’m happy. Everyone’s happy, but freezing cold. We’ve been standing outside in really cold wind—for Korea, not really cold wind by Saskatchewan standards, mind you—for an hour. We all politely bow to one another and go home. I had to take a hot bath to stop shivering.

The next morning, I sent the guy the black box footage, and my wife spent some time on the phone with him. This evening, he called her back to say we’d be getting a direc payout from the other guy’s insurance company, roughly $500, because… well, because our car’s a piece of crap! The assumption is we’ll get a new bumper, which… yeah, the old way of doing things here is to always replace a bumper when it’s damaged even a little. That’s going out of fashion, though, and for good reason. Anyway, I expect the car shop I usually go to will just reattach it for a fraction of that. We’ll see, I guess.

As car accidents go, I’m guessing this was perhaps a best case scenario. But I do wish the guy had just looked first, before driving out into a major road from a tiny little blind alley.

  1. We’re 3/4 of the way through the semester, but I only gave the exams two weeks after the standard midterm week. It made sense, since the first half of semester had so many days off for most of my classes.

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