Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Forgive...or Forget It?

Tomorrow, it will be three weeks since a a kid just past his 18th birthday totaled my car by turning left into rush hour traffic.  I have some forms to fill out and send back, and then I'll be getting another $1800 or so (in two checks) from Da Kid's insurance company.  This will leave me about $700 more in debt, paying a higher insurance premium (probably to do with the size of the car), and driving a car that's larger but also three years older and a more obscure make and model.  The black and blue marks are gone from my knee.  Am I better or worse off than I was three weeks ago?  Probably a little worse off, but not as badly off as I'd feared.  I've even succeeded (finally) in developing the habit of wearing my seat belt.

But check this out:  Da Kid wants me to sign a piece of paper that will reduce or eliminate his misdemeanor fine for his unsafe turn in rush hour traffic:

http://www.tucsonaz.gov/prosecutor/AffCivilComp.pdf

A City of Tucson Prosecutor's Office web page explains this form as follows:

Misdemeanor Compromises
A victim may choose to enter an agreement with a defendant, or the defendant’s attorney, in which the victim recommends that the charges against the defendant be dismissed.  This generally occurs after the defendant has reimbursed the victim for any economic loss, or because a victim does not wish to prosecute.  A victim’s decision to enter a compromise is strictly voluntary and should not be entered into until compensation has been received. The victim must sign a misdemeanor compromise before a Notary Public upon providing picture identification. The signed and notarized form is reviewed by a prosecutor and forwarded to a judge who makes the final decision.

Civil Charges That Can Be Dismissed With a Misdemeanor Compromise
If you strike another vehicle and cause damage, the owner/driver of the vehicle may be willing to sign a compromise if you compensate them either directly or through their insurance company. If the court dismisses your civil traffic citation after receiving a compromise, there is no fine and no points appear on your Motor Vehicle Division driving record for that charge. You must first obtain a copy of the traffic accident report from the Tucson Police Department at 270 South Stone. When the owner and driver of the vehicle are different people, each must sign a compromise form. 

Da Kid wanted to come see me with this, and get me to sign it and have it notarized right away, so that he wouldn't have to pay the fine, which he says he can't afford.  He's already had to drop his insurance, because his rate went through the roof after the accident.  But I made him fax the form instead.  I'm not going to hire an attorney for this--I'm out enough money as it is!--so I'm left working this out myself.  But lucky you! You folks get to help advise me.  Here are the arguments as I see them, pro and con:

Pro:

Da Kid has already suffered some consequences of his actions.  His insurance has gone up, and he's probably in trouble with family and possibly with an employer.  Does he really need to be punished further, paying money he can't afford? Heck, I've tried to get courts to reduce or dismiss traffic fines for me, and sometimes succeeded.  (I always had a justification, though, such as the time DMV employees kept my registration money and didn't issue my tags.  I should never have put cash in that drop box!)

Con:

This kid is trying to weasel out of the consequences of his actions, the same way he tried to lay the blame on me by telling the cop that I was speeding (which I wasn't) and that he was going 5 mph (which he wasn't).  If I let him off the hook, will he learn the value of mercy, or just that he can get away with stuff by asking repeatedly?

Pro:

I don't believe in being vindictive.  I really don't.  I don't want vengeance or punishment for this kid.  It won't make me happier or less in debt (one assumes), and it's contrary to "blessed be the merciful."

Con: 

I don't want to deep-six myself,either.  Will this form affect whether Allstate or the courts think I was partly to blame?  Probably not, but nobody seems to know. Will it affect my ability to collect on my remaining $700 loss?  Definitely, assuming there was a chance to begin with.  Will it affect my getting the $1800 still pending?  I don't know, but who wants to take that chance?

Pro:

I wasn't  going to go after the $700 anyway, on the assumption that I'd never collect.  As long as I get the total I agreed to with Viking, what does it matter if I sign off that "I have been fully compensated"?

Con:

But it's not true!  I haven't been fully compensated.  Even when the rest of the money comes, I will have merely gotten as much as Viking Insurance cares to pay.  I strongly suspect I was a bit of a pushover on this, agreeing to the initial offers because I expected an even worse outcome.  Must I sacrifice the truth, too?

Pro:

The kid doesn't have the money.  Have a heart!

Con:

Hey, I'm broke, too, and I'm not at fault here.  But I'm out $700 and counting, possibly more for not having had my insurance card with me.  Is it right that Da Kid is off the hook, and I'm not?

The Plan:

Well, I'm waiting to hear back from the insurance adjuster with his opinion, and I think I'll call the court and see how much money is involved.  If he's trying to weasel out of paying $100 or so, I'm less likely to sympathize than if it's double that or more.

Update:

I called the court.  His fine if I don't sign is $162, and I'd be signing away my right to recover more money from him.  If I sign, he saves $162, and doesn't get the points on his license--unless the court decides otherwise.

Also, the Prosecutor's Office info thingy says not to sign until you've been compensated.  I still have $1800 on the line.

John says don't sign it.  The people at work say don't sign it.  The nice lady on the phone at the city court didn't say not to sign it, but she implied that it wasn't fair that I'd suffer economic consequences and the kid mostly wouldn't. What do you say?

Karen

9 comments:

sistercdr said...

I vote for not signing it.  Many court systems will allow people to pay their costs over a period of time, making it easier for him to pay what he owes and still face the full consequences of his actions.

alphawoman1 said...

Kids will tell you anything....either you want to give him a break or ....

sakishler said...

Quite the ethical puzzle you have here.

I hate to go against the grain (actually, I love going against the grain, but not if it makes a decision harder), but I think my advice is to sign it. Your husband and co-workers may not like the advice you get from your wacko online friends!

I'm using a very basic barometer on this. If you felt strongly about not signing it, I wouldn't try to talk you out of it, but you're quite clearly on the fence. And . . . if you're in a position to extend or withold mercy, I think, when in doubt . . . choose the mercy. Knowing what I do of you, I think it's the decision that will make you most at peace with yourself.

I would urge you not to sign it if you were to gain something if you didn't sign it or lose something if you did, but that doesn't seem to be the case. I'm also factoring in that this is a very inexperienced driver and that, at age 18, $162 really can amount to a fortune. It would be an easier decision to make if the kid hadn't distorted the facts about the accident and tried to blame you, but I'm betting he did that more out of stunned doofusness than weaselness (not that I know. At all. But again, when in doubt . . .)

I think I'd be happiest if he still had to pay half the fee. The court let me do that when I was around 18 or 19 and I got a ticket for jaywalking of all things. Of course, my "offense" didn't have a victim, so it's not really a comparable situation. I just like to go off on tangents of very little relevance sometimes. Anyway. I'd sign it, and hope for the best. If he's really just a hopeless case, I don't really think paying an additional $162 would really make him see the error of his ways anyway.

Just my thoughts. I'm sure you'll reach the right conclusion. Well-done on getting into the seatbelt habit. Now maybe you can talk to my dad. I've been trying to get him to wear his seatbelt for the past 25 years or so . . .

chasferris said...

To me it seems the Cons have won.  Do nothing you don't have to.  It's his stew that he's in.  Besides, around here, the notary's have to be paid...by you.

ryanagi said...

Don't sign it. Sad that he can "afford" the fine, but honestly, how hard is it to scrape up $182 or whatever? And he NEEDS to have those points on his license. With that hanging over his head, he may drive more carefully in the future. I know I did. I didn't want to risk losing my ticket to ride.

sakishler said...

You know, somehow I think I missed this last night: "Also, the Prosecutor's Office info thingy says not to sign until you've been compensated.  I still have $1800 on the line."

Don't sign until you've been compensated.

jabarett said...

I'm with you on not signing until you've heard from the adjuster. And if you decide to sign, don't until you have every penny that the insurance company owes you and the checks have cleared. I don't think it's heartless for you to cover your own assets first - so to speak. It looks like your signature is an acknowledgement that you have been compensated. If you're still waiting on payment, don't sign until you've cleared it with your own insurance adjuster or agent.

daephene said...

I'm going to agree with those who say wait until you have the money.  Then you can honestly say you've been compensated.  

jeff466 said...

I wouldn't sign it if it affects you getting further compensation that you deserve.  He is going to be out a few hundred bucks while you are out 700 and counting.

I don't see it as vindictive.  I would tell him that if he had told the truth about the facts of the accident (about you speeding and him going 5mph) that it would have went a long way towards maybe signing, but since he lied I wont jeopardize my rights.

I'm sure you will make the right decision-it sounds like you have put a lot of thought into it-Jeff