Traffic > Legal

A small motoring incident that went frustratingly wrong

Here’s an otherwise minor collision that took a surprising turn

Question: Is this sort of damage really worth P37,000? PHOTO BY DRIVER 2

Before anything else, this full disclosure: The following motoring story you’re about to read happened to one of our writers, and so we will be narrating it based mostly on his version. You may take it with a grain of salt if you wish, but we promise to tell it as objectively as we possibly can.

On July 12 last year, our writer (let’s call him DRIVER 2) was driving his family’s Toyota Innova in Caloocan City when he figured in a road incident. According to him, he was hit from behind by a Mitsubishi L300 in the innermost lane he was merging into. He swears he was well ahead of the other vehicle.

A quick visual inspection shows that his Innova sustained more damage than the L300.

The L300’s front hit the Innova’s rear, but the L300 driver insists he was ahead of the Innova. PHOTOS BY DRIVER 2

The other driver was a 73-year-old man—quite elderly, judging from a photo DRIVER 2 took of him—who could barely write because, DRIVER 2 claims, his hand was visibly shaking. He’ll be referred to here as DRIVER 1.

Here’s the handwriting of the 73-year-old complainant. PHOTO BY DRIVER 2

At the police station, both DRIVER 1 and DRIVER 2 gave their separate (and contradicting) accounts of the incident, each one asserting he had been ahead of the other. At this point, says DRIVER 2, the investigator clearly demonstrated some bias in favor of DRIVER 1. “Ang ibig mong sabihin, sinungaling si tatay?” the investigator allegedly asked DRIVER 2. Translation: “Are you telling me that this old man is lying?” Apparently, the cop believes senior people are infallible.

DRIVER 2 stood his ground and maintained every detail in his account. Afterward, when copies of the incident report were given to the two parties, the investigator proclaimed: “Each of you may file a case if you want.” Here’s what the investigator put in writing:

Have fun reading this police description. We know we did. PHOTO BY DRIVER 2

DRIVER 2 decided to just shrug off the matter and simply go home. He had initially thought of suing, but eventually took pity on the old man. Anyway, as you can see in the above photos, the damage wasn’t that bad. Maliit na bagay, ika nga. Charge this one to experience, he told himself.

Lo and behold, seven months later—last February 5, to be exact—he received a notice of a case filed against him by DRIVER 1. In the document, DRIVER 1 is seeking damages amounting to P37,267.55. Further, the Caloocan City prosecutor recommends a bail of P9,316.89, which DRIVER 2 has paid for fear of getting arrested. Note that DRIVER 2 had not received any summons prior to this.

Extremely indignant, DRIVER 2 wanted to countersue. But the lawyers he consulted advised him to just settle because “the hassle of a court case isn’t worth it.” In his mind, DRIVER 2 was the innocent party in a minor traffic incident, and that he was actually the one who let things slide. He had no idea things would take a ridiculous turn, and now it looks like he’s about to cough up quite an amount for something he insists wasn’t his fault.

Another lawyer we talked to recommends that DRIVER 2 file a motion for reinvestigation. DRIVER 2 says the first hearing has been set for April 22nd.

The lesson here, we guess, is to never leave a traffic incident investigation without having completely resolved the dispute.

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist since July 1995. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.