What have we done?
When in the US, I recall being horrified (if that is the right word) at how people regarded any form of accident as an opportunity to make money, reducing friendships and random meetings to a very shallow and insincere arrangement.
This all started during my first few years in Palo Alto. I was with a friend enjoying a coffee in or outside a cafe on University Avenue. We witnessed a pickup truck full of friendly Californian surfer types accidentally very slowly reverse into a BMW behind them with almost no impact and definitely no damage to either vehicle. (I cannot recall why they were reversing, but probably to park.) Either way, the driver of the BMW, rather than walk up to them and say “No worries.” and so on, remained in his (convertible) car and called his lawyer. We could clearly her him discussing the situation and already using words like ‘whiplash’ and ‘claim’ and others, all within seconds of the incident! (This was decades before such a culture arrived on these shores.) I was disgusted. He didn’t even ask the young lads how they were, despite the fact they were trying to talk to him. My friend (who was a fan of UK culture at the time) and I were appalled and using words not fit for publication to describe the BMW driver.
XX years later, this sort of thing is now commonplace here in the UK, and we get the same immoral injury lawyers advertising on TV here as plaster the US networks.
*** HOWEVER! *** (In flashing orange 1993 web html.)
Today someone drove right into my car whilst I was sitting in it parked in a car park talking on my phone. The driver continued to bump into me multiple times for reasons I cannot disclose, but he was not someone I know, so it wasn’t anything personal, he had simply lost control. Anyway, despite the fact the accident was entirely his fault (or not my fault), the issue was, the driver showed NO remorse or concern for my wellbeing, despite creating 1 foot long 6″ deep scratches on part of my car, pushing the whole vehicle forward 6 inches and causing my head to be rocked back and forth several times with unknown to either party medical consequences.
Beyond the whole situation being a huge inconvenience during a period when I am exceptionally busy (understatement), what is concerning is that society here is now the same in the US. For starters, he probably showed no remorse or concern in order not to implicate himself – despite the fact I was stationary in a parking space with the engine off, so it was clear cut. Secondly, I may have whiplash injury and have already been invited to claim for damages by a law firm associated with our insurer, yet we all know, within a week, I will be fine. But the money could tempt a person who did not question such things or care for the consequences of legal action against someone who had an accident, even if their behaviour was not remorseful.
Further, another moral issue, the whole thing was caught on CCTV* (a concept I oppose and always will), and for reasons I again choose not to disclose, the driver is not fit to be driving a vehicle, so I could report him to the police and they would probably ban him for driving on viewing the footage. So, he could not only face a lawsuit, but have his life thrown into chaos by losing that freedom driving gives you. On the other hand, I may save someone’s life, perhaps his own too?
This is a dilemma that has been created by contemporary society. In a previous age, the following would have occurred, and this is not ‘grass is greener’ wishful thinking, it is how things were:
1. The driver would have been apologetic.
2. He would have asked how I was – just as I showed concern for his well being.
3. He would have probably offered to pay for the damage there and then and omit all the complications of insurance and/or legal action.
4. I would have come to some arrangement too, pending having my car seen to in case there is damage to the gearbox, chassis etc.
(Remember, this was not a major accident involving loss of life or massive damage to either vehicle.)
Alas today, life takes even minor incidents and turns them into an opportunity to either deny one’s responsibility or make a profit. Even I am forced to consider action that creates a moral dilemma.
Again I ask, what have we done? And how mechanised and distant will society be in 2025?
Fight back club: Handle situations and relationships with pragmatism and common sense. Trying my best! 😛
*For reasons discussed all over this blog, I oppose ALL uses of CCTV except at traffic lights, preferring a naturally disciplined society, but here it may well help act as a witness! Oh what a quandary.