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Last week, somebody hit my parked car while I was at work and drove away without leaving a note. This did not happen on company property. (I work downtown, so parking is a public lot.) My insurance doesn't cover it. Police said they basically couldn't do anything about it.

Today I saw another car in the lot with a dent and paint scuffs that match the damage to my car. I waited for the owner to show up, thinking to approach the person about it, but the owner is my senior manager (boss's boss) so I didn't do anything.

I don't have enough evidence to conclusively prove that she was the one who hit my car, but there's definitely circumstantial evidence to show that it was her (or at least her car). How can I approach this situation? I really don't want to go up to her and accuse her of hitting my car. I was thinking about talking to HR or the police, but I have a feeling that she'll learn this was me that reported it, and this will come back to bite me somehow. Is it better to just eat the costs of this car damage to avoid awkwardness and discomfort at work?

closed as off-topic by Jim G., OldPadawan, sf02, gnat, mandy Feb 8 at 3:03

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  • 12
    I kinda feel like this should actually be closed as off-topic as it really has nothing to do with the workplace. I mean isn't the situation "something happened not at work, not on work premises and I have circumstantial evidence it was my boss / a colleague how should I react". No different to "I saw someone rob a bank, and noticed my manager has the same jacket they wore" – Tas Feb 7 at 3:46
  • @Tas I saw someone rob a bank, and noticed my manager has the same jacket they wore In your example, the bank is not yours while in the OP's case, the car is his. – scaaahu Feb 7 at 4:07
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    Yes that's true, I should have chose a better example, although neither has anything to do with the workplace, regardless of whether it was my car or another car hit, or a bank robbed or my own house. – Tas Feb 7 at 4:11
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    @Tas The reason this is an issue is because of OPs workplace relationship to the person. Therefore, it's on topic. – Revetahw Feb 7 at 9:45
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    The police can actually check if the paint is from your car. Usually there is also your paint on the other car, so it should be possible to determine if this is really the car that hit you. Where you go from there is actually a different story. – Sefe Feb 7 at 12:17

13 Answers 13

157

Other answers are correct in that you should not handle this via HR or your company. First of all, it's not your company's responsibility, and secondly, it didn't even happen on company property (it was on a public lot).

However, I do not agree with the other answers that you should keep your head down and suck up the costs.
Warning: Depending on your culture, if there is little to no worker protection from being fired by a vindictive manager, and you want to guarantee keeping your job, you need to evaluate whether you want to avoid getting unjustly fired at all costs, or whether you'd rather have your repair costs covered by the person who caused the damage. The rest of this answer assumes you want the latter.

Simply address this like you would if you didn't know the person at all. Document the vehicle (take pictures of the dent/green paint/license plate) and go to your police station and ask them to look into it. Isn't that what you'd do if this car was driven by someone who is a complete stranger to you?

Whether they will do so and whether this will change the insurance company's response depends on your case and local culture. This is not something I can conclusively answer. I can imagine this turning out very differently, e.g. stereotypically comparing a metropolis (police are too busy) to a small town (police may have time to look into minor local matters).

  • 5
    @paul23: Be that as it may (and I agree - don't work in conditions you don't want to work in), not everyone is free to make a choice. There are plenty of people who can't risk losing paychecks, e.g. when they have a family depending on them. I can (and would) argue that you need to persevere for what's right; but that's not going to change the fact that not everyone can cope with sudden unemployment as well as other people. – Flater Feb 6 at 10:28
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    @paul23: Your comment makes sense but it's simply not applicable to everyone. Not every job type has ample openings. Especially in lower income jobs, employees tend to be easily interchangeable and amply available, so the odds of taking longer to find a new job increase. As a software developer, I am quite secure in my ability to find a job and thus can act more confidently, and I would act exactly like you. But I would not be as receptive to it if I would struggle to find a new job and cannot afford to be unemployed for an extended period. Financial safety is important. – Flater Feb 6 at 10:36
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    "Simply address this like you would if you didn't know the person at all." - I'll disagree with this point slightly, considering that the OP intended to just get angry and yell at the other driver. When you know this is someone you work with, particularly a manager, you need to interact with them professionally and politely. That doesn't mean that you can't still confront them, but you need to do so in a way that doesn't reflect badly on you. – David K Feb 6 at 14:06
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    @DavidK: The issue there is the assertion that it's OK to yell at strangers. Based on that assumption, it is equally OK to yell at someone who randomly happens to be their boss (note: it isn't OK in either case, but that's my point). It's hypocritical to condone yelling at strangers and only suggesting to not do so if the stranger actually can influence your life. Instead, be polite regardless of who you're talking to. – Flater Feb 6 at 14:11
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    @Hilmar: Whether the police/insurance act on it is not something anyone of us can give a universally correct answer to. I can tell you from personal experience that cases like these are (at least sometimes) picked up by the police, even if they end up being unable to conclude that the other party is the offender. Just because OP can't pre-emptively guarantee to have their costs reimbursed by the offender does not mean that they shouldn't even bother trying. – Flater Feb 6 at 16:10
64

Ask her directly and politely.

First of all deal with your anger, your anger is your own problem.

Approach her and explain what happened. Don't accuse, just explain your car was damaged, which day, you don't kow who did it. Say that you noticed the dent in her car that is kinda matching yours and ask her if she thinks she could have accidentally done it without noticing. Make sure this conversation takes place near both cars in the parking so the evidence will be in front of your eyes.

Accept that her dent might be from another incident and someone else might have hit your car. As a matter of fact, once I was in a cinema parking lot and a guy asked me if I bumped into his car because I had a dent in mine, but my dent was from another incident, I was not guilty of this. Maybe it's even YOU who bumped into hers, without noticing because your music was too loud or something.

When you will ask in the parking she will either:

  1. She will aknowledge her responsibility. In that case, try to settle this friendly and without involving the police. She might offer that you deal with her insurance company, or she might only offer an apology, which is better than nothing and might give you peace. It's just a dent by the way, so it's only esthetic and it's normal that you be emotional, but you should let it go and accept that your car is not flawless anymore.

  2. She will deny damaging your car (truthfully or not). In that case you should believe that she is honest and move on, that is for the best. Show her that you believe her and that you don't resent her, you just wanted to respectfully ask. She will not hate you for asking. A dent is not a big deal anyway.

In all cases don't get into an interpersonal conflict with your boss's boss. And remember, deal with your own emotions, your anger is only for yourself and it's not useful to dump it on someone else.

  • Yep. This is the best answer. – user85627 Feb 6 at 14:11
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    @Manuki You say it. He has no proof. even if she tells him this was her, he will lose at court. This is just a possibility to find out the truth. (learned from the series 'the mentalist' / I'm so proud of myself XD) and it's worth a try. And when it comes to sneaky: it's from each persons point of view. i never talked of lying just asking her more or less directly, without telling the whole story (when done right you dont have to tell anything). In the end this is a probabilitty to pressure her if she has done it and tries to come off without responsibility. OP has to decide what he/shes doin – Jannis Feb 6 at 17:12
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    I'd first take photo evidence of the dent on her car with the matching paint. Just in case she is in-cooperative and tries to fix the evidence before police can have a look. – Darkwing Feb 6 at 17:33
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    Someone two levels above seems unlikely to 1) not have money to cover their costs, 2) act in poor faith if they did indeed cause the damage. I suspect going to court is out of the question as it's a huge waste of everyone's time, money, and face. Honestly asking and accepting their answer as honest is probably best to clear both your minds. – ti7 Feb 6 at 19:12
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    @ti7 I wouldn't say that acting in poor faith has anything to do with your position at your employer. They've already potentially done a hit and run, so I would personally rely on that case as the best indicator that they may not react well. The worst case definitely far outweighs the minor benefit of the best case, IMO. I favor the other answers suggestion that they let it go, as unsatisfying as that is. – Matthew Read Feb 6 at 21:11
22

Just tank the costs of repairs. Unfortunate as it sounds.

Circumstantial evidence isn't strong enough to make an accusation and even if it were, the fact that this happened outside of work premises means that this would be better off discussed in private as opposed to involving HR.

HR have better things to do than worry about employees' cars getting hit in public lots, whether by another employee or not.

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    While I agree this is not something that needs to be handled via HR or the company, the accident didn't happen on company property (it's a public lot). Can OP not simply document the vehicle (picture of the dent + green paint and license plate) and go to the police directly? How does being a manager give this person a free pass that would not be given to any random road user? – Flater Feb 6 at 9:36
  • If his boss hit him in the face in a local pub, I'm pretty sure it would be a case for the HR department. Just because something doesn't happen on company property doesn't mean it's not an issue for the company. – pipe Feb 6 at 12:13
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    @pipe: There's a difference. When you punched someone, you probably know who they were (a coworker) before you punched them. In a hit and run, either party may simply be unaware who the other person is (let alone where they work), which means that the issue did not originate from an interpersonal conflict between two company employees, and thus HR has no inherent vested interest in investigating an issue that is completely unrelated to the workspace. Also, in cases of physical violence, HR is not the main responder, the police are. What HR does is secondary. – Flater Feb 6 at 12:31
  • I disagree with this. You should always contact your insurance and get them to deal with it. You can always choose to buy back the claim afterwards if the cost for the repairs is low enough. Registering the claim also helps prevent the person claiming you backed into them. – Trevor D Feb 6 at 17:39
  • @TrevorD There are different types of insurance. Generally, you have to be insured for damage you cause, called liability insurance, but being insured against what happens to you is not required. If OP has liability insurance but not collision insurance, the insurance company will not get involved. – David Thornley Feb 6 at 17:53
16

On the insurance side, I would inform both my insurance and the police that I suspect the car that hit me is -insert boss's car description and number- and that I saw that car in the same park a few days later, still showing signs of damage that are consistent with the incident I reported. If they decide to take action on this or not is on them, not you. I would also seek legal council in case my insurance or the police refuses to act on provided information.

On the personal side, I would try to email the boss person telling them I was involved in an incident that resulted in damage to my personal property (with detailed description of where and when, and what my car looks like) and I suspect her car was involved based on damage I observed in the parking lot. I would also ask her if she knows anything about it. Do not threaten, do not provide more information than what is required for her to identify your vehicle and time/location of incident, do not require anything else other than asking if she knows anything about this.

  • I think this is the most balanced approach suggested so far. Nice one. – Lightness Races in Orbit Feb 6 at 11:13
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    For this to work, OP should document the evidence first, ie by photographing his boss' car with the license plate and colored dent visible. Otherwise the boss, if guilty, might just repair the damage after being informed, rendering your insurance side action useless. – pytago Feb 6 at 13:37
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    The first paragraph is good advice, save for the last sentence. The second paragraph is the reason for my downvote. Horrible idea. – Wesley Long Feb 6 at 16:42
15

Unless you had a witness who saw the collision or CCTV footage of it then there is nothing you can do.

The person who damaged your car did not leave a note and therefore has no intention of owning up to it so if you confront them they will deny it.

Even if you can prove that they did it you'd need to decide whether the cost of repairing the damage is worth more to you than the aftermath of calling out your boss on it.

I'd take this one on the chin and put it down to experience personally, the juice is probably not worth the squeeze.

  • In Germany, causing an accident and not staying at the place of the accident, coming forward and giving your name etc. Is a crime. On top of that, threatening to fire someone to prevent them from reporting a crime is a serious crime (perverting the course of justice, that’s something where being a minister doesn’t protect you). And you won’t believe how quick HR will be on your side if otherwise they would be supporting a criminal. – gnasher729 Feb 6 at 16:59
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    @gnasher729 hit and run is a crime in the US, too. The trick is proving it. And if you can't prove the crime happened, I'm not a lawyer in the US nor Germany, but it seems to me that it's not a crime to fire someone for making an unproven accusation. – stannius Feb 6 at 19:53
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    @stannius In Germany an attempt to fire someone on unjust grounds may well end up in court. – gerrit Feb 7 at 8:59
  • @stannius Iit's not a crime to fire someone for making an unproven accusation regarding professional matters. Not sure it still holds if you make that accusation about something completely unrelated to work (unless it has an indirect impact on the work being done by you or others). – dim Feb 7 at 16:17
  • @dim I think you might have it backwards? Isn't it actually a crime or otherwise against rules and regulations to fire someone for raising a workplace issue, e.g. whistleblowing, harassment, or discrimination, even if it turns out to be untrue? But the same wouldn't be true for a non-workplace, criminal accusation? – stannius Feb 7 at 16:30
10

Let's consider the path you didn't take.

You have no earthly idea who owns the car that hit yours. So you snapped pictures of the car showing the damage and license plate, and took that to the cops, along with info of where the car tends to be parked. The cops decided how hot-n-heavy they wanted to get, and how exactly they wanted to take down this armed felon, if that's what he turned out to be.

Parallel to that, you also took this information to your insurance company, so they could send their adjuster out there and try to catch that car, and/or identify the owner and liase with that car's insurance company. This would have gotten your car fixed, obviously.

You did not choose that path, for reasons which are your own.

The path you did choose

Instead you chose to lay in wait, with an aim toward a confrontation. The problem with such things, is that they can go really sideways in a lot of unexpected ways. You know that, or reasonably should have known that.

And lucky you, it did go sideways in one of the more comical ways it could go, torn right out of a Jennifer Aniston movie about the workplace. Instead of one of the horrible ways it could go.

But as a result, your options are spent. Your actions had the effect of stalking your boss's boss, but not the intent and nothing more has come of this, so it can be dismissed as coincidence. You know the saying about odd misfortune:

Once is happenstance
Twice is coincidence
Three times is enemy action

This person is known to be cowardly, deceptive and manipulative. So if you press the matter further, she can be expected to try to disclaim the garage bump and use the weird garage encounter to twist your claim into an accusation against you.

Even if you now go to the police/insurance, she could claim you intentionally hit her so you could fabricate the claim as part of your stalking.

Have the courage to stick to your choice

The fact is, you decided that day to sit in your car and settle the matter with a confrontation instead of going via police or insurance. And let's be clear here: the police and insurance both want you handling inter-driver disputes through them precisely because driving incidents are so very personal and emotional. There's a very long history of people being swept away by their rage into true stupidity. The whole point of their services is to stop you from doing exactly what you did, which is get all torqued up about it and seek confrontation.

So you made your choice, confrontation instead of police/insurance. Now, you should sleep in the bed you made. You had your confrontation and it didn't go your way. Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you, doesn't make you a coward, just makes you a human. You have to swallow your pride and deal with it. That's part of picking fights, you lose about half the time.

Yes, I know it can itch at your brain. It feels like a lack of closure. That's just wounded pride. Losing a square fight, then jinking around looking for ways to re-fight it, (aka holding a grudge), that's the act of a coward. You made your choice, stay with it.

Matter settled.

  • I believe your direct quote is from Ian Fleming's book/movie Goldfinger and not related to the military, other than being inspired by his millitary experiences. – Criggie Feb 7 at 0:03
  • @Criggie interesting, it seems to have gotten a life of its own, then. I have seen it several places, none Bond related. – Harper Feb 7 at 1:10
5

Is it possible that the perp is unaware that they damaged their, and your property? It might not be the case, that it was an intentional hit-and-run.

If I were you, I would send an email to the entire company appealing for witnesses or information, including the time and precise location of the incident.

In the event that no information is offered, the extensively photographed damage on the suspect's car should be turned over to the cops for investigation.

Your property was damaged. You should be entitled to compensation, regardless of who caused the damage.

5

Report her to the police. Use the dent as evidence. See if the police can get camera footage from nearby establishments that might be recording the parking lot.

Her being your boss doesn't matter at all. She hit your car, and if you can prove it, she's going to pay damages. That's all their is to it.

The chain of command is there to aid in getting things done. It's not there for you to cower in fear of losing your job every time someone above you does something. Fight back, the same way you'd fight back against anyone else.

5

Not sure why "Yell at my boss's boss" and "eat the cost" is a strict dichotomy here. Why can't you be nice about it?

Hey, Jane, the other day I noticed my car had been hit in a public lot. I happened to see your car and I noticed it had paint on it and a dent similar to the one that was on my car. Do you happen to know anything about what may have happened to my car?

A reasonable person would own up to hitting your car in this case (if they did it) and work it out amicably with you. Especially since she's your boss's boss, I presume she probably has the money to cover it.

Here's the other thing: If she doesn't come clean about it, that speaks a lot to her character as a manager. Managers need to be honest with their subordinates, about things like performance reviews, salary increases/decreases, projects and tasks, personnel changes, and so on. If she's not honest with you now, what makes you think she'll be honest with you at performance review time? It's unlikely you can get her fired (or even disciplined) over this as it's really not a work matter, but if you truly believe it was her but she won't own up to it, I'd look for a transfer out of her chain of command ASAP.

  • In addition, it helps to follow up with extra info to put them at ease when they admit. You can remind them that they can buy back the claim from the insurance company and then the accident is like it never happened. – Trevor D Feb 6 at 17:48
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    If she doesn't admit to the damage, it could be because she didn't do it. The evidence is persuasive rather than convincing. – David Thornley Feb 6 at 17:57
3

Where I live in the US the police are overworked even in "good" neighborhoods.

Call the police back with your case number.
Tell them you have information about the car that you believe hit you.

Give the police the description of the car, the license plate number, the fact that there was green paint on the (her) car, and that it is regularly parked in the same lot.
Send them a photo of the damage to her car which includes the license plate if possible (you don't want to be seen doing this probably... so consider it optional).


Optional:
Send an email out to the company with a description of your car, the date it was hit, and that insurance won't pay for the repair. Ask people to call the police non-emergency phone number with the case# if they have any information.
Keeps her from suspecting you if the police approach her about it.
Also gives her a chance to come clean (maybe she didn't know, maybe she did but would be willing to come forward because it is you).


Call the non-emergency number you were given regularly, to ask for updates.

Let the police deal with revealing to your boss's boss that she might be the perp.

2

Automotive paint is actually a highly distinctive blend of resin, solvent and pigment. Police will be able to collect a sample of that evidence and verify that paint on each car's bumpers matches the unique qualities of pain on the other car. This paint transfer is direct evidence, not circumstantial evidence. If you take the car to an auto paint shop and show an interest in what they do, someone will be glad to explain the myriad details involved in determining a paint match.

However with that informative bit said, do not start a criminal investigation into a work superior unless you were already planning on leaving. Once the police are involved, you can't un-ring that bell. People's pride and fears can make situations like this messy. Paint transfer may be proof of the crime, but your being fired as retribution is nearly impossible to prove.

You might be able to approach this as a private conversation with her, but consider this: If your hunch is right then you know she's irresponsible and unethical enough to commit crimes. And if your hunch is wrong you've effectively accused an innocent person of committing crimes. It's one of those gray cases where the right thing to do isn't necessarily the best thing to do. If I were in your shoes, I would most likely fix it and forget it.

  • I don't know where you live, but in my state the police would barely consider this if she had murdered you rather than just ding your car – George M Feb 7 at 1:21
  • If you already did all the Nancy Drew work of finding the offending car yourself and all the detective has to do is take 2 collection kits from the same public place to get a fleeing the scene of an accident conviction, that'll be a pretty easy sell if you simply talk to the right person. – Some internet guy Feb 11 at 13:40
2

To be honest, I somewhat disagree with others recommending absolutely avoiding the HR. It depends on your course of action. I would approach that person first and ask if it was her perhaps and maybe an amicable solution can be achieved.

If she denies responsibility, then file a police report and give them facts, i.e. that you thought it was your boss, however she denies responsibility, so you do not really know - this may point them to her direction. In that case I would also mention your course of action to your boss to prepare her that someone may ask her about it. This is obviously very thin ice, but I would mention it was necessary to file report to the police e.g. for better possibility of getting something from the insurance and you did have to state all the facts.

If, in fact, it gets confirmed that it was your boss who damaged your car, now it does become a workplace issue and you should talk to the HR. You may have an open, potentially legal conflict with someone in your line of management, so the HR might consider taking action to stop it being a workplace issue, e.g. proposing to reassign either of you so that the company is not in this sticky position. There are typically HR policies forbidding fraternising / love relationships between managers and direct reports to avoid protectionism, but I guess the only reason they do not mention relationships based on personal/non-workplace hatred is that it would be somehow weird, but it is pretty much the same thing and it should be avoided.

1

IANAL, but I have some experience with this kind of situations.

On the side of damage coverage: Depending on your jurisdiction, the way to go with car incidents happening in lots is to document the damage and file a complaint to the owners/caretakers of the lot. Especially if it's a ticketed lot, it is their responsibility to cover the damages, as from the very moment you pay, this constitutes a binding agreement that they are taking care of your vehicle, so any damages not directly your fault (e.g. you scratching your car against a column would not qualify, but a random stranger scratching it with their keys or car would) should be covered by them. The problem here is that you did not document/file the complaint the moment it happened and instead drove away, only to get back later. You can still fill the complaint, but any hopes of getting your damage covered will entail an investigation on their behalf, probably involving surveillance footage revision so they can check that on the day of the events, your car entered the lot without the particular piece of damage.

On the bright side, such investigation may prove your boss to be the culprit (although I am unsure as to what access you may have to the recordings); but, if this is the case, it does not matter as per the explained above: in the case of a parking lot, damages shall be covered by the caretakers, not the actual authors (if any) of the damages; so I would not address the situation with your boss in any case. Of course you can argue that she could have told you and then make ends meet with the parking caretakers, but that's beyond the point as far as workpplace relationships go.

  • 4
    I've never seen a public parking lot in the US be anything other than "owner assumes all risk of theft or damage". – Laconic Droid Feb 6 at 17:53
  • @LaconicDroid Those liability waiver signs don't always hold up in court, though, if there is reason to think the lot/owners were negligent or reckless (like if they say or imply they have attendants and then left it unstaffed or whatever). Suing them is not a good approach to this situation in most cases, regardless, or else the querent would already be considering it, though. – the dark wanderer Feb 7 at 0:59

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