Did I do something illegal? (or even immoral?) (Stupid? For sure.)

OP "later I discovered there was more damage then meets the eye"
That’s why you at least notify the police where all follow up information is often required. Also, there is sometimes more physical harm done then first thought and there is a potentially a lot of liability involved on both sides. This was a 25 mph crash, not a parking lot fender bender. Let the experts tell you not to worry.

@Whitey is right. Sounds to me that the losses could now easily be high enough to warrant police notification at least. A " bent wheel " could easily mean suspension damage and more front end damage and we are trusting a participant who admittedly got their own damage wrong. in assessing this situation. The participants are the poorest ones to judge the outcome and they almost always underestimate the severity, I bet OP would have made sure a cop stopped by or reported it and acted differently…if there were no $200 involved; that is bribery.

Our advice should be erring on the side of caution.

Here, the cops will ask you on the phone, anyone injured or > $1500 damage? No. Come to police station to fill out report. You exchange info at the scene. If the other party does not fill out a report, they will seek them out later if necessary. Cops way too busy for fender benders. Depends where you live as to whether or not cops have such bandwidth.

Nothing wrong with cash settlement but not at the scene. Another thing, stories usually change after people have time to think and consider consequences. Take pictures. It only takes a minute and can be invaluable when stories change.

In Jacksonville, when the police officers are too busy to investigate a collision, they send an unarmed service aid to do the report.

If a police dispatcher asked me whether the damage amounted to more than $1,500, I’d have to answer, “We won’t know that until it gets put on a lift and checked out at a body shop. I’m not qualified to answer that question.” Seriously, I can’t believe anyone expects a layman to be able to answer that question without getting a few body shop estimates.

That’s messed up.

Not to whip a dead horse but if we always erred on the side of caution, we’d be speaking German instead of English/Spanish/French/etc. I think you are putting far more importance to a police report than it really is. The officer is no accident reconstruction expert, cannot assess injuries, cannot assess body damage, and so on. The only thing the officer does is make sure the information is exchanged, document that the event happened, and issue any citations that may be necessary. Other than that, differences of opinion, damages, claims, and so on will be settled between the insurance companies and the courts. Anybody ever see a police report that got it wrong? Uh, yeah, happens all the time.

After you have worked a few doz. accidents, you then you can tell us the average citizen involved makes all the right decisions for them selves in the after math. You often need a trained, non involved person for this purpose.

So, in this incident, the average citizen, who can’t even recognize their own car damage is better equip to administer first aid and decide what is the right thing to do about damages ? We keep jumping over that simple fact.

No one says that a parking lot fender bender need be reported at the time. This was a case of speeds up to 25 mph and enough damage to warrent reporting at the least, after the fact. And no, exchanging money at the scene is neither the right or the smart think to do…neither is being paranoid about the police.

There’s a lot of things wrong with this scenario. Maybe the guilty driver had no insurance at all or even has outstanding arrest warrants or drugs in their possession. You never really know.

A 25 MPH impact is hard and if the wheel is bent I would be flat stunned if things like control arms, sway bars, wheel hubs, or possibly even struts and subframes are unscathed.

The part I don’t like about the PD advising people to exchange info and go on their way if damage is less than X dollars or there are no injuries is that the people involved in the collision may have no idea how serious that damage is or whether or not they have injuries that may surface weeks later.

In your response to your observation that a dispatcher asked if the size of the damage is greater then $1500, I feel like you that that would be impossible to answer accurately. But, the laws are on the books, not made by police but by the state legislature and they are still forced to find a way to enforce them. Asking the question of the citizen at least gives the dispatcher a way of triaging the situation where there really is no other way. The citizen by giving his opinion is not bound legally but has supplied some evaluation tool for the dispatcher.

A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. Use your best judgement is all. In the Best Buy lot one night I backed into a professor. My trailer hitch hit her wheel at about 1 mph. Maybe she should look for back-up lights like I do but at any rate it was my fault. No apparent damage. We exchanged info. I was from out of town. I said to just call me if she discovered damage. No muss no fuss. If she wanted a wheel, I would have just paid it and if she wanted an axle or frame straightening, I would have let my agent handle it. No need to bother the police but if she wanted to call them, fine with me. I have a license, insurance, don’t drink, etc.

So 'nuff said. Do what you think is right but when the police need to add more staff, vote yes.

Are we talking about two completely different situations ? I thought we were talking about OP and not a parking lot feeder bender. This is a 25 mph collision on a public way that as @ok4450 suggests, no one can ascertain what is involved and I maintain that injury discovery after the fact is a distinct possibility. We are going up a different street and no one would argue with the way you handle this situation.

Well, Dagosa, the two parties have reached a mutually-amicable settlement, so what’s the big deal? No manpower, gov’t expenditure, etc…just two rational actors and a libertarian solution. The fact that OP later regretted this action indicates a lack of negotiating prowess, not an ethical or criminal lapse.

Also, has it ever occurred to you that the OP, like most real-life people, is at least slightly disinclined to involve the police? I mean, even if you’re in the right, you have to wait, then endure all the questions about insurance, license, registration, and all the other “are your papers in order?” B.S. that getting the cops involved entails. (even unrelated to the traffic stop…what if OP owes money for parking tickets or an off-leash dog that got a local warrant served?)

In short, theres thousands of reasons that most sane people are hesitant to have the police involved unless absolutely necessary…and to convict OP of “accepting a bribe,” you’d have to “prove” that OP a. knew the other party was offering cash as a “quid-pro-quo” for not getting the police involved, and b. acted in a manner that he would not have otherwise (i.e. refrain from calling) as a direct and proximate result of the cash.

Now, unless you’re suggesting the actor was stupid enough to say “hey, I’ve got warrants…so can I just pay you?” OP did not know, had no criminal intent, and thus no crime.

A 200 dollar handshake and a few words is not a legally binding contract and none of it can be proven.

Hopefully the other driver will not decide to suffer whiplash a month or even a year from now.

Later I discovered there was more damage then meets the eye. OP; that says it all.

Even “good” Libertarians will occasionally report accidents to the police unless I suppose having something to hide is a good excuse for doing ( or not doing ) anything.

Accepting a bribe is a moral decision, not necessarily a crime in this case. I think we are reading too much into the bribery statement. OP still altered their behavior in reporting the accident which was their original and rightful intent, by accepting money at the scene. They called 911, reported the accident, then left the scene, for money. They already “inconvenienced” the authorities. That is still bribery. OP asked for an opinion on the morality of the situation ( "or even immoral " ?). We are just responding.

@meanjoe75fan: “The fact that OP later regretted this action indicates a lack of negotiating prowess, not an ethical or criminal lapse.”

I think the fact that the OP later regretted his action indicates a lack of wisdom and experience, and I’d like to see her/him not repeat this mistake.

I’ve chosen not to delve into the moral aspect of whether the OP was bribed, but to characterize an accident scene as a proper time and place for a negotiation is bad advice IMHO. That kind of advice doesn’t help the OP not be taken advantage of a second time. The advice to call the police and stay at the scene until they arrive and gather data for their report does, in fact, help the OP the next time this happens.

Oh, Whitey, I agree that accepting payment by the side of tbe road was tactically poor–I wouldn’t have done it.

I took exception to the bribery claim.

@Dagosa, to say that the OP is guilty (morally or otherwise) of accepting a bribe, we’d have to be able to stare into his soul and determine motive–was it love of money, desire to accomodate the other party, or something else?

I just don’t think anybody is capable of doing that from across the internet. Only the OP knows; and if he is culpable, I’d say the way events unfolded is punishment enough…

With all due respect, I think we are over reaching the idea of bribery. It isn’t sinful, it isn’t even illegal necessarily or even good or bad. ( please read the non legal definition, which i included earlier and wish not to keep repeating)

I removed the statement I should have left in, that we even bribe our children into “proper” behavior in Certain situations. It is a statement of moral judgement which I repeat, OP did ask for if some one changes your intended behavior by using money or favor as it pertains to bribery. And, where OP had every intent of reporting the accident, then aquiest because of the money, it felt perfectly reasonable in responding to OP’s request. Now, must we look at the definition of morality to realize that is not a slanderous or non appropriate word to use ? It doesn’t require soul searching or anything else.

But morality does predetermine behavior and in this case it is relevant. Different moralities are NOT good or bad, they just predetermine behavior. And, it determines what a person feels is right or wrong. If they want an opinion, on wether it is the right thing to do to report the accident in a way that OP began by calling 911, then they have to decide if leaving was the right thing to do, after receiving money. If they think it is, that is their moral compass and they did the right thing. If it is not, which seems like the case to me as they asked and questioned that decision themselves, then like I said originally, they need to reevaluate their morality around this issue. It has nothing to do with good or bad, it has everything to do with how a person feels what they did was right or wrong. It has nothing to do with using or assigning “guilt” by someone else either !

@meanjoe75Fan "accepting payment by the side of the road " for what ?

Please remember this one important fact about whether the word " bribery" was appropriately used. OP accepted $200 by the side of the road…when there appeared to be NO DAMAGE to their own car., in OP’s own words. Why else would they accept money other then to alter their own intended behavior of, following through with reporting an accident.

Ok, dag, I see where you’re coming from. Perhaps you can see where I’m coming from, too.

You define “bribery” in a fairly broad sense. That’s ok; no issue from me…I concede the point that, technically speaking, you’re likely correct. The problem arises from the fact that, in the real world, accusing somebody of taking a bribe is a very pejorative thing to say, regardless of the technicalities.

Good example: prostitution, defined as "sex in exchange for cash or other consideration, has a lot of wiggle room W/R/T what qualifies as “other consideration”…so much so, in fact, that the majority of consensual sex would fall into this category.

Now, if I take my wife out to dinner, movies, and give her a massage…the odds of my evening ending “on a positive note” go up considerably. Given that all three of my actions have a underlying cash value, you could construe what follows as prostitution, given the broadest possible definition.

Regardless of the above, though, if you call my wife a whore I’d be inclined to slug you, because of the extreme pejorative nature of the word in everyday English.

See my point?

Of course I see your point. Words denote different feeling tones from everyone, I thank you for sharing yours with respect to this situation.

Another word escapes me. But, I am open to suggestions as when you are offered and take money to specifically walk (drive) away from the scene of an accident, I don’t know what else to call it.

I appreciate too your strategy for ending the evening on a positive note. I just feel the entire evening is not assigned a monitory value when I am sure both parties enjoy all the activities of the evening. In the case of prostitution, I get the feeling for the most part, the prostitute would rather be with someone (or somewhere else) regardless of how it ends and is doing the activity solely for money or other consideration and not for mutual satisfaction. So though I understand your analogy and see your point of view, I can’t agree with it in your example.

Yes, I’m afraid you did not handle this matter well. As others have mentioned, it’s likely that the other driver had something, or a lot, to hide, and did not want the police to be involved. You are fortunate that the money you accepted is sufficient to cover your costs, but that is beside the point. I don’t follow why you left the scene after calling 911. I wouldn’t make a habit of it. It’s true that the NYPD is not likely to pursue the matter, given how busy they are, but if you must call 911 again for any reason, I’d stick around. Additionally, by remaining at the scene, you would have provided some protection for yourself should the other driver have decided to file a lawsuit against you. He could have claimed an injury, and the fact that you left the scene suggests possible guilt.

I think OPs biggest concern is that the other party might have offered the money with the implicit understanding the cops wouldn’t be called. Money is exchanged, OP splits…and the cops respond to the 911 call. The other party is likely to feel double-crossed, and might feign injury or other monkey business.

Dagosa, again, OP has the legal right to be “made whole” from this accident, and just 'cause there was no IMMEDIATELY APPARENT damage, doesn’t mean there was none. If OP, acting in good faith, perceives a 10% chance of $2000 worth of damage, the $200 is there to break even (on average), not as a bribe. (Of course, if he asks for 20 grand, I’d revise my opinion.)

So, OP is under no ethical or legal requirement to report an accident where there is no injury or criminal act, but he was tactically foolish to first report, then leave.