Two Fender Benders Compared: One in the US and One in Mexico

Parking lot at Jocotopec Malecon, MexicoOn our road trip through Mexico and on the Best Places in the World to Retire site, we and other contributors to our site are often asked to do a comparison between life in the US and life abroad.  In order to be accurate, these comparisons are almost always filled with lots of caveats because it is not often easy to do a fair one-to-one, “apples-to-apples” parallel.  However, sometimes, you can, which is exactly what happened to me a few days ago.
First, here’s my US experience.  Several years ago, I was driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic near Tucson, Arizona.  Being a Type A multi-tasker who tries to use all available time, I figured that given that the traffic was “stop and go,” I would be able to sneak in a text.  So, down went my eyes to my phone.
Street in Jocotopec, MexicoOf course, you know what happened next.
When I looked up, I saw that the van in front of me had stopped short and I had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting it.  Too late.  I hit it at perhaps 1 – 2 miles per hour.
However, I did hit it, so I put the car in park, got out, and took a look.  There was no damage to either bumper, which the other driver acknowledged.  However, he was a professional driver transporting passengers, so he had to call his company to report the accident.  Off to the nearby parking lot we both went to deal with all the attendant issues.
We were told to wait for the police, which took more than an hour, and exchange all sorts of information, which we did.  Unfortunately, of course, we would have to report the accident to our insurance companies.
Later, after lots of correspondences with my insurance company, they informed me that that two people in the van claimed whiplash, and there was several thousand dollars worth of repair work that needed to be done.  The whiplash claim was of course preposterous and unprovable (perfect for those claiming it to get a cool few thousand dollars of, in my opinion, ill gotten gains).  The cost for the repair work was possible, given that we were in the US and even the most minor scratch costs hundreds of dollars to repair.  (I recently had a larger body repair done on my van here in Mexico for the whopping total of US $27.50, but I digress.)  Of course, I assumed my rates would go up as well.

Garcia Volcano from the malecon in Jocotopec, MexicoFast-forward several years to the present, with me driving on the carretera (main road) in the town of Jocotepec, around Lake Chapala, a famous expat location.  I’m stopped at a red light.  Looking to the left, I see that a yellow taxi has stopped to let a second passenger into the car.  Behind the cab was another car traveling too fast that hit the taxi at about the same speed I had hit the van several years earlier.  I heard the crash sound and saw the heads of the people in the taxi jerk forward.
What happened next was a 180-degree departure from my experience in the US.  The taxi driver got out of his car, looked at his bumper, looked at the other driver, and said “OK”.  The elderly driver who hit him never even got out of her car, said “OK” from the driver’s seat, and they both drove off.  The whole thing, from impact to driving away, took perhaps 30 seconds.
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I’ve been told that before the US was such a lawsuit happy country, what I saw in Mexico is what would have happened in the US.  Even though I’m 59 years old, I don’t know if this is true or not because perhaps I've never experienced it.  But if it is true, it must have been a very long time ago… a time, in my opinion, when it was better in the US than it is now.
Important note: This story is in no way intended to depict all accidents in Mexico or to give you advice to you on what to do if you are in an accident.  It is only intended to accurately describe what I saw with my own two eyes.  If you are involved in an serious accident in Mexico (especially one with injuries), you are not allowed to leave the scene until police arrive, so please don't.

(Pictures, from top: Jet Metier in the parking lot at the malecon in Jocotepec, Jet Metier on a typical street in Jocotepec, and the writer with his two dogs facing Lake Chapala in Jocotopec.)

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