Another Thai Traffic Accident Story
I was reading through one of your recent columns, about the trials and tribulations of investigations, and kept coming across various references in other side stories/comments about bad run-ins with the Boys in Brown. I kept thinking, “I should
write about my traffic accident from a couple of years past”, and then there it was, a traffic accident story, but involving two motorcycles, and the writer had committed no wrong.
My story is a bit different, as I was in the wrong, and in the end, did have to pay off the police. The bottom line is the same, woe to the Farang involved in a traffic accident in Thailand, where there is virtually no rule-of-law and no protections.
I had rented a car and driven from Chiang Mai to the home village with my Thai fiancée. After a few days we decided to drive from the home village into Uttaradit, a trip I had made without incident many times before, although I was still not thoroughly comfortable with all the turns I had to make to get to my final destination (Lotus-Tesco). I’m driving down the road, when my lady yells out that I need to “turn right, we need to turn here” at the last second. So stupid me, I crank the wheel, and turn across the path of an oncoming, speeding (of course), Thai motorbike with a man driver/lady passenger.
My car won the contest, of course (thank God I was driving slowly, or it would have been far worse), and after they bounced off and fell over I stopped to check on them. The passenger was miraculously unhurt. The driver was lucky to suffer only a badly broken finger, with a cut to the bone, and some minor road rash. I, being Western-trained, stopped, administered first aid, and waited for the ambulance. And of course, the police came with the ambulance. As the driver was taken to the hospital, the police had finished up taking statements and painting the marks on the road. The senior officer came over to me and made the offer to “make everything go away if you give me 10,000 baht.” Here is where I was stupid. I knew I was at fault. But surely this was not a criminal matter???!!! At most, this was a traffic ticket. And I had full insurance coverage to compensate the victim and pay for medical and damages. So I declined, explaining that I had insurance.
Big mistake. Now I had to go to the police station while he “finished writing the report”. After visiting the driver in the hospital to be sure he was okay, I went to the station. This is where the police supervisor got me. Now he makes all his calls to the victim, his family, etc. Soon the police have convinced them to split the proceeds from the Farang. The supervisor is “negotiating with the family on my behalf” as to what injuries/settlement they want from me. No talk about having insurance has any effect. I am tempted to just try to walk out of the station, but the fact I am at fault weighs heavily. They could potentially levy a significant charge against me.
So, I call the American Embassy, surely they have some good advice. “You are [screwed]” is more or less what they told me. Tax dollars at work.
End result, I pay 30,000 baht to leave the police station and get this behind me. But the story doesn’t end there. It never does. I’m essentially a blackmail target to the police and the family of the injured. “We can continue to try and soak the Farang for more money.”
My insurance does cover damages to the vehicles, but since I paid the 30,000 baht for injuries/suffering, nothing else (I had proof of the payment, to include photos). That part is fine. But soon after letters start to come to my fiancée’s home village address (the one we used for the accident), saying I had to pay more, as the man couldn’t work for months, needed more medical care, etc. All the usual BS. Luckily, my lady’s family, and her, are both wise to this. They just reply that the Farang is gone, and they don’t know where I am. Escaped that one…not yet!
Next we find out the injured driver had insurance (rare, makes me suspicious), and his company sent letters saying that I had to pay for his vehicle damages. But of course, that is exactly what insurance is supposed to pay for. Again, my fiancée’s family has “no idea where the Farang is”. Smart.
Finally, a letter comes saying that the female passenger had died from her injuries, and that I owed some incredible amount of compensation. To what ends will Thai people (that is, bad Thais, not the good Thais I have been fortunate to know) go to? The passenger had not even been injured.
Next time, if this ever happens again, I’ll pay at the first offer to accept a bribe. Or I’ll leave the scene of the accident. I’ve heard this advice many times through the years, and I’ll be damned if I’ll trust the Boys in Brown to follow the law.
By the way, I never did find a “good” disco in Pattaya/Jomtien, devoid of working girls. Foolish Farang be me.
–Tuna (aka Stupid Farang)
I find this story, as I do many about traffic accidents in Thailand, horribly disconcerting. I have read and re-read my insurance policy – and I would assume the terms and conditions of yours are much the same – and it very clearly states that you are covered up to xx,xxx,xxx baht for damage to vehicles AND personal liability. Fully comprehensive insurance should cover everything, right? Your insurance agent who attends the site of the accident will tell you this, right? Wrong, it seems, based on many stories I have heard.
I *really* am not looking forward to the day I am involved in a traffic accident locally. I've had a couple of close calls and wonder if it is inevitable.
I also received an email from 30-year expat Marc Holt about this submission who had the following to say:
Tuna had comprehensive insurance. He should have just stood firm, called his insurance agent, and left it to him to take care of. He should not have agreed to pay any bribes. He should have refused to go to the police station until his insurance agent arrived. He did everything wrong and has only himself to blame. Sure, he felt guilty, but that is no reason to lose your common sense.
I have never had any problems in a traffic accident…and I had a few. My insurance always covered it all. One time a woman ran up my rear. She claimed she didn't have insurance. I stood firm and said she would have to pay me 3,000 Baht for the damage, as my insurance was not liable. She kept demanding that I pay for the damage to HER car. I kept refusing. After one hour she finally admitted she had government insurance. I told her to call her agent and get him to the scene. He finally arrived, accepted the responsibility, contacted my insurance company, and they arranged everything.
You must never forget that Thais, ALL Thais, will lie if they think they can take advantage of you. And never ever trust the cops. They are simply highwaymen in uniform. There is no law in Thailand, except the law of nature and money. If you have the money (or the comprehensive insurance) and you stand strong (the law of nature) you will always win.