Thursday, June 17, 2010

Everyday Injustice

Last Monday, on my way to work, I had a bad car collission with an uninsured driver. I was on the main street toward the freeway ramp when she came out of a side street, without stopping on a stop sign, to make an illegal left turn. I saw her rolling down a small hill one block away from the street she's on and made an eye contact with her later on. Then, about one car away from her street, she decided to step on her gas and cross my path. I slammed hard on my brake but it was too late. My airbag deployed and the smoke inside the car was suffocating. I rolled down my window and tried to get a good look on her license plate as she took off. I had to push hard on the driver side door to get out because it was jammed. I drove my car a little bit towards the center of the road so as not to block the incoming traffic. I was driving a 2000 Nissan Frontier truck and she has a gray SUV-type vehicle. My car was in really bad shape. I hit her in the middle of her SUV to the rear-tire. I'm surprised she was able to continue driving.

By the time I crossed the street to the sidewalk, there's a lady (Paulette) parked on the side of the street who gave me her phone number to be one of the witnesses and a guy (Damon) who's on the phone with the police station, reporting the hit and run driver. He was also able to get the license plate number of the driver. A few moments later, another lady approached me and said that she witnessed the whole thing, too. She was on her way to drop off a friend at work. She dropped her off then came back. Then, another guy came back after following her to note the direction she's going in and license plate number with the cops. I was really amazed on how many witnesses came forward to give their information. I was still in the state of shock but it was comforting to know that somehow, I was not alone. I realized how important it is to be a witness and that it really makes a lot of difference to the victim.

Two cops were there - one to investigate the accident, the other to note the crime (hit and run). About half hour later, the crime policeman got another call and it was for another hit and run by an SUV that matches the description and the license plate number of the hit and run driver. I was alarmed that there's a driver out there who's hitting so many cars and continue to be at loose. After the firemen checked on me and getting my car towed, one of the cops drove me home and later showed up in our apartment with a set of pictures. He had me try to ID the driver. But, since she was wearing sunglasses and it's hard to really distinguish all her facial feature, I wasn't able to pinpoint the driver but instead just stick with the description I remembered - dark, long hair and caucasian or hispanic ethnicity.

My boyfriend had a similar accident few years ago. Since it's an uninsured driver, he tried to sue her but she declared bankruptcy and was able to walk away from all her responsibilities. Fortunately, my insurance will cover up to $3500 + costs of towing (after we pay the $500 deductible). As much as I wanted to try to sue this driver, I'm a little hesitant in that I might end up spending more time and money and not get anything at the end. I'm thinking of getting hold of the other victim and team up with her in collecting from the driver.

These days, I'm slowly realizing that you can never get justice if you get into an accident with an irresponsible, uninsured driver. These drivers are REAL criminals and they can get away with it by filing bankruptcy! Meanwhile, you have to pay for more costs (no matter how good a driver you are) - fee to get a police report, your insurance's deductible, your lost time from work, and in the case of a body injury - your medical expenses and consequence of it all. It feels like the court and the cops only provide information and push papers instead of actually finding justice for the victim(s). This reminds me so much of some of the stories I read from my Anthropology class before. In other societies, there's just a mediator and they ask the person responsible for the damage to work and rebuild what they broke and pay with harvest (vegetables, crops) what they can't pay with labor. Now, wouldn't that be a much fair solution?

Now, we're just talking about car accidents. How about victims of scams, poor product and service, and other crimes. Honestly, I'm so fed up with what they call "customer service" with cell phone and digital cable and other service providers. I highly recommend reading some of Laura Nader's work in Anthropology: Harmony, Ideology—Injustice and Control in a Mountain Zapotec Village (1990), The Life of the Law: Anthropological Projects (2002) , and (with Ugo Mattei) Plunder - When the Rule of Law is Illegal (2008). They narrate shocking truths that we're all aware of but no one really did anything to get the due justice. Everyday, as we let our rotten system just "do their job", we continue to play blind and go along with it and be an everyday victim of the ruthless society. We need change and it's as simple as stopping this "faceless" resolutions and start confronting criminals (or corporations) face-to-face and determine the proper means of getting the justice we deserve.

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