Sunday, September 06, 2015
Baby, you can drive my car
A.O., a reader in Western Massachusetts was using a friend's car. The friend wanted to sell the car and another friend of A.O.'s had an interest in it. After A.O. showed him the car, the second friend agreed to buy it.
All was going well. A.O. kept the car overnight and was going to return it in the morning.
Rather than immediately return the car, he decided to keep it overnight and drop it off in the morning. As A.O. was driving home from the second friend's house on a two-lane road, he saw an oncoming car coming directly at him, "as if he was driving in Japan or England."
He watched him come closer, hoping the drive would swerve. No such luck.
Just before impact, A.O. cut his friend's car hard left. The oncoming car did as well and hit the friend's car on the passenger side. His friend's car was wrecked.
Neither driver was hurt, but the other driver started yelling at A.O. about being in the wrong lane. Fortunately, there was an eyewitness who saw the whole thing from the across the road. "Where he came from I have no idea as not much is out there, but he showed up," writes A.O.
Two police cars and an ambulance arrived. A tow truck arrived for the other car, but A.O.'s friend's car was drivable. The police told A.O. he could get the accident report from the station later. A.O. drove his friend's car home.
When he picked up the police report, it indicated that the other driver was clearly at fault, thanks to the eyewitness account.
But A.O.'s friend was out a car that he was about to sell to the second friend.
Given that he was driving his friend's car, what's the right thing for A.O. to do?
Accidents do happen, and A.O. was trying to do his friend a favor. And clearly the accident was not his fault.
To do the right thing, A.O. had two options. He could wait for the insurance settlement to come in to his friend to cover the cost of his wrecked car. Or he could pay the friend what the second friend was going to pay for his car and then ask his friend for reimbursement when the insurance came in.
"I felt bad as I was driving the car," A.O. writes. So he paid his friend for his car the next day, hoping that insurance would cover the cost for him.
Was A.O. obligated to pay his friend for the car? No. He could have chosen to let the insurance company handle it and leave it at that. But he wanted to do what he believed was the right thing by his friend. I might have told A.O. that I would wait for the insurance company assessment and check rather than take his money if I was his friend, but the friend took the money. Again, it was offered and the friend did nothing wrong by accepting it.
Ultimately, the insurance company check more than covered what A.O. paid his friend, so A.O. was made whole, "money wise."
A.O. went above and beyond to do the right thing. Aside from a sore neck, he figures he was about "as lucky as one could be." So too was his friend to have such a generous friend.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin
Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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