Dear Barb—A Wondering Witness

Dear Barb:

Yesterday morning I was having a coffee and looking out my front window and I saw my neighbor back out of his driveway into another neighbor’s car that was parked on the side of the road.  It didn’t look like there was a lot of damage, but there definitely was some damage.  Since this was around 6 in the morning, there wasn’t many people were around.  I saw the neighbor who backed into the car get out and survey the damage, then get back in his car and drive off.  I assumed he was going to get in contact with the owner of the damaged car later in the day.  The neighbor who did the damage is a friend of mine, the other neighbor recently moved in, so no one really knows him.  A few days later I was talking to my friend who backed into the car and mentioned that I had seen the accident and he completely denied it.  He said that he had thought he ran into the car, but when he got out and checked there was no damage.  Clearly there was damage!  I know that this neighbor has had other incidents and been involved in a few fender-benders, so he may be running into problems with insurance or his driving record.  The problem I have is that when I spoke to the neighbor with the damaged car, he mentioned that someone had hit his car, but he doesn’t know who it is.  In fact, he asked me if I had seen anything.  I denied that I had, because the other guy is my friend, but now I’m having second thoughts whether that was right thing to do.  What advice would you give to someone in my situation?

Thanks, Bill.

Hi Bill:

It seems you have a moral dilemma.  You have to choose between doing the right thing or being loyal to your friend.  What makes it worse is the neighbor who was hit asked if you saw anything and you said no, but clearly you did.  If you approach that neighbor now with this new information you most likely will lose your friendship, as your friend told you he did not hit the car.

Did you actually go out and look at the car immediately, or was it sometime later in the day that you noticed the damage? If it was later in the day, there is the possibility that your friend did not hit the car and that someone else did it and that your friend was telling the truth.  If you are 100% positive that your friend hit the car, then the right thing to do is tell your friend that you saw him hit the car.  At that point he may have to come clean with you and take ownership of what he did.  If he doesn’t, then you have to choose what you feel is the right thing to do.  Sorry I couldn’t be more help, but I trust you will do the right thing.  Thanks for writing Bill.

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