I am an American living in Peru when this happened
I stopped our car behind the combi (a small bus) waiting for them to let off their passengers. The combi started up. Just as I was going to press the accelerator, BAM! The car behind slammed into us because another driver crashed into them. My heart sank. What would happen now?
The parties all got out of their cars to discuss what to do. This went on for some time since the driver of one of the cars had no license and her boyfriend wanted us all to say that he was driving so that the insurance would pay.
Soon the police arrived, and then we all had to go to the police station. Insurance agents came, took down details of the incident, and left. More family members arrived and all engaged in an animated discussion about the accident. By now there were at least fifty people from the families of those in the accident.
I was surprised to learn that all the drivers of the cars had to submit to blood and breathalyzer tests and pay for them. In order to do this we went in a police car from the station to a clinic where they administered the tests. That was a thrill for me since I had never ridden in a police car before.
After approximately four hours in the police station, and much more discussion among the parties involved, we went home. At the end of this, I wasn’t really sure what had gone on.
I relate this rather mundane experience because during all this time I was observing what was going on, how the people related to each other in this situation and then thinking about how I should behave.
Needless to say, all this takes on a little different tone when one is a foreigner. First of all, it is hard to understand what everyone is saying. People are excited, and they talk rapidly. They say things to you that you may not understand. They ask you questions, and you are not sure how to respond.
I felt fear based on my uncertainty about all sorts of things.
One of those things is the police. I was not sure about the law in these cases and even less sure about how the police behave. In this instance they were jovial and even relaxed, but I could also see that they were being careful. They seemed to go with the flow.
So did I. I watched what was going on, avoided making a fool of myself and, at the same time, tried to make sure that my car was going to get fixed. This behavior seemed to be appropriate. I observed that after a while everybody kept their emotions under control and talked about the problem quietly. No ranting and raving.
Well, the story does have a relatively happy ending. Our insurance company responded very well, we got a nice rental car while our car was being repaired and our car looked like new when the mechanics were finished.
Next time I’ll know what to do. Go with the flow.