Around 100 million tourists visit Florida every year, and a large proportion of them will rent a car to explore the sunshine state. Orlando International Airport is the largest car rental hub in the whole world.
Considering that the (941) 444-4444 estimates 400,000 road accidents in Florida each year, it is no wonder that some of these involve rental cars. However, unlike road accidents that involve people’s personal vehicles, the law becomes a little more complicated when a rental car company is involved.
When it comes to a car accident with a rental car, you could be covered by the car rentals insurance policy, your personal car auto insurance or your credit card. However, if you are not covered or if you were involved in a serious accident, then this might be insufficient, and you may need to contact a personal injury lawyer.
If you have been involved in a car accident involving a rental car, then you should speak to a personal injury lawyer. At The Law Place, we have handled a large number of road accident claims in Florida. We are available 24 hours a day, so contact us today for a free consultation. Our number is (941) 444-4444.
Steps to Take If You Have an Accident in Your Rental Car
Assess the situation – Following any car accident, the first thing you should do is make sure that everyone is safe. If someone is injured, call 911 immediately. And if the scene is dangerous, move to somewhere safe.
Gather evidence – Exchange information with the other parties involved in the accident. The information should include contact, vehicle, and auto insurance information. Ask the police officer at the scene for the accident report and take their name, badge number, and contact information. You should also get the contact information of any witnesses. Take pictures of both cars and the scene of the crash.
Call your rental company – Use your car rental companies emergency phone number to call and report the car accident involving your rental. Ask the company what you should do with the car – where to drive it if possible or where to have it towed if not. Ask for the customer service representatives’ phone number and name and take note.
Call your insurance company – Start the process of filing a claim with your own insurance company as soon as possible. The most common reason for claims being rejected is people not filing a claim quickly enough, especially if you are using credit card insurance coverage.
Take care of the car – You are responsible for the vehicle during the rental period. If you can drive the car, then take it back to the rental office or another location specified by your rental company. If the vehicle cannot be driven, call for roadside assistance from the rental company or another provider, and have it towed.
File a report with the rental company – The accident report will ask for details of the parties involved, information regarding the crash, and your insurance information. This is something that a lawyer can help you with if necessary.
Is the Rental Car Company Liable for Damages?
There are many minor and serious accidents involving rental cars each year in Florida. Consequently, legal questions often arise, the most common being, is the rental car company liable for damages following a road accident?
According to this decision made by the Florida Supreme Court, the answer is probably going to be no.
In the case, Vagas v. Enterprise 2011, a decision was made that when drivers or passengers of short term vehicle rentals (less than one year) are negligent, the rental company is not responsible for any injuries caused. The Supreme Court ruled that the Graves amendment 2005, blocked a section of the Florida Statutes. As a result, rental car companies have no liability regarding accidents involving rental cars simply because they own the vehicle.
Unless the injured party can prove that the rental company was in some way negligent, any lawsuit brought against them based on ownership alone will be rejected.
Despite this, Florida’s ‘dangerous instrumentality‘ doctrine finds other kinds of vehicle owners who have allowed their car to be driven by somebody else, liable. For example, employers who allow their car to be driven by their employees or parents who allow their car to be driven by their children.
For a free legal consultation with a budget rental car accidents lawyer serving Florida, call 941-444-4444
What Does Your Car Rental Policy Say?
Different rental companies will have different insurance policies. However, they try to limit their liability to car accident victims by writing regulations into their agreements. In the contacts between the person renting the vehicle and the rental company, it is common for them to state-specific steps that the person who rented the car should take in the event of an accident.
The policy may include conditions such as deadlines for the rental car driver to report an accident, how that reporting should be done, and to whom it must be reported. They may also require the rental car driver to obtain police assistance at the site of the accident.
Although the Graves Amendment protects the rental car company to an extent, they will also add language into their lease agreement to limit their liability for any damages suffered by the rental driver and passengers.
The steps you take after an accident with a rental car can have a significant impact on your claim. Therefore, it is a good idea to get advice from a personal injury lawyer, such as those found at The Law Place. That is why we keep our phone lines open so that you can seek professional help when you need it.
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Who Pays After a Rental Car Accident?
If you rent a car and are involved in an accident, the insurance policy you have will determine your next steps.
You Bought Collision Insurance From the Rental Car Company
If you purchased the collision damage waiver (CDW), then you should be covered. If you have CDW, then the only way you could be found liable is if you were reckless or you breached the rental agreement. CDW should shift most of the cost of repairing the vehicle to the rental company.
However, they don’t cover medical expenses or property damage for other people involved in the accident. Their own insurance company usually covers other drivers involved, or you might need help from your personal insurance company or the rental company’s supplemental liability coverage.
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You May Already Have Coverage
Most personal insurance policies cover rentals. Although you may want to check what your coverage limit is and what deductible you may have to pay. If your insurance policy includes rentals cars, you will be covered for both collision and liability up to the limits of your coverage.
Some premium credit cards also offer car rental coverage. If yours does, then you will be covered as long as you used the credit card to pay for the rental. However, credit card coverage is almost always a damage waiver and doesn’t include liability.
What If You Are Not Covered?
If you are not covered, and you were at fault for the accident, then you will be liable for any damages.
If the car accident was not your fault, then your rental company may work directly with the other driver’s insurance company, so long as they have coverage. However, rental companies have been known not to wait for the dispute to be settled, and they may charge you anyway. If this happens, you will have to deal with the other driver’s insurance company in order to be reimbursed.
It is illegal to drive a rental car without any insurance coverage. Most states require rental companies to provide the states with minimum liability coverage on their vehicles. In Florida, the minimum is $10,000 in personal injury protection and $10,000 in property damage. However, these limits often prove insufficient in serious car accidents.
Florida’s No-Fault Insurance Laws
Florida is a no-fault state; this means that regardless of who was at fault in an accident, each person involved is covered to an extent by their own insurance coverage.
This means that if you are in an accident in a rental car, the other driver should be covered by their own insurance. However, in more severe accidents, the damages could be greater than policy limits, in which case, you could have to pay towards the other parties’ damages if you are found to be at fault.
When Is the Rental Car Company Negligent?
In order to claim damages from a rental company, you need to prove that they were in some way negligent. Examples of negligence could include:
- Failure to properly maintain the rental car.
- Failure to supervise workers
- Entrusting the rental car to a driver who shouldn’t have been allowed to drive.
- Failure to properly train staff.
If the injured party cannot prove that the rental company was negligent, then they cannot be held ‘vicariously liable‘ for the victim’s damages. If they were at fault, then it is a good idea to get help from a personal injury lawyer. Car rental companies will have experienced lawyers at hand for any cases brought against them, so you must level the playing field.
Additional Charges If You Crash Your Rental Car
If you are found to be at fault for the accident, there are three types of charges beyond damage costs that you may be liable for.
- Administration fees. There could be additional fees associated with the processing of your claim. They vary widely but are usually around $50 – $150.
- Loss of use fees. When a car that belongs to a rental company goes out of circulation, the company loses money while it is being repaired. The car rental company could charge you $20 – $40 a day, depending on the value of your vehicle.
- Diminution of value. When a rental car is damaged, it loses value, even if it is repaired. Your rental company might charge you to compensate for this, and the cost can vary depending on the value of the car and the extent of the damage.
However, if the accident was not your fault, then you should be compensated for these fees. You may choose to sue the at-fault driver in a small claims court. For this, you should get help from an experienced personal injury lawyer, such as those found at The Law Place.
Follow These Steps Before You Rent a Car
- Take names and numbers. Familiarize yourself with your rental companies’ procedures. Make sure you have emergency numbers to and know where to find accident report forms.
- Research your insurance coverage. Check to see what your personal car insurance and credit card could cover. Know what your coverage limits are and the deductibles.
- Consider extra coverage. If you don’t already have sufficient coverage, it is in your best interest to purchase the rental companies insurance.
Why Should I Consider Extra Coverage?
Rental car companies are often not liable. When this happens, the driver of the rental car could become a target of a lawsuit or will seek a lawsuit against the other driver involved.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to purchase extra insurance when hiring a car in Florida. For example, Uninsured Motorist (UM) or Under-Insured Motorist (UIM) protection. These can cover the rental car driver for medical costs and compensation for pain and suffering that is not covered by other insurances.
Injuries such as fractures, brain injuries, and disfigurement can have life-altering and long term consequences. This costs an enormous amount of medical expenses and potentially lost wages. Without proper protection, a rental car driver could be liable for these costs.
Rental car companies will usually try to sell insurance to protect their own vehicles. However, there is no motivation for them to sell UM or UIM insurance, due to their immunity under federal and state laws.
The Law Place
The Law Place represents victims of accidents where a rental car is involved. Our car injury attorneys know how to navigate the complex laws affecting insurance and rental cars in Florida. If you were driving a rental car, you have no case against the rental company unless you can prove negligence.
However, you may still be able to claim against the other driver if they were at fault. It is not a good idea to navigate the system alone, especially if you are going against a rental company that will have trained lawyers ready to fight on their behalf. You need an experienced attorney to investigate and determine the exact cause of the accident.
Contact us on (941) 444-4444 today for a free consultation.