Rental Car Accident Attorney
How Do I Get Help For Rental Car Related Accidents in Los Angeles?
Crack! The sound of your car crashed by a reckless or drunk driver is one vehicle drivers hope never to hear. Thousands of accidents are occurring across the country every day. Many happen as you near your locality or home on your way back from running errands around town. They are unexpected and the aftermath can be ugly.
Moreover, there could be severe injuries or even death, depending on the circumstances. But what happens when you were driving your rental car and you get smashed into? Still worse, what if you were just in an accident and are using your "rental car reimbursement coverage" for your existing rental? Believe it or not, crashing in a rental car can open up a Pandora's Box of legal issues for you, the renter unless you read this definitive guide for dummies first before signing your rental car agreement with the vehicle's rental agent.
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What Are Some Specifics Contrasting Rental Car Accidents From Loaner Car Accidents?
After a bad car accident in your daily driver, your Los Angeles personal injury attorney will direct you to see if you have rental car reimbursement coverage. A car rental, hire car, or car hire agency is a corporation or business that rents automobiles for intermittent periods. Most car rental periods last from a couple of hours to weeks and even months. The most popular rentals include trucks from U-Haul or Ryder, small cars, and trucks from businesses like Hertz, Alamo, Enterprize, Avis, Budget, or Dollar Rent a Car.
Unlike loaner vehicles, most people are renting a car because they are on vacation in California, driving in unfamiliar territory, or because their daily driver was damaged or destroyed in a bad accident. Other people may be renting a moving truck or van to pick things up or drop things off at the storage unit, for example. In the case of a car accident vehicle replacement, most of the time, the insured car accident victim uses their rental car reimbursement coverage. That coverage would be found under their existing policy and used to pay for the rental.
But sometimes you may crash your rental car, or someone may crash into you. Now many issues arise, such as who will pay to fix the rental car you just crashed. Sometimes it's easy if you did your research. Other times you are in a real dilemma and will want to speak with a local rental car accident attorney right away.
And rental agencies realize there is a chance you can get into a wreck. Unlike borrowing a loaner car from a friend or family member, rental car companies are typically corporations formed to rent a car to people who are qualified as licensed and insured drivers. Typically you will rent the vehicle for a specific dollar amount for a set period.
You are responsible for any damage to the car and typically walk around the car with a rental agency employee to document scratches, dings, and other wear and tear problems before filling out rental paperwork. You will also agree not to smoke in the vehicle. If you bring a car back that smells like an ashtray, or with additional damage, you are forced to pay this on your credit card.
They will withhold your security deposit and demand payment for any damage. Also, you must return the vehicle with a full tank of gas. Rental companies include such contingencies in the rental agreement, which is why it is good to review the paperwork they give you upon obtaining your rental vehicle to learn about how much you can be covered in the event of an accident.
And if you do, you can get a rental car up to your policy dollar amounts and days permitted while your regular car is either repaired or replaced. If not, the personal injury victim must pay out of pocket and seek reimbursement from the defendant or the defendant's insurer, if you can prove fault for the collision rested with the other side.
- Who is liable to pay for the personal injuries to others?
- Who will pay for the damage to my rental car?
- The parties in the collision.
- The person renting the car.
- *Private (Turo) and Public Rental Cars.
The Parties And Issues Involved In The Rental Car Collision.
In a rental car case, the renter is typically in a fender bender with another vehicle or runs over a pedestrian crossing the street, for example. So this presents a lot of problems you won't run into with your own vehicle. Moreover, it involves a complex procedure of desk work and legal wrangling. The parties consist of the individuals involved in some way in the wreck as well as the rental company. And modernly we have apps like Turo that present their own special problems when it comes to getting your car fixed after a crash.
- Problems With The Rental Car Company.
Assuming you are not at fault for the crash, you are the victim plaintiff and the other party of the liable defendant. Early on in the process, your rental agency simply wants to be paid for the property damage to their car. Before you rented the car, the rental agent was supposed to offer you coverage for any damage in a crash, called a "rider," or additional coverage. Most people reject this believing their own auto insurance company will cover this, especially if they have "full coverage."
But most of the time, people don't have coverage for the damage to the rental car as they are mistaken as to what comprehensive and collision or full coverage even means. Because of this, you remain on the hook for the vehicle repair or replacement out of your own pocket, even though the accident was not your fault. When dealing with a company like Turo, vehicle owners have been stuck in some tough spots getting their car fixed. Check this page out to learn more about Turo.
- Do I Even Have Rental Car Reimbursement Insurance Coverage?
Most California automotive insurance carriers will offer their proposed insured a policy add-on called "rental reimbursement coverage." This coverage is supposed to pay for you to rent a similar vehicle what you own, up to a stated daily ceiling. But the rental car agency's insurance may overlap with auto insurance you already maintain under your existing auto insurance coverage and exclusions section.
CAVEAT: Your rental car reimbursement coverage does not mean your rental car is covered for property damage to the rental or another vehicle. All rental car reimbursement coverage does is help you afford a rental car if you crash your own private car. It does not pay out for any damages your car receives during your rental period. To better explain, if your rental vehicle is damaged while under your legal control, your existing liability insurance would only pay up to your policy limits for the damages. And it is still again limited to harm you caused to other vehicles or property.
It wouldn't pay for your rental car damages unless you had more supplemental coverages from your insurer or the rental company. Below we have provided some tips to help you identify the types of coverages you may already have and whether you should buy more before renting a car or not. Not everyone rents a Chevy Sprint either. Some people rent high-end vehicles like Porsches and Maseratis, to replace their daily drivers. If you only have California's minimum limits for liability insurance, you are probably getting worried by now.
After all, you likely did not get legal advice or speak to your insurer before renting. Now, you may later learn you should have purchased supplemental coverage for that extra protection when you had the chance. But before you lose your mind, try and relax for a moment. Locate your insurance papers, and let's look at a few items to see if coverage exists for damages to that car. After all, we are assuming you had enough liability coverage to pay for the injuries to the other guys.
So now we are narrowed in on whether or not you are at risk to pay for the damages and loss of use of this rental vehicle to Alamo Rental Cars, or whoever you signed up with. It’ll ensure that you’re adequately covered if you get into a car accident.
Do You Maintain Full Coverage Insurance?
Full coverage is another way of saying you maintain comprehensive and collision coverage as part of your automobile liability insurance policy.
It does not usually include items like med-pay, uninsured, or underinsured motorist coverages. So why is full coverage important when dealing with a rental car collision, and why should I care? For one, you should care because you don't want to be paying to replace a rental or a loaner car when you could have bought insurance to cover that risk. Liability minimum insurance requirements only cover damages up to your policy limits for damages to other persons and property. In layman's terms, you don't get any money for your car or your injuries from your own insurance unless you buy additional coverages.
The ones that matter to renting a car or even borrowing one, are the ones that indirectly or directly help pay to fix or replace the damaged car as follows:
- Collision insurance is optional. And just like it sounds, it pays for damages to your car when you are in a collision. It pays to repair your own vehicle after an accident, won't cover a vehicle theft, dents, dings, and scratches from rambunctious youth. And collision insurance won't pay for a car that goes underwater in a bad flood such as those in NorCal.Examples include running over a deer or hitting a fixed object like a fire hydrant while driving drunk. The object is to get your car fixed without waiting around for another person's insurance company to accept fault or not months later. You need a car now, not after a time-wasting investigation, right?
- Comprehensive insurance is optional coverage designed to pay for vehicle damages we lawyers and insurance companies call "acts of God." But it covers not such godly acts like vehicle damage from arson, theft, or even paint damage from a lousy windstorm driving down the I-10 East Freeway to Palm Desert, or La Quinta, California. This area is a sandblast zone for sure! Other examples this coverage protects from are floods, a fallen tree limb, and even acts of vandals.
Liability insurance does not protect you from car theft. It pays for any damage your car causes other vehicle occupants and their property. Even with the additional coverage, sometimes your insurer will make you enter into an exclusion for things like "riots," for example. If that happens, they are excluding your car if it gets torched by Black Lives Matter, ANTIFA, or some other social justice group, for example.
Most of all, you need to talk about all of this with your insurance agent before driving off in a rental car. If you have exclusions for riots, you definitely don't want to leave the rental vehicle parked in an autonomous riot zone like Portland, Oregon, or Downtown Los Angeles, or example. If you’re not sure whether coverages extend to rental car damages or you don’t have full coverage, consider purchasing the rental company’s own coverages, such as explained in a "loss damage waiver."
- Even With Full Coverage, Am I Liable To Pay For The Rental Company's "Loss Of Use?" For My Rental Car Accident?
Maybe! And this applies to persons that commercial loan cars as well. Here's the kicker, even when you maintain full insurance coverages, most private insurers won't just cover a rental car company's commercial loss of use.
Liability insurance can cover the costs of vehicles, property repairs, and even medical bills for others. Collision coverage can help pay for the cost of damages to the rental car, but probably not the rental agencies' commercial loss of use. In other words, when you contracted with the rental company, you agreed to be held liable for any consequential damages.
And you were also probably offered supplemental rental damage insurance coverages to cover loss of use. Because the car is in the shop, the company can come after you since they can't rent the vehicle to some other customer. And this could amount to a lot of lost rents. Each day the rental car is in the repair shop or replaced; they cannot collect rental fees. And this is the one distressing thing the rental company holds over your head unless you purchase their outrageously expensive in house coverages.
- Other Issues That Come Up.
As already discussed, don't expect the other side who caused your crash to open up their checkbook and just get you a car to drive after a wreck. So get rental reimbursement insurance coverage. Don't expect the other side to pay your deductible or damage to your last rental car anytime soon. Even at that, if you fail to add this non-mandatory rental car coverage before the crash, pray for a loaner car from a friend or the local repair shop.
If not, you will be on the hook to pay your car rental out of pocket or end up zipping around town in a taxi or ridesharing service near you and hoping to get reimbursed by the other side when it's all over. And don't forget that even full coverage won't usually cover rental car contract damages for "loss of use." So let's say your auto insurer won't step up. Ok, fine, it's the other guy's fault, right? Maybe. But they don't just cut a check, and the check may not be enough to cover the damages. Moreover, automobile insurers have the right to "investigate" a claim under the California Insurance Code.
Because of this, even in cases of clear liability, it can take months before you get paid a settlement draft. But that assumes the other guy even has insurance or other coverages. And even if he does, your own rental insurance and rental reimbursement coverage are not the same animals.
What If There Is Not Enough Insurance To Pay For The Rental Car Damage?
As an example, illegal aliens are notorious for getting their cars registered and canceling their insurance. But let's assume the person who hit you at least had minimum coverages under California's Prop 213 law discussed here. If so, that means you have up to $5 thousand in property damages to pay to fix or replace the other person's car you were driving. Well, this presents a problem if your rental was totaled out and it was worth $20 thousand.
That means you now owe $15 thousand. And there is no way to collect it from the other side in the sanctuary state of California. The defendants may have already skipped back across the border, leaving you and your family on the hook.
And this is a typical case we deal with at Ehline Law Firm daily. So now, you are seeking financial compensation for any injuries you received from your own coverages, assuming your policy remains at play. The rental car company will not be sympathetic. You waived extra rental collision coverages, right?
What Are Supplemental Insurance Options Offered By Rental Car Companies?
Unlike the rental reimbursement protections offered by many car insurance companies like Allstate, State Farm, or Farmers Insurance, rental car companies often try and sell you more insurance coverage when you pick up your rental car from the car lot. Remember that you may already have these kinds of coverage from your car insurance, health insurance, or credit card company.
- Collision damage waiver, or loss damage waiver ("LDW") – When you’ve purchased this waiver, the rental car company will not charge you if a vehicle gets damaged or snatched by a highwayman. Costs to buy LDW can run the gamut depending on the vehicle type and rental car company. On average, it's not cheap, running between $10 to $30 per day. Remember, rental reimbursement coverage won't pay this. So this is out of pocket for you.
- Supplemental liability protection – Electing this insurance covers costs to others in a rental car collision that was your own fault. It probably is overlapping to your existing policy.
- Personal accident insurance – Most of all, this insurance protection helps pay people for injuries or death of the driver or passengers occupying your rental car during the wreck.
- Personal effects coverage – This coverage reimburses you for damaged and stolen personal items of property that were inside of the rented vehicle.
If the rental agency did not offer you their own property damage insurance for your time behind the wheel, your contract lawyer has a defense. Moreover, if you had existing coverages, or purchased special, temporary insurance from the rental company, are they honoring their policy in good faith? Even when you have that all figured out, a personal injury lawyer is left with whatever he or she can collect on the injured victim's behalf for medical bills, lost wages, pain, torment, etc.
If there are not enough coverages, someone may have their personal assets on the risk. All of these issues and more mean that rental car suits can become messy in a rapid fashion. That is why our team at Ehline Law is here to assist those in need. Our job is to transform your experience with lawyers into a positive one fundamentally.
Special Problem With Standard Coverages - What About My Personal Belongings In A Stolen Vehicle - Can I Get Paid For That?
Not usually. Sorry, personal belongings coverage does not exist in an average person's auto policy. Because of this, you would have to make a homeowners' or tenants' (H0-4) claim on your policy. Your property deductible payment would also apply. If damages are small or not much over your deductible, it is likely an exercise in futility to make this type of a claim.
What Should I Do Before Renting A Car?
There are several steps an intelligent consumer should take before renting a car, even when their own insurance is paying the rent. For example, you need to review whether your current liability and collision coverages apply to rental cars. If they don’t, your next step should be to check to see what your credit card covers (see below).
- Call your automotive insurance company and make sure you understand your coverages, exclusions, limits, etc.
- Check to see if your credit card company offers any types of rental car damage insurance. Then you can find out what coverage you have and how to cover additional risks.
- Send a copy of your car insurance declaration of coverages and exclusions to the rental company. Compare what you have to any supplemental coverages they may offer before you inspect and drive off in your rental car.
As you can see, there is a lot more to renting a car than meets the eye. That is why the team at Ehline Law writes these articles-- as a means to better inform the public and give people options when they truly need it.
Recap - Renting a car is not the same as getting a loaner. However, if you get in an accident in your primary vehicle, if you didn't buy rental reimbursement coverage already, your insurance won't pay for a loaner rental car now. Assuming you rent a car from a company unless they have some evidence you are dangerous, their responsibility to a third party, and you are typically limited. It's spelled out in the terms and conditions of their rental contract with you and any insurance you may have that applies.
How Do I Deal With A Rental Car Accident?
Simplifying things from the beginning is the best approach. Assuming you are not terribly injured from another accident already, you likely need to be able to zip back and forth to work, the doctor, the pharmacy, and even drop the kids at school. As it is, it's no vacation dealing with all the paperwork and not knowing whether coverage exists in case of an accident.
- What are a few smart things that you can do after a rental vehicle collision?
Determine if you or anyone else in your vehicle is injured and move your vehicle off the road if it is safe. Safely inspect your vehicle (after driving off the shoulder) and inquire into the health and wellness of the other vehicle's occupants.
Exchange required proof of ID and financial responsibility. Assure you build an appropriate case early by locking in witnesses, locations, and proof there was a crash at all. Hailing the city police or CHP to the accident scene can help you create a record and keep everyone safe as they ambulate on the road's shoulder. Snapping some photographs of the cars, road debris, skid marks, and people involved in the accident and injuries, will help a lot later on down the road.
Afterward, review any documentation provided to you by the rental car agency, and also reach out to let them know what happened. Mentally prepare yourself for the mountains of paperwork and phone calls ahead of you when you deal with the rental car company.
Next, you should reach out to your own insurance company about getting another replacement vehicle. As noted above, any supplemental protections, coupled with your own car insurance will be the policies governing coverages for your rental vehicle. Do your best to help your lawyer and your rental car company get copies of the documents they need. Your own insurance agent may be able to assist you in reducing some of the hassles and even interface with your rental agent. For example, what if your vehicle needs to be towed back to the rental agency?
Often, the rental agency has its own body shop for fleet vehicle repairs. If you can't get a hold of anyone, you may just pay out of pocket to get the vehicle out of the road or use your AAA card, for example. But keep your receipts and billing records specific to the towing company. Provide your agent with the vehicle storage location and costs. In fact, keep all your accident-related records and receipts. Even if you think it's not something covered by insurance, you may learn your policy covered you and seek reimbursement later.
Although it is hard to deal with insurers, cops, and rental car companies in the aftermath of a collision, a great lawyer near you at Ehline Law can handle it. Advocates like us can shield you from dealing with the other driver and parties and give you breathing room.
Who Is At Fault And What Must Be Paid?
There are many difficult questions regarding who must pay and for what -- and often they can bring a person and their family into crisis. When faced with such a situation, only swift action with experts can help a family or aggrieved business fully recover-- and the right choice may make the key difference. And this is where consulting with both medical and legal experts counts.
Moreover, this includes the choice of the right medical professionals. And this often includes surgery and intense physical therapy. Also, the second person a family should call should be a legal expert. In many cases, only an attorney specialized in rental or loaner car accidents can help a family fully recover. Getting through the aftermath of such injuries is more than just contacting the first name you see on the back of a DASH Bus or advertising billboard. Instead, only a team with decades of experience can and will make a difference.
- Determining the cause of the accident. Did the rental car company properly inspect and maintain the vehicle? Did they keep their promises on their policy and in your written agreement? Was a vehicle negligently entrusted to someone? Was a vehicle being driven for someone else's benefit?
- Issues related to the loss of the vehicle. Who covered the cost of the vehicle being destroyed-- especially if you rented because you needed to replace a vehicle that you already own?
We can also challenge the negligent party. The defendant created the conditions that caused the accident or allowed them to happen. We can work to get a fair settlement to cover both your rental and medical bills and whatever your car needs. To earn your trust, our ears are open to listening to your problem.
Contacting us will go a long way in helping both of us understand your unique situation. Let's take some time to discover ways to get you a rental car and any legal help you need after a rental or loaner collision. For more information contact one of our legal experts today. We’ll talk 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Ehline Law's Car Crash Lawyers Maintain locations and meeting places in Long Beach, Torrance, Marina del Rey, Santa Monica, San Bernardino, and Riverside. We can come to your home or bedside anywhere in Northern, Central, or Southern California.