Four Things to Know If You’re In an Accident with a Rental Car

At some point in your life you stand a chance of being involved in an accident either while driving a rental car or being struck by one. Here are four things to keep in mind if and when that happens, brought to you by a personal injury lawyer Fort Lauderdale FL trusts:

  1. In 2005 rental car companies found the “Holy Grail” when President George W. Bush signed the “Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act:  A Legacy for Users”. Within the bill is a section known as the “Graves Amendment,” which barred all states from imposing vicarious liability on car rental companies. This means that unless a rental company is directly negligent in renting the car to someone who they knew or should have known was unfit to operate the vehicle, they cannot be held liable for the negligence of the person renting the vehicle. This means that if the person negligently driving the car is not financially responsible good luck suing and trying to collect a judgment against that person. For those in states with minimum liability insurance requirements you might be able to collect up to those minimum limits against the rental company, but for the many states with truly “minimum” limits such the vast rental car market of Florida, you are essentially on your own. Which brings up the next point.
  1. If you own an automobile and you have “uninsured/underinsured” liability coverage you can look to your own policy to provide financial responsibility for the negligent driver. However, most people in an effort to keep their insurance payments down elect to pass on the purchase of this coverage or purchase it in low limits which provide no real protection at all. This is coverage that insures you against being struck by a financially irresponsible driver. It is really the most helpful coverage on your policy and as a practical matter probably more valuable to you and your family than even carrying high limits of bodily injury liability limits which cover your own negligence.
  1. Collision Damage Waivers (“CDW”) is not insurance it’s a waiver of liability for the damage that might occur to your rental car while you are the renter. It is sometimes thought of as “no headache” insurance because you can just turn the car in and not worry about the damage that occurred while you were driving it. It is however, expensive and paid daily and can turn your inexpensive bargain rental into an expensive ride. Some of the high end credit cards have programs that will give you this same “waiver” as insurance if you use the card to rent the car and pay a much lower rate for this coverage than you would to the rental car company for its contractual “CDW”. Other credit cards, if used for the rental, may provide supplemental coverage if you have no other insurance to cover the damage but this is an involved process. You also may have coverage for damage to the rental car through your own insurance policy but you should read your coverages carefully and determine what your deductibles may be.
  1. In our evolving societal relationships, more and more people are choosing to live together without marrying. When renting a car, you are utilizing what your insurance company will call a substitute or temporary vehicle. If you are the policy holder, your unmarried significant other may be excluded from coverage on the rental car even if they are a named driver on your own car because they are not a relative. Read your policy carefully, and tell your agent what your living circumstances are and that you want coverage for our significant other on rental cars to avoid a terrible surprise if your significant other is operating the rental car and is in an accident. Your own insurance company will not hesitate to deny coverage for the accident and leave you and your significant other out to dry.

Needle & Ellenberg, P.A.Thanks to our friends and contributors from Needle & Ellenberg, P.A. for their insights into car accident cases.