If you’re involved in a car accident while in a rental, you’re likely confused about who pays for the damage. Read on to find out who is liable for damage to a rental car in a motor vehicle accident.
The Driver at Fault for the Car Accident
The simple answer is the party who is responsible for the car accident. The victim has a right to seek reimbursement from the at-fault party for damage to your vehicle – as well as rental car expenses. However, auto accident and personal injury cases are rarely that simple. Complicating things further is the fact that the Minnesota Legislature has refused to put this into statute forcing personal injury attorneys in Minnesota to rely on case law as opposed to statute.
The Law Regarding Car Accident Liability
Almost every state recognizes the right of the not at fault auto owner to recover damages for the loss of use of the damaged vehicle while it is being repaired. See, Kopischke v. Chicago, St. P., M. & O. Ry. Co., 230 Minn. 23, 30–31, 40 N.W.2d 834, 839 (1950). Thus, the liability insurer of the at-fault driver is obligated to pay the rental cost of a comparable vehicle to that which was damaged.
What to Do Following a Car Accident When You Need a Rental Car
Most insurance policies recommend you cancel your rental car once you know your car is totaled. This is because you may not be able to recover the cost of the rental once the car has been deemed “totaled.”
However, you have the right to recoup the costs associated with fixing the disruption to your life caused by a car accident. If you rent reasonably and the insurer wants to short-change you on rental reimbursement, they must put this in writing. If there is any refusal or decrease in coverage you should immediately request a written explanation as to why.
Other Issues After a Rental Car Accident
Issues can occur if a person driving a compact car tries to rent an expensive luxury vehicle. Insurance will argue that it is not a “comparable vehicle.” In the case of certain high-value, high-cost vehicles, you may have to demonstrate your need for a specific replacement vehicle. For that reason, it is important to find a similar vehicle to rent when attempting to replace the one lost or damaged in the accident.
Another issue occurs when insurance companies assert they are not liable for the use of a “total loss” vehicle. This often happens in severe car accidents. Insurance companies argue instead that they are liable for only the difference between the pre-accident value and the post-accident value. This argument is based on how the Minnesota Supreme Court divides damage to personal property into different categories.
One of these categories involves property that “is completely destroyed and plaintiff asks for the market value of the property at the time of its destruction.” Kopischke v. Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Ry., 230 Minn. 23, 29-30, 40 N.W.2d 834, 838 (1950). Additionally, Minnesota has a long-standing rule that market value is the proper measure of damages for totally-destroyed property, as long as it can be ascertained. See, e.g., Harrow v. St. Paul & Duluth Ry., 43 Minn. 71, 72, 44 N.W. 881, 881 (1890) ( the measure of damages for a destroyed property is market value). An illustration of this occurs in Giacomino v. Tri-State Ins. Co., 595 N.W.2d 530, 532 (Minn. Ct. App. 1999), where the plaintiff’s antique car is totaled and he is given only the market value of the vehicle, minus the salvage costs for $34,000. No extra damages were applied for loss of use.
How Minnesota’s Award Winning Sand Law Can Help You
The skilled car accident lawyers at Sand Law are experienced in handling these issues throughout the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and greater Twin Cities area. The experience of being involved in a severe car accident and suffering severe injuries, as a result, can be harrowing, to say the least. Our attorneys understand that there is a great degree of frustration that comes with dealing with the aftermath of a car accident especially when it involves a rental vehicle that you were driving.
Don’t attempt to handle a car accident injury claim on your own. More often than not, our attorneys will hear the same story about how a car accident victim that was seeking compensation for their injuries attempted a claim on their own and ended up having their claim denied or the value of their settlement significantly reduced due to some mistake they made when communicating with the insurance company or some deadline that they missed. You owe it to yourself to put your case in the capable hands of professionals with a proven track record like Sand Law.