Florida gets millions of tourists each year, many of whom rely on rental cars for their transportation. If you're injured in an accident while driving a rental car, there are a number of special issues to consider during the process of resolving your personal injury claim.
Sources of Compensation for Rental Car Accidents
Typically, the rental car company can't be held liable if you are injured in an accident involving a rented vehicle. The driver of the vehicle is the one held responsible for damage that occurs, unless the case qualifies for two notable exemptions:
- There is evidence that the accident was caused by a mechanical defect the rental car company knew about and neglected to fix.
- Your injuries were caused by someone driving a rental car who shouldn't have been eligible to be on the road. For example, if the driver had a suspended license for multiple DUIs and the rental car company failed to verify the validity of his driver's license before handing over the keys, the company could be held liable for resulting damages.
However, there may be several sources of insurance:
- Rental car company insurance. If you opted for coverage, this insurance will be the primary payer of damages up to the limits of the policy you purchased.
- Your own car insurance. Many, but not all, personal auto insurance policies provide rental car coverage. This can act as the primary insurance if you didn't buy the policy from the rental car company or as a secondary insurance if the rental car company's insurance won't cover all your damages.
- Credit card company coverage. Credit card companies sometimes provide automatic rental car coverage if you use the card to pay for the rental transaction.
Unfortunately, if your damages exceed the limits of available coverage or you don't have appropriate insurance to fall back on, you can be left with significant out-of-pocket expenses from a rental car accident.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
As you're investigating sources of coverage, keep in mind that Florida is considered a no-fault state when it comes to auto accident insurance claims. This means you can't file your claim with another driver’s insurance company, even if he or she was 100 percent at fault for the accident.
The only way you can pursue compensation from the at-fault driver is if you have serious or permanently disabling injuries. If your injuries meet this standard, you can pursue compensation via a personal injury lawsuit.
When you've been left with serious or permanently disabling injuries, you can seek compensation even if you were partially at fault for the accident. However, your settlement will be proportionally reduced by your assigned percentage of fault. This is referred to as the "pure" comparative fault rule.
If you are eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit, acting quickly is important. Although Florida has a four-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims involving car accidents, locating evidence to prove liability can be more difficult as time passes.
4 Steps to Take Following an Accident Involving a Rental Car
The most important thing to remember if you're involved in a rental car accident is to keep your cool. If you keep a level head, you can take a few simple steps to protect your right to compensation.
- Call 911 to report the crash to the police, asking for an ambulance if there are people who need immediate medical attention.
- Report the crash to the rental car company to determine what should be done with the damaged vehicle.
- Document the accident by quickly jotting down your memories of how it happened. If appropriate, get the names and contact information for witnesses. You may also wish to take a picture of the scene with your cell phone.
- Contact an attorney. Obtaining a fair settlement after a car accident can be confusing even when you're driving your own vehicle. Accidents involving rental cars complicate an already tricky situation, which is why it's important to seek legal representation as soon as possible.
An experienced attorney can help you obtain a fair settlement by determining liability, documenting damages, and negotiating with the appropriate insurance company representatives on your behalf. Call Cullen & Hemphill, PLC, today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. We help clients in Orlando, Winter Park, and across Central Florida receive the compensation they need to move forward with their lives after suffering auto accident injuries.