Check car rental policy to avoid problems from auto accident
As a personal injury attorney in Stuart and Port St. Lucie for the past 17 years, I have read hundreds of lawsuits concerning automobile accident insurance. One recent case involved an expensive mistake with a rental car.
Have you ever rented a car and then let someone else drive? Unless you inform the rental car company in advance, your automobile insurance may not cover damages to the car if that other driver is involved in a crash.
That’s what happened in the case of Geico vs. Shazier. Ms. Shazier’s insurance policy with Geico had what’s called a “temporary substitute auto” provision that insured Ms. Shazier if she rented a car. When she rented the car, the rental company asked her if there would be any other drivers. She said “no”.
Ms. Shazier then loaned the rented car to a friend and did not obtain the car rental company’s permission to let her friend drive. Her friend got into an accident and damaged the rental car.
Ms. Shazier filed a repair claim with Geico. When the insurance company investigated the accident, it discovered that Ms. Shazier’s friend did not have the car rental company’s permission. Therefore, Geico denied the claim.
Ms. Shazier sued Geico to cover the claim and she lost. Why? Ms. Shazier was the renter, not the owner and she could not grant permission for someone else to drive. She ended up having to pay for repairs out of her own pocket.
This was a very costly error. If Ms. Shazier had told the car rental company there would be another driver, she would have been covered. If she had carefully read her Geico policy, she would have known that in Florida, you can loan your car to someone else and the vehicle will be covered under your policy. But when you rent a car, you must obtain the rental car company’s permission for another person to drive in order for that same coverage to apply.
If you plan to loan a rented car to someone, make sure you first have the car rental company’s permission. Insurance policies have a lot of fine print and you may think you’re covered. If you’re unsure, read your policy and call your insurance company or agent to address any concerns.