If your car is wrecked in a crash there are two possibilities: you were at fault or you weren’t.
If you were at fault then you can get a rental car from your own insurance company IF you have rental car coverage.
If you were not at fault you can get a rental car from the at-fault driver’s insurance. Some state laws require an at-fault driver’s insurance company to provide payment for the «reasonably incurred cost of transportation» or for the «reasonably incurred rental cost of a substitute vehicle» during the time your damaged vehicle is being repaired.
The at-fault driver’s insurance won’t usually authorize a rental car until they can speak with their insured and confirm he was indeed at fault. This can be a problem if their insured is unavailable or if he lies about the crash.
Most companies will pay a flat amount, for example, $20 per day. However, if there are special circumstances that require a vehicle similar to your damaged vehicle, let the insurance company know of those needs to see whether or not they will cover those costs.
You need a car–any car–so argue for a car that is just like yours but right now you need to get back on the road. You’ve got kids to take to soccer practice, and you have to get to work in the morning so «standing on principle» may not be the best approach. You have to pick your battles and right now your primary need is to get mobile again.
If you can’t drive your car after the crash and are not provided with a rental car you may be entitled to money for loss of use.
This will depend on:
(1) the rental value of the car;
(2) the lost income you would likely have earned through using the car; and,
(3) what you spent to decrease your loss e.g. if you rented a car on your own.
It is widely accepted that the right to compensation for loss of use of a vehicle does not hinge upon the owner having actually rented a replacement automobile during the period of such loss of use.
For example, in Hillman v. Bray Lines, Inc., the Colorado Court of Appeals awarded a truck driver compensation for what it would have cost to rent a comparable semi-tractor trailer even though the truck driver did not actually rent one.
And the New Jersey Superior Court in Camaraza v. Bellavia Buick Corp upheld an award of money for loss of use where the car owner suffered inconvenience due to loss of use of vehicle, even though no replacement vehicle was obtained.
But this principle is best demonstrated by a Wisconsin Supreme Court case: Murray v. Holiday Rambler, Inc.
In the Murray case, a purchaser of a defective motorhome sued the seller of the motorhome alleging that he and his family had been damaged by loss of the motorhome’s use.
At trial, the purchaser testified that the motorhome sat idle for several months and that a family motorhome trip to Colorado was cut short by a week because of the motorhome’s mechanical problems. Further evidence indicated that the rental value of a comparable vehicle was about $155 per week.
The court in the Murray case said the purchasers could recover for their loss of use by showing either their actual out-of-pocket expenditures in dealing with the seller’s breach or by showing how much their vehicle would have been used had it not been for the defects, together with the value of that use.
If another driver caused the crash ask his insurance to get you a rental car. If you were at fault get the rental car though your insurance, but only if you have rental car coverage.
If you are entitled to a car from the at-fault driver’s insurance they may not provide it for various reasons. If this happens you may have a claim for «loss of use.» This is true if you can show you would have used the car and how much it would have cost you to rent a replacement. If you lost income due to having no car, then you can prove and recover the lost income.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and you should seek legal advice from an attorney in the state where you live about your specific legal rights.
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