If a negligent driver injures you while you are driving a rental car, what is your recourse?
And if a negligent motorist injures you while that motorist is driving a rental car, where can you turn for help?
Everyone, of course, already knows that Florida – and particularly the Orlando area – is one of the world’s leading tourist destinations.
Florida’s Department of Transportation tells us that Florida received 113 million visitors in 2016. At any given moment, thousands of rented vehicles are rolling on Florida’s streets and highways.
WHO PAYS IF YOU ARE INJURED WHILE DRIVING A RENTAL CAR?
If you are injured by a negligent driver while you are driving a rental vehicle, who will pay for your medical care? That answer will depend on the answers to two more questions:
1. Who is at-fault for the accident?
2. What does the insurance coverage provide?
Before renting a vehicle, determine if your own auto insurance covers it – your own policy may use the phrase “substitute vehicle” – and determine how that rental coverage may be limited.
DO YOU HAVE SUBSTITUTE VEHICLE COVERAGE?
Most personal auto insurance policies have a “substitute vehicle” provision that covers your use of a temporary vehicle when the vehicle insured by your policy isn’t in “normal use.”
When you have a policy with a substitute vehicle provision, and your rental meets the policy’s definition of a “substitute vehicle,” the vehicle is covered when you drive it as if it were yours.
When determining who pays what after a crash involving a rental car, the first question, as mentioned previously, is “which driver caused the accident?”
WHAT IF YOU’RE INJURED BY AN AT-FAULT AND UNINSURED DRIVER?
If you are driving a rental car, you are injured in a crash, and the other motorist was negligent, in many states, that driver would pay for your own personal injury or injuries.
Determining fault is imperative, and if you’ve been severely injured, it will matter. More about that below.
Florida is a no-fault insurance state, so even if the other driver is at-fault, the first $10,000 of your medical expenses will be paid by your own insurance.
And in fact, to receive more than $2,500 in compensation for injuries, those injuries must be severe, as explained below.
WHAT SHOULD EVERY DRIVER IN FLORIDA HAVE?
It cannot be said strongly enough: Every driver in Florida needs uninsured motorist coverage.
If the other driver was at-fault but has no insurance, you’ll have to file a claim with your own insurer under your own uninsured motorist coverage – so be sure that you have that coverage.
If you’re the at-fault motorist in a crash while you’re driving a rental car, you may be responsible for some damages and injuries, so you must have the right coverage before driving any rental.
IF YOU’VE BEEN INJURED, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO (AND NOT DO)
If a negligent driver injures you in any collision involving a rental – no matter who was driving the rental – discuss your case at once with an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney.
If you’ve been injured, and if any insurance company contacts you, refer the company to your lawyer, who is trained to deal with insurance companies and deals with them routinely.
Don’t admit to anything, sign any insurance documents, or accept any settlement before you’ve obtained legal advice.
Some injury victims settle too soon and for an insufficient amount. Signing a settlement waives your right to take legal action in the future, so don’t – unless your attorney recommends it.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO AT THE ACCIDENT SCENE?
When an accident happens that involves a rental car, handle it the way you would handle any traffic accident. Check for injuries, call for medical care if it’s necessary, and call the police.
Trade insurance information with the other motorist, take plenty of photographs of the scene and the damages, and if there are witnesses, attempt to obtain their names and contact details.
If you are the driver of the rental car, notify the rental company about the collision, and ask the company how to proceed and how the company deals with collisions.
Also – and this is important – even if you don’t think that you’re injured, you should have a medical exam within 14 days after any accident you’re involved in.
Finally, notify your own auto insurer that you’ve been in an accident, but as mentioned above, make no statement and accept no settlement before you’ve consulted your lawyer.
WHAT ABOUT THE INSURANCE OFFERED BY CAR RENTAL COMPANIES?
Car rental companies usually offer collision, liability, and accident coverage, along with other insurance options. If you need to rent a vehicle, consider these offerings and options carefully.
You’ll need some of the coverage offered at the rental counter if your own coverage fails to provide for a substitute vehicle and if the other driver in a collision is at-fault and uninsured.
If you are not sure what coverage you have or need when you rent a vehicle, ask the rental company or your auto insurance agent.
Of course, what’s most important is making certain that you are adequately covered whenever you’re driving in Florida.
HOW CAN A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER HELP?
If you’re injured by a negligent driver in any accident in central Florida, as soon as you’ve been seen by a doctor, arrange to meet with an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney.
Your attorney will review the facts in the case, protect and explain your rights, and work to obtain a fair and reasonable settlement on your behalf.
WHAT IS FLORIDA’S 14-DAY RULE? (IT’S IMPORTANT TO KNOW)
It’s vitally important for residents and for the millions who visit Florida to understand this state’s unique “14-day rule” regarding personal injuries sustained in traffic accidents.
Because Florida is a no-fault auto insurance state, you must seek coverage for accident-related medical care under the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) provision of your own policy.
If you’re injured in a crash, and you do not obtain medical care within the 14 days, you are prevented from using your PIP coverage.
WILL YOU NEED – OR BE ALLOWED – TO FILE A PERSONAL INJURY LAWSUIT?
Will you be able to file a personal injury lawsuit if you are injured and the insurance company does not offer an adequate settlement – even if you complied with the 14-day rule?
You’ll need an attorney’s insights, because every case is different.
Unless an accident victim suffers what the law in Florida calls an “emergency medical condition,” the victim is in most cases limited by law to $2,500 of insurance compensation.
So, whether you are a resident or a visitor to our state, understand that no-fault insurance, the 14-day rule, and the $2,500 “rule” make accidents in Florida unlike accidents in any other state.
And if either motorist is driving a rental car, it’s even more complicated.
DON’T PLACE YOUR HEALTH AND YOUR FUTURE AT RISK
If you believe that your injury qualifies as an emergency medical condition, the right injury attorney will fight aggressively for your rights and the compensation you need.
Some victims will qualify to file personal injury lawsuits. Others won’t.
If you’ve read this far, you have an idea how complicated accident and injury laws are in Florida.
That’s why, if you’ve been injured by a negligent driver in Florida, you must get the legal advice you need without delay. Your health and your future may depend on it.