What a week you’ve had! You’ve been in a car accident, but your boss doesn’t want to know about it. You still have to get to work, and the kids aren’t about to walk to school just because your car is off the road. What can you do, and how do you do it? Portland car accident attorneys frequently receive calls from distraught clients wanting to know how they are supposed to get from “A” to “B” without wheels.
The problem is even more pronounced if your family normally has access to only one car. The fact is, the insurance company should provide you with a rental company, but it’s not always that simple. What’s more, if you can convince the insurance company to cough up a rental, it should be a model at least equivalent to your own car. In other words, if you’ve been taking the kids to school in an SUV, they shouldn’t put you into a Volkswagen Beetle as your rental.
Sometimes it’s easier to use your own insurance policy
If you’re lucky—and luck shouldn’t really come into it—and the accident wasn’t your fault, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will immediately accept liability and pay for your rental vehicle for as long as your car is off the road. But the problems come when:
- The at-fault driver’s insurance company drags their heels making a decision or an admission of liability
- The at-fault driver’s insurance company refuses to make any decision or to admit liability whatsoever
- The at-fault driver’s insurance company denies liability (this often happens even when the case is cut-and-dry) and fights your claim
In cases like these, your best option is to check your own insurance policy to see if you have rental coverage. Don’t worry! Asking your company to pay for your rental is not an admission of liability, and your insurance company will let the at-fault driver’s insurance company know that they will be expecting payment for your rental once liability has been established.
But the at-fault driver’s company is refusing to accept liability, and I don’t have rental cover on my policy! Now what?
This is the worst-case scenario, and would certainly warrant you contacting a good motor vehicle accident attorney. Lawyers generally have much better success with insurance companies than individuals do, and they can and will apply pressure on your behalf.
In the meantime, however, you’ll have to foot the bill for the rental. Once you win your case, you will be entitled to recover all the money you have spent on the rental, but in these economically-stretched times, this scenario frequently places an unfair burden on car accident victims when they can least afford it.
If you do find yourself under pressure, get a personal injury attorney on your side as soon as possible after you’ve discovered the at-fault driver’s insurance provider is delaying or denying your claim. In Oregon, statutes of limitations to accident claims apply, and some types of accidents have much smaller windows of opportunity to make claims than others.
The other guy’s insurance company agreed to let me use a rental. How long can I keep it?
Once again, this is a gray area. In most circumstances you should be able to hold onto your rental car:
- Until you receive a check if your car was totaled in the accident
- For a “reasonable” time while repairs are being made to your vehicle
The insurance companies generally use a formula to decide how long they think you should be able to keep the rental car. This is done by using a chart that shows how many days it should normally take to repair your car for the damage caused to it. If the repairs take longer than this, for whatever reason, the insurance company may refuse to continue to pay for the vehicle rental. You then have the options of:
- Returning the car
- Holding onto the car and paying for it yourself
- Claiming back the extra costs you incurred from the insurance company, if you can prove why the repairs took longer than the rental company said they should
Do not accept pressure from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. They frequently tell people that they can only hold onto the rental for a limited period, like a week or two. Document everything they tell you, as well as your response and pass all that information onto your personal injury attorney if you think the insurance company is putting you under unfair pressure to hand the rental car back.
Be Careful – Liability and Insurance Adjusters can be Tricky
It’s very important to remember that whenever an Oregon road accident occurs, no matter how obvious it is who’s at fault, unless there was a police officer around who just happened to see the accident and makes an instant decision, it’s hard to say definitively who was at fault.
Insurance companies could quickly turn the tables on you, even if the at-fault driver initially admits liability. Be sure to tell your own insurance company that you’ve been in an accident, even if you’re positive the other driver was at fault. After that, an insurance adjuster will come to look at your car and decide if it’s a complete write-off, or if it’s worth getting it repaired. This is not a decision you’re allowed to make yourself.
Clearly, getting a rental car is not as straightforward a process as it probably should be. Insurance companies are notoriously slow about admitting liability, and this could leave you without any vehicle while you’re waiting for them to make up their minds.
Your best defense in these cases is to get in touch with a Portland personal injury lawyer who will take care of negotiations with the insurance companies. Let’s face it, you’ve already had a tough week, so let a professional take some of the pressure off you.