What insurance coverage applies if a client is in the rental car and is injured by an uninsured driver? Which insurance policies apply? Often, our client's own car insurance will provide coverage in any vehicle that our client is operating, and this usually includes a rental car. Also, if for some reason our client does not have a car insurance policy, or if the client's own car insurance for some reason excludes coverage for a rental car, the rental car company will have its own insurance that must apply by operation of most state laws. For example, a company owning a rental car titled/garaged in Virginia is forced by law to have a minimum amount of insurance or the car would be considered an uninsured vehicle and other fees must be paid. So, a typical national rental car company such as Hertz, Avis, Budget, National, Enterprise and so on, would normally have a car insurance policy on every one of its rental cars that would be sort of like a default policy.
In one case we successfully settled, two citizens of Great Britain were visiting Virginia and were traveling around tourist locations. After looking at one tourist site, the husband got back behind the wheel of the car and started operating it along, a winding highway in the Blue Ridge mountains. Unfortunately, he failed to realize that he was in the United States and not Great Britain and he was driving on the wrong side of the road and he caused a crash, head on, with another oncoming car. The husband/driver from Great Britain did not have a car insurance policy that provided him coverage while in the USA. His wife, a front seat passenger, suffered serious injuries and could not work as a schoolteacher back in England for some significant period of time and also had many doctors visits and medical expenses. They found and retained our law firm.
Some people do not realize that most states allow family members to sue each other, and although this is not typically done, it can be the only source of compensation for medical expenses or lost wages. Accordingly, the wife retained our law firm and we advised her she could file a suit against her own husband in the Virginia courts, because this way the rental car company would be forced to apply its insurance to protect/defend her husband, the at fault driver. The rental car company denied that it had any car insurance that applied at first, but we knew otherwise because we assumed that under state law a rental car company was required to have at least a minimum limits car insurance policy. During the course of the lawsuit, we found out that the car insurance company also had an umbrella liability policy that might provide even more car insurance coverage in addition to the basic policy.
In the end, we went from having uncertainty about any rental car insurance coverage to potentially having a $1 million umbrella law policy that applied. The main point of this article is to point out that rental car companies all have car insurance that may apply to personal injury claims when a client was hurt in a rental car and this can be an important source of insurance coverage in the appropriate case. Call our lawyers today or send us a contact form so we can provide you a free confidential consultation.