- March 7, 2023
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Car Accidents
When you’re facing the aftermath of a serious car accident, every detail can feel like an insurmountable complication. Your injuries might require more attention than you initially expected, and the task of repairing or replacing your vehicle might involve dozens of little decisions and risk-assessments. In the meantime, your career and family obligations might be stacking up or slipping through the cracks.
If you’ve discovered that the driver who caused your accident was using a rental car at the time, you’re probably wondering whether this will affect your ability to get your expenses covered. The answer is yes, the car’s rental status will affect things — but not necessarily negatively.
Below, we’ll go into detail on how the involvement of an Avis Rent-A-Car may change the process for your accident case, and how we can help you get the compensation you need. If at any point you would prefer to speak directly with a rental car accident lawyer in Georgia, feel free to reach out by phone or chat.
Avis Car Rental is Just One Brand Within a Massive Car Rental Corporation
Like many industries, car rentals are controlled by a handful of mega-corporations, each divided into multiple brand names to target different market segments.
Avis Car Rental is owned by Avis Budget Group. While not the largest car rental company by market share (that would be Enterprise), Avis Budget Group is larger than it looks from a U.S consumer perspective, encompassing Avis, Budget, Zipcar, and several overseas car rental brands.
What this means for the average accident survivor is that Avis and its sister brands are used to receiving a high volume of claims. Their response to each one will probably be standardized and calculated to protect the company’s bottom line above all else.
This doesn’t mean that getting fair compensation for a Rent-A-Car accident is impossible, however. A skilled rental car accident lawyer can help ensure that your individual claim gets the attention it deserves.
The Graves Amendment Shields Avis and Other Rental Companies from Most Liability
In some circumstances, accident survivors have the right to sue the owner of an at-fault vehicle as well as the driver, if they’re not the same person.
The Graves Amendment makes this very difficult though and through an exception for rental companies, protects them from liability for their customers’ mistakes. So, if you’re injured by an Avis Rent-A-Car, you don’t automatically have a case against the company, the way you would if you were hit by another at-fault commercial vehicle, like a Coca-Cola truck.
It’s worth noting that Avis has not always taken full advantage of its legal protection. In February of 2023, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled on a case where Avis had proactively paid over $40,000 to three accident survivors. After making the payment, however, Avis sued for reimbursement from the customer who was renting the car at the time of the accident. The customer could not afford the amount, and the court ultimately ruled that she was not responsible for covering an expense that the company had voluntarily accepted.
The irony is that if Avis had done nothing, liability would likely have fallen to the customer’s insurance company, which would have been much more capable of covering the cost than the customer herself.
Realistically, the average survivor of an Avis Rent-A-Car accident should not expect the company to make the same mistake again. In all likelihood, you’ll only be able to collect compensation directly from Avis if an exception to the Graves Amendment applies.
Those exceptions do exist, however. Suing Avis Rent-A-Car may be a viable option if:
- The company’s negligence contributed to the accident. For example, if the rental car struck yours because its brakes were poorly maintained, rather than because the driver wasn’t paying attention, Avis would be liable for your injuries.
- The driver was not an Avis customer, but an Avis employee, transporting the car for business purposes. Companies that employ people to drive for them are responsible for their drivers’ mistakes, and that includes rental companies.
If neither of these exceptions apply, don’t worry. There are several strong alternatives to suing Avis Car Rental.
Georgia Car Rental Companies Are Responsible for Making Sure Drivers Are Insured
In Georgia, it’s illegal to operate a motor vehicle without carrying minimum liability insurance. It’s also illegal for a rental company to rent a car to an individual in Georgia without checking that the renter has this minimum insurance.
Failure to check for insurance does not make the rental company liable for uncovered damages, but rental companies generally do observe this law, and are more than happy to sell their customers insurance for any eventuality.
Avis Car Rental in particular includes minimum liability insurance as part of its default rental contract in Georgia, and in every other state except for California, Missouri, New York, Texas, and Utah. Customers can also buy a range of coverage options from the company on top of the basic liability insurance.
The trouble with rental company insurance is that it’s often categorized as secondary or “excess” insurance, meaning that it only kicks in when the driver’s personal coverage has already been exhausted.
Having multiple insurance policies covering the same at-fault driver should theoretically make it easier for a survivor to get all of their expenses covered, but in practice, it can make it more difficult to collect from either company. The driver’s personal insurance might try to claim that the rental insurance should cover all expenses. The rental insurance might claim that the personal insurance hasn’t paid enough, or that the victim waited too long to file a claim with the rental insurance while dealing with the personal insurance company.
In situations like these, it’s even more vital than usual to have a lawyer in your corner to help cut through all the deflection and excuses.
Some Credit Cards Automatically Provide Coverage When Used for Car Rentals
In addition to personal insurance and insurance through Avis, drivers who pay for their Rent-A-Car with a credit card may also have liability insurance through their credit company.
This is often the best-case scenario for an accident survivor, because many of these credit cards explicitly provide primary coverage, meaning it can be used without having to exhaust any other resources first.
While some credit card holders choose their cards specifically based on travel benefits like rental liability coverage, others may have chosen them for other reasons and may have no idea this coverage exists. This is another reason why legal representation is so helpful after this kind of car accident — your lawyer can investigate all possible avenues of coverage, and then optimize a strategy to get you the compensation you need.
Even when credit card coverage for car rental liability is only secondary, it’s still another potential resource. That’s important to know about, in case the damages from the accident exceed the limits on the other insurance policies involved. In such situations, a lawyer can help with navigating this extra layer of contractual fine print, to prevent all three insurers from shifting liability onto each other.
Onboard Monitoring Equipment Can Help the Truth Come Out in Rental Car Accidents
Another factor that sets rental car crashes apart from most other traffic accidents is the presence of digital monitoring in modern rental vehicles.
While not required by law, most car rental companies use onboard communication services (like OnStar and its competitors) to monitor their vehicles’ location and status. These services may also transmit some information directly to law enforcement.
In December of 2022, in Hanover, New Hampshire, police responded to an automated crash alert from an Avis Rent-A-Car. When they found the car, it wasn’t clear what had set off the alert, but the driver failed a field sobriety test. Police ultimately arrested her and discovered approximately $25,000 worth of fentanyl pills in the car.
The good news is that, for crash survivors who aren’t at fault, having this extra monitoring equipment involved can help speed up emergency intervention, verify the facts, and strengthen a claim for compensation.
What to Do After an Accident Involving an Avis Rent-A-Car
As with any traffic accident, the first thing to do is stop. This step is always legally required, to avoid running afoul of hit-and-run law.
Next, follow as many of these steps as apply to you, as closely as you can:
- Without leaving the crash site, move your vehicle out of traffic, if you can safely do so. Leaving a wreck in a traffic lane, especially with someone inside it, poses a significant threat to human life — but then, so does moving someone with a potentially serious leg or spinal injury. If moving is dangerous or impossible, be sure to activate your emergency flashers.
- Call 911 to report the accident and request any necessary emergency services. Reporting is mandatory in Georgia for all but the most minor of collisions.
- Collect contact and insurance information from the Rent-A-Car driver, and provide them with yours. You may want to ask about whether the driver has additional insurance through Avis or their credit card. However, if you do not feel comfortable broaching this subject, or aren’t aware of the car’s rental status at the time of the crash, that’s okay. Your lawyer can help you find out these details, as long as you know the driver’s identity.
- If the crash was severe enough to warrant response by paramedics, accept their help. This is best not only for your health but for establishing an immediate record of your condition.
- Record what information you can about the accident. Take pictures of the scene and write down what you remember. Do not discuss fault with the other driver, and do not share any details with insurance representatives, without first speaking with a lawyer.
- Once contact information has been exchanged, police informed, and emergency care rendered, make arrangements to move your car, and leave the scene when ready.
- Seek follow-up medical care, or an initial evaluation if you did not receive one at the scene, and keep all documentation.
- As soon as you feel ready, reach out to a lawyer who handles cases involving Avis Rent-A-Cars. Beginning the process of seeking compensation quickly and professionally can make a huge difference in the outcome, especially when there are multiple possible parties who might be responsible for covering the damage.
The experts at the Stoddard Firm have extensive experience in personal injury, wrongful death, and traffic law. We know how to argue for accident victims in unusual and complex situations, and we never tire of holding insurance companies to their responsibilities.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one because of an Avis Rent-A-Car driver, reach out any time at 678-RESULTS, or through our online chat function, to get started with a free consultation.