When you’ve just been injured in a serious car accident, your first thought probably isn’t about whether the at-fault driver owns, leases, or rents their car.
Even once you get past the shock and pain of the accident itself and start to think about the financial ramifications, the car’s rental status might still feel like a minor, irrelevant detail. The driver was the one who caused your injuries, so their insurance provider should cover your bills, right?
In principle, yes. In practice, yes, but… who exactly is their insurance provider?
The short-term nature of car rentals means that there may be two or three insurance policies involved, all with their own exclusions and motivations to avoid paying out. Worse, there may be no insurance at all. Then there’s the rental company itself, which might share liability for the accident, but only under very specific circumstances.
Below, we’ll go into detail on why getting fair compensation for a Dollar Rental Car accident can be such an exceptional hassle, and how we can help. If at any point you would prefer to discuss your case directly with a rental car accident lawyer in Georgia, feel free to reach out by phone or chat.
There’s No Guarantee That a Dollar Rental Car Driver Has Adequate Insurance
In the U.S, anyone driving on a public street is legally required to carry liability insurance. Depending on the situation, someone else might be responsible for providing that insurance (an employer insuring a professional driver, for example), but no one is supposed to be driving without coverage for the injuries they might cause to others.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that uninsured driving never happens. Uninsured driver accidents are a serious problem in Georgia. To make matters worse, some personal insurance policies quietly exclude rental cars. So, when a rental is involved, even drivers who believe they’re covered may not be.
Georgia law technically requires car rental companies to make sure their renters have adequate insurance, but it does not hold them financially responsible for the lack of coverage if they fail to do this.
Dollar Rental Car’s website openly states that the company does not require any proof of insurance from customers. It only recommends that customers check with their private insurance or credit card company before renting, to make sure they’re covered.
Most car rental companies, including Dollar, offer their own temporary insurance policies as a strongly encouraged upcharge. However, these policies are not required, and many customers are justifiably wary of rental insurance, for being typically high in price and low on coverage. Rental companies can set their own terms and exclusions, knowing that their customers will be more rushed and less likely to comparison shop than they would be when buying long-term insurance.
In short, if you’re injured by a Dollar Rental Car driver, there’s an alarmingly real possibility that the driver will have no insurance, personal insurance that doesn’t cover rentals, or rental insurance that will refuse your claim for any number of fine-print reasons. In such situations, it’s crucial to seek guidance from experienced Car accident attorneys in Atlanta to navigate the legal complexities and protect your rights.
The Graves Amendment Protects Dollar Rental from Vicarious Accident Liability
In most cases, a vehicle’s owner has a duty to maintain insurance on that vehicle, and to make sure all drivers of that vehicle are insured, either under the vehicle’s main policy or the driver’s own separate policy.
If someone causes an accident while driving a vehicle they don’t own, with the owner’s permission, any victims of that accident have a right to collect compensation from the owner’s insurance.
Under the Graves Amendment, however, car rental companies like Dollar Rental Car are exempt from the responsibility to insure the vehicles they own. No matter how badly a Dollar Rental customer behaves, or how little effort Dollar Rental put into checking that customer’s coverage before handing over the keys, the company has no automatic liability for accidents involving its vehicles.
Dollar Rental Car does, however, have a responsibility to refrain from actively endangering people with faulty products or services.
So, for example, if someone rents a car from Dollar Rental, gets drunk, and then runs a red light and hits someone, Dollar Rental is probably not liable. If, on the other hand, someone rents a car from Dollar Rental, and the car’s brakes fail at that red light, causing a collision, Dollar Rental would be liable for the harm their inadequate maintenance caused.
Dollar’s Emphasis on Debit Card Rentals Makes Life Harder for Accident Survivors
Sometimes, getting fair compensation after an accident with a rental car can actually be easier than it is after an accident with a driver-owned car, for one reason: credit cards.
Insurance coverage for rental car accidents is a surprisingly common credit card perk. Unlike insurance from the rental company, insurance from a credit card company usually offers comparable or even superior coverage to an average individual policy for a personal vehicle.
Policies provided as credit card perks often serve as primary coverage, meaning they can be used immediately, without having to exhaust any other coverage resources first. Others offer excess coverage, meaning they cover the difference if other policies, such the ones sold by rental companies, don’t cover the full value of the damages.
Unfortunately, credit card companies only offer coverage for rentals that were paid for with the card in question. And, whereas most rental companies strongly encourage or even require a credit card for payment, Dollar Rental Car specifically advertises itself as debit card friendly.
It’s understandable, of course, for people to want a rental option that doesn’t require a credit card, and for a company like Dollar to want to offer flexible payment options. Still, the lower odds of credit card coverage, combined with the complications and gray areas around rental car coverage, can make Dollar Rental Car accidents particularly frustrating for survivors.
Dollar Rental Is a Subsidiary of Hertz, with a History of Questionable Corporate Policies
One of the first mistakes most accident survivors make is reaching out to a company connected with the accident — like Dollar Rental Car — in the hope that the company might care about them on a human level and want to help.
Unfortunately, for-profit companies almost invariably prioritize profit over everything else, and the larger and more structured a company is, the lower the odds of human compassion or ethics winning out.
Like most rental companies, Dollar Rental Car is just one part of a larger corporate entity, in this case, Hertz. Specifically, Dollar Rental Car is one of the brands Hertz markets toward customers with tighter budgets. This makes the frequent reports of Dollar taking financial advantage of its customers all the more disturbing.
In 2012, Dollar Rental Car was sued for allegedly billing customers for services they’d refused, including additional insurance. The accusations included forcing employees to systematically lie to customers about how their electronic signatures would be used. That case ended with an undisclosed settlement.
Then, in 2019, the Attorney General of Florida forced the company to reimburse customers for a separate set of allegedly misleading fees, this time for cashless toll booth programs.
More recently, individual customers have continued to come forward with stories of being cheated in various ways by Dollar Rental Car. These include multiple alleged cases of Dollar baiting customers online with deals it refused to honor, trying to substitute less desirable and more expensive vehicles than originally agreed upon, falsely charging customers for multiple vehicles at once, and even pursuing them through collections companies when they refused to pay for rentals they’d neither used nor agreed to.
What does all this mean for victims of Dollar Rental Car accidents? Well, if Dollar can’t even be fair to its own customers for the sake of winning their repeat business, it’s extremely unlikely it will be generous to an accident survivor when it has nothing to gain.
Remember, while a specific accident may be a life-changing event for everyone involved, it’s a routine part of doing business for a rental company. A company as large as Hertz will have standard policies in place to handle every accident as cheaply as possible, usually by simply refusing all responsibility.
In fact, if Dollar Rental Car does offer you anything at all after an accident, be wary. This probably means that the company knows it’s liable for your accident, either as an insurer or as a negligent party, and is trying to avoid a larger settlement later.
What to Do After an Accident Involving a Dollar Rental Car
While the involvement of a rental company like Dollar can complicate your accident claim, at the end of the day, if you weren’t at fault for the accident, you probably have a legal right to compensation from someone.
If the at-fault driver did pay with a credit card that has rental insurance benefits, wonderful. If not, either their personal insurance or temporary rental insurance from Dollar might be legally required to compensate you. If that’s also a no, you might be covered under your own insurance, as if you’d been hit by a driver with no insurance at all.
The key is identifying where the legal liability actually lies, and not allowing the responsible party to take advantage of the confusion. To do that, you’ll need professional legal help.
The moments and weeks after your accident are vital to your case, so for best results, follow these steps as closely as possible:
- Stop at the scene, swap contact and insurance information with the Dollar Rental Car driver, and notify the police of the crash, just as you would after any collision. Ideally, find out if the at-fault driver has any coverage through Dollar or a credit card company. If you’re unaware of the importance of these details at the time, that’s okay. Your lawyer can look into them later.
- Take pictures of the accident site, take notes of what you remember, and continue to preserve all evidence that comes into your possession, including the paper trail of any accident-related expenses.
- Seek thorough medical attention in a timely manner, whether that means accepting an ambulance ride from the scene, or scheduling a physical as soon as your personal doctor is available.
- Avoid direct communication with Dollar Rental Car, all involved insurance companies, and any other entity with financial interests that potentially conflict with yours. Any information or perceptions you share, true or false, could be used against you.
- Contact a qualified rental car accident lawyer in your area. Once you begin working with your lawyer, be sure to re-route all communication relating to the accident through your lawyer’s office.
The Stoddard Firm has extensive experience representing accident survivors in the Atlanta area. We’re closely familiar with local traffic laws, personal injury law, wrongful death law, and insurance law. We accept and excel at legally complex cases, including those involving rental cars. Above all, we’re passionate about holding large corporations to their responsibilities and making sure victims and their families have the resources they need to rebuild.
To get started with a free consultation on your case, call us any time at 678-RESULTS, or reach out through our online chat function.