Enterprise is the single largest car rental company in the U.S, with hundreds of thousands of vehicles in operation. Even under ideal conditions, that adds up to a lot of Enterprise Rent-A-Car accidents.
Enterprise has plenty of experience keeping its claims-related costs down, but thankfully, the Stoddard Firm also has plenty of experience making sure accident survivors get the compensation they’re owed.
Below, we’ll go into detail on several possible ways to collect compensation after an Enterprise rental car accident, and the obstacles you might face along the way. If at any point you would prefer to speak directly with a lawyer about your case, feel free to reach out by phone or chat.
Being Injured by a Rental Car Is Not Like Being Injured by Any Other Commercial Vehicle
In most situations, the owner of a vehicle is responsible for insuring it, and the insurer is responsible for the harm to others if that vehicle ends up at fault in a truck crash accident. So, a person hit by a FedEx truck can seek compensation from FedEx, a person run off the road by a Walmart truck can seek compensation from Walmart, etc.
It doesn’t work that way with car rental companies. Under the Graves Amendment, companies like Enterprise are exempt from the responsibility to insure their vehicles, and that responsibility falls to the renter instead.
That’s how it’s possible to end up with situations where a hit-and-run victim witnesses a marked Enterprise vehicle causing the accident, even records video evidence, but still can’t collect any compensation without a clear shot of the license plate to trace to an individual customer. This scenario is not uncommon in motorcycle accidents, where the dynamics of visibility and evidence collection can significantly impact the outcome..
The recent publicized instance of this was in England, but the result would have been the same if it had happened here in Georgia. By default, Enterprise has no legal responsibility for how its customers use its vehicles.
This means, in order to get compensation for your accident with an Enterprise vehicle, your lawyer will either need to investigate the individual renter’s insurance coverage, or prove that Enterprise itself did something quantifiably wrong.
The Rules Are Different If Enterprise Is Guilty of Negligence
Although Enterprise is not generally responsible for how customers use its vehicles, it is responsible for its own safety policies and the actions of its employees.
For example, in 2004, an Enterprise vehicle drifted into oncoming traffic in Capitola, California. Both people inside the rental car were killed. The cause of the accident turned out to be a leak in the car’s power steering fluid. The car was subject to a recall at the time, specifically because of the problems with its power steering. Enterprise had not taken the car out of circulation or performed the necessary repairs. The deceased driver was the fourth person to rent the car since the recall was issued.
That family successfully sued Enterprise for $15 million. If the occupants of the other car had been seriously injured, they would have had a strong case as well.
Of course, Enterprise’s negligence, or lack thereof, isn’t always as clear-cut as that.
In Florida in 2013, a man rented an Enterprise vehicle and got into an accident, which killed his sister and caused permanent injuries to his mother. The man went to jail for DUI and vehicular homicide. While incarcerated, he sued Enterprise, arguing that the company was negligent for renting to him. He stated that, at the time when he rented the car, he had an open arrest warrant, no valid driver’s license, and was already so visibly intoxicated that he could barely stand.
Obviously, no matter what happened at that Enterprise rental location, it doesn’t erase this man’s own responsibility for the accident. His case against Enterprise was ultimately dismissed in 2022. However, if his account of events is accurate, Enterprise certainly has a lot to answer for. An innocent victim of the accident, or their next-of-kin, might have been able to sue the company successfully for the same alleged lack of judgment.
There was another incident in Florida, in 2022, in which a 96-year-old woman struck a pedestrian with her Enterprise rental, while making an improper turn. The woman kept driving, and then reportedly tried to run over a witness who pursued her on foot. The pedestrian survived in spite of a brain bleed and multiple broken bones. When the woman turned in her rental, and Enterprise employees asked her about the front-end damage, she reportedly confessed that she had hit a pedestrian and run away. In spite of this, it took over three months for police to arrest her. Whether Enterprise filed a report is unclear.
In that case, Enterprise might not have known that renting to this woman was unsafe. The initial transaction could have been unremarkable. Once she revealed that she had committed a felony with the vehicle, however, Enterprise had a duty to preserve the evidence. The company should also have taken steps to minimize any future danger to others, such as by putting the woman on a do-not-rent list and performing a full safety inspection of the damaged vehicle before making it available to other customers. If Enterprise failed to do any of these things, thereby making matters worse for the victim or putting more people at risk, that would count as negligence.
If your grievance with Enterprise goes beyond their simple ownership of the at-fault vehicle in your accident, it’s possible you have a case against them.
Some Personal Insurance Policies Cover Rental Cars
Assuming Enterprise didn’t negligently contribute to your accident, collecting compensation will come down to determining which insurance policy the accident falls under, and holding that insurance company to its responsibilities.
If you and the at-fault driver exchanged insurance information at the scene, you might already know which company provides their everyday personal auto insurance. Under normal circumstances, this would be the right policy to cover your accident. It still might be, but not necessarily.
Coverage for rentals varies from one personal auto insurance policy to another. If the at-fault driver’s policy doesn’t cover rentals, getting compensation becomes more complicated. However, there are other possible avenues to explore.
Enterprise Sells Its Own Insurance, but It’s Optional and Limited
The next source of insurance that might come to mind is Enterprise itself. Like most rental companies, Enterprise offers a supplemental liability policy (SLP) as an optional upcharge whenever a customer rents a vehicle. Unfortunately, these kinds of add-on insurance policies can be some of the trickiest to collect on.
In theory, rental companies operating in Georgia are required to make sure their customers are adequately insured to drive. In practice, however, this law is largely unenforced, and the rental companies are not financially responsible for the consequences if they fail to do this.
On its website, Enterprise explicitly denies all responsibility for preventing its customers from being overcharged, underinsured, or even both.
In the company’s own words, “Enterprise is not qualified to evaluate the adequacy of the renter’s existing coverage; therefore, the renter should examine his or her personal insurance policies or other sources of coverage that may duplicate the coverage provided by SLP.”
Insurance provided by rental companies is usually “secondary” coverage, meaning that all other avenues of compensation must be exhausted before this one can be used. These policies may also have more exclusions than other forms of auto insurance. For example, the policy might be void if the renter violated the terms of the rental agreement, such as by driving drunk.
For all of these reasons, many renters opt not to add an SLP at all, deciding that the limited coverage is not worth the high price.
Still, it’s always worth investigating whether your accident is covered under Enterprise-provided insurance, especially if other coverage is looking scarce.
Many Credit Card Companies Offer Comprehensive Rental Insurance as a Perk
The at-fault driver’s credit card company may not be the most intuitive source of compensation, but when this option applies, it’s ideal.
Credit cards marketed toward frequent travelers often come with various forms of travel insurance, including liability insurance for rental cars. If the at-fault driver in your accident paid for the rental with a card that has this perk, the credit company should cover the damages.
Unlike insurance provided by a rental company, credit card travel insurance usually provides “primary” coverage, meaning that it can be used as a first resort, rather than a last resort.
Of course, it’s important to remember that credit card companies, just like rental companies and insurance companies, still exist to make a profit. Credit card companies may offer some of the best terms when it comes to rental coverage, but it’s never a guarantee that a company will willingly comply with its own terms, when it has a financial incentive not to.
In 2016, one Enterprise customer reportedly struck a stalled vehicle, seriously damaging the rental. The customer had travel insurance through American Express that should have covered his own losses as well as any he might cause to others. American Express acknowledged this but disagreed with Enterprise on the exact value of the damages, refusing to pay about $3,500 of the nearly $14,000 claim. Enterprise took the customer to collections for the remainder, and the customer had to get the press involved to convince American Express to pay.
This sort of complication is exactly why it’s so important to have a good lawyer in your corner, even when getting coverage seems like it should be easy.
What to Do After an Accident with an Enterprise Rent-A-Car
When you’ve been hurt in a traffic accident that wasn’t your fault, you deserve to be compensated for your bills, lost income, and pain. The fact that an Enterprise Rent-A-Car driver caused the accident doesn’t change that. It just makes the question of who should compensate you a little more complicated than usual.
Having multiple possible sources of coverage can end up being a good thing. Your damages might end up hitting the upper limit of what one policy will pay, but still be covered under another. At the same time, having several different companies involved also makes it easier for each one to claim that your accident is someone else’s problem.
For the smoothest, fullest recovery, follow these steps as closely as you can:
- Stop, exchange insurance information, and call 9-1-1. These steps are mandatory after any serious traffic accident in Georgia. If you know at this point that the at-fault vehicle is an Enterprise rental, ask whether the driver purchased any extra insurance or has rental insurance through a credit card. If not, your lawyer can follow up on this at a later point.
- Get a medical exam as soon as possible. If you have obvious, severe injuries, accept an ambulance ride to the hospital. If not, schedule an appointment with your own doctor to check for hairline fractures and other subtle but potentially serious injuries.
- Gather and preserve as much evidence as possible. This starts with pictures of the accident scene, and continues with thorough documentation of your expenses related to the accident.
- Refuse to discuss the incident with Enterprise or any possible insurance providers until you have secured legal counsel.
- Reach out to a lawyer in your area who has experience specifically in rental car accidents.
The lawyers at the Stoddard Firm know the challenges that come with rental car accident lawsuits, and how to overcome them. We’re experts in insurance law, traffic law, personal injury, and wrongful death. We’re passionate about making sure accident victims get the support they need to recover, and when it comes to making sure big companies live up to their legal obligations, we don’t take no for an answer.
To speak with a rental car accident lawyer today about your specific case, just reach out through our online chat function, or at 678-RESULTS.