The period of time following a serious car accident is never easy. Managing the physical injuries and psychological after-effects alone would be difficult enough, but survivors are rarely free to focus completely on those aspects of recovery. Instead, they end up locked in a high-stress struggle over liability and payment.
That struggle gets more complicated when there’s a company like Hertz Rental Car involved, because insurance coverage for short-term vehicle rentals tends to be especially contentious and ill-defined.
Below, we’ll go over several different ways Hertz rental car accident survivors can collect compensation, the most common obstacles, and how we can help. If at any time you would prefer to speak directly with a lawyer about your case, feel free to reach out by phone or chat.
Hertz Offers Rental Liability Coverage Worth $1 Million… in Theory
Customers who rent a vehicle from Hertz have the option of purchasing several forms of temporary coverage. The most important one for the purposes of this article is the Liability Insurance Supplement (LIS), which covers the renter’s liability to others in case of an accident.
As liability insurance from a rental company goes, the Hertz LIS promises fairly impressive protection for motorcycle accidents. It covers up to $1 million in damages, and is classified as primary insurance, meaning that it can be used immediately after an accident, regardless of what other insurance policies are in play. In contrast, most rental companies offer only secondary insurance, which kicks in after all other coverage options have been exhausted.
The Hertz LIS has one serious limitation, however: it’s void if the renter has violated any of the terms of the rental agreement. Most rental companies write similar exceptions into their supplemental policies, making them much more restrictive than the average private auto insurance policy.
For example, if you’re injured by a drunk driver, that driver’s insurance would normally be responsible for covering your expenses. If the insurance in question is a Hertz LIS, however, Hertz will probably be able to refuse coverage, on the grounds that driving while drunk is in violation of the rental agreement.
The full text of Hertz’s rental agreement for U.S customers does not seem to be publicly posted anywhere on the company’s website, but the European version has a fairly alarming clause that forbids the customer to use the vehicle “in contravention of any traffic or other regulations.”
When a driver is at fault for an accident, that generally means the driver caused the accident by breaking a traffic law, either intentionally or unintentionally.
If the U.S agreement is similar, Hertz could try to use this wording to deny that it is ever responsible for covering the damages from a customer’s accident. Either the customer was not at fault, excusing Hertz from responsibility, or the customer was in violation of their rental agreement, also excusing Hertz from responsibility.
It’s important to note that, while an insurer can set the terms of its own policies, there are limits to what exclusions courts will actually uphold, especially when there is an innocent, injured person in need of coverage. Even if Hertz has already told you you’re not covered under the at-fault driver’s LIS, it’s worth checking with a lawyer, to see if you have legal grounds to challenge that decision.
Rental Companies Are Liable for Accidents That Arise from Their Negligence
If the driver who injured you chose not to purchase supplemental insurance from Hertz, or violated the terms of their rental agreement in some egregious way that definitely voids that insurance, there’s still one other reason why Hertz might owe you compensation.
Like any company, Hertz is responsible for making sure that the way it does business doesn’t pose an unreasonable threat to the public.
Under this principle, there are three main types of accidents Hertz is liable for:
- Accidents caused by on-duty Hertz employees.
- Accidents caused by customers Hertz knew could not drive safely (such as those who are already visibly intoxicated while trying to rent the vehicle).
- Accidents caused by dangerously flawed Hertz vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently opened an investigation into Hertz, over that third issue in particular. According to the NHTSA’s public filing in December of 2022, it had discovered evidence that Hertz was renting out vehicles that were subject to safety recalls, without performing the required repairs on them.
Specific allegations involve certain Ford and Nissan models in use between 2018 and 2020, but part of the purpose of the investigation is to determine the scope of the problem.
If there’s a chance that a mechanical failure in the Hertz car contributed to your accident, a lawyer can help you find out if the vehicle was recalled, or if Hertz simply didn’t maintain it properly.
Survivors Who Cannot Collect from Hertz May Have Other Sources of Compensation
Many accident survivors wrongly assume that, as long as a Hertz vehicle was at fault in their accident, Hertz must be financially responsible for the damages.
It’s an understandable guess. In most cases, the owner of a vehicle does have a duty to insure it. It doesn’t matter whether the owner is driving the vehicle when an accident happens, or even whether the owner has done anything wrong at all — the owner’s insurance is responsible for covering the damages if the vehicle ends up at fault in an accident.
This rule applies to companies as well as individual vehicle owners. So, if a Pepsi truck causes a truck crash, for example, Pepsi is liable. Why would a Hertz vehicle be any different?
The answer is the Graves Amendment. The Graves Amendment exempts rental companies, like Hertz, from the duty to insure the vehicles they own. So, if the at-fault driver didn’t pay extra for insurance from Hertz, and Hertz didn’t cause the accident through any specific wrongdoing, then Hertz likely has no legal obligation to cover the damages.
This does not mean, however, that the victims are out of luck. Several other companies may be responsible for providing coverage in these situations, namely:
- The at-fault driver’s insurance company. Many personal auto insurance policies cover rental cars as well as the policyholder’s primary vehicle.
- The at-fault driver’s credit card company. Various forms of travel insurance, including comprehensive rental car insurance, are common credit card perks. If the driver used a credit card to pay for the Hertz rental, the credit company might automatically provide coverage.
- The victim’s own insurance company. If all else fails, plenty of personal insurance policies include coverage for accidents with uninsured drivers. If the at-fault driver doesn’t have any valid insurance for the rental, that makes them an uninsured driver.
In short, if you were injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, someone owes you compensation. Your lawyer can help you narrow down who that is, whether or not it’s Hertz.
For-Profit Companies, Including Hertz, Rarely Take Responsibility Without Pressure
When approaching a liability claim, it’s important to remember that for-profit companies are designed to protect themselves and make money, and the response you receive from them will be calibrated for that purpose.
Hertz in particular is a huge, international corporation, with a long history of questionable practices. Hertz owns both Thrifty and Dollar Rental, the latter of which has paid multiple settlements to groups of customers it allegedly defrauded with misleading fees and flat-out lies.
Most recently, the Hertz brand itself paid $168 million in late 2022 to settle 364 separate claims from customers who said the company had falsely reported them for stealing the cars they’d legitimately rented. Some of the customers reported being held at gunpoint by police, and even imprisoned for months, with Hertz refusing to acknowledge its recordkeeping errors.
In short, Hertz can’t necessarily be trusted to care about the human cost of its actions, or about the letter of the law. For an individual accident survivor, this can mean getting the run-around when calling in a claim that should be covered by a Hertz LIS, as one father and son reported experiencing in January of 2023.
This phenomenon is by no means isolated to Hertz, of course. Most large companies will reject or ignore claims for compensation if they think they can, or offer the smallest amount they think might convince the victim to go away.
For this reason, no matter how simple your situation seems, no matter how airtight your coverage should be, you’ll probably need to work with a lawyer in order to collect what you’re owed.
What to Do If You’ve Been Injured by a Hertz Rental Driver
In the minutes, days, and weeks following an accident with a Hertz rental car, stick to these best practices as closely as possible, for the best chance of fair compensation and a full recovery.
- Stop, swap insurance info, and call 911. This first step is mandatory after any accident in Georgia that results in injuries or more than $500 in property damage. If you feel comfortable doing so, ask the Hertz driver if they purchased insurance through Hertz or have any coverage through their credit card company.
- Take care of your medical needs. If you are obviously seriously injured, ask the 911 operator to send paramedics, and accept their help. If not, schedule an exam with your own doctor as soon as possible to check for hidden trauma. Keep all recommended follow-up appointments, both to support your physical recovery and to establish an official record of your condition.
- Preserve all evidence that comes into your possession. This includes documentation of all expenses and lost income relevant to your accident. If you are physically able at the time of the accident, take pictures of the crash site and write down what you remember about the sequence of events that led to the collision.
- Don’t speculate or share information. Other than notifying police of the accident and sharing your insurance information with anyone else involved, you’re not required to tell anyone anything, certainly not right away. If a representative for Hertz or an insurance company tries to pressure you into making a statement, remember that their interests conflict with yours, and decline.
- Find a qualified lawyer to represent you. Once you have legal counsel, you can re-route all communication through your lawyer’s office, to protect yourself from trick questions, high pressure tactics, and stress.
The Stoddard Firm is committed to protecting accident survivors and holding corporate entities accountable. We’re experts in traffic law, insurance law, personal injury, and wrongful death. We specialize in complex cases, including those involving rental cars and multiple possible insurers, and we’ll do whatever it takes to get our client the fullest possible settlement.
We’re also intimately familiar with Metropolitan Atlanta, including the quirks of local traffic and the laws surrounding it.
To discuss your case with a qualified rental car accident lawyer in Atlanta today, reach out through our online chat function, or at 678-RESULTS, for a free consultation.