Headquartered in Germany, Sixt Rent-A-Car isn’t the biggest name in car rentals in the U.S. The company only began establishing a foothold in the States in 2017, but it’s an international giant with over 2,000 locations worldwide.
Like any car rental company, Sixt maintains a large fleet of vehicles that renters can operate on public roads, and there’s always the danger that one of them will cause an accident. When that happens, however, the victims find themselves facing more than just the usual pain, stress, and expense that come with any traffic accident.
Because of the laws governing rental companies, and the way short-term rental car insurance works, survivors often end up wading through the claims departments of multiple companies, sometimes up to four or five, in search of a settlement no one wants to give.
Below, we’ll go over some of the main challenges you’ll face if you’ve been injured by a Sixt Rent-A-Car driver, how you can get compensation for your injuries, and how a lawyer can help. If at any point you would prefer to speak directly with a lawyer who handles rental car accidents in the Atlanta area, feel free to reach out by phone or chat.
U.S Law Exempts Rental Companies Like Sixt from Insuring Their Own Vehicles
When exploring your legal rights after a Sixt rental car accident, the first thing you need to understand is the Graves Amendment.
In a nutshell, the Graves Amendment excuses rental companies from the duty to insure the vehicles they own. That duty falls instead to each individual renter who uses one of the company’s vehicles.
This makes accidents with rental vehicles quite different from other commercial vehicle accidents, from a legal perspective.
Normally, if you can prove that you were injured in an accident, and that the at-fault vehicle in that accident belonged to a specific company, then that company is automatically liable for your injuries, either directly or through their insurance provider.
Because of the Graves Amendment, that’s not true with rental companies.
This does not mean, however, that rental car accident cases aren’t worth pursuing. If you’ve been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, someone owes you compensation. It just might or might not be Sixt Rent-A-Car.
Rental Companies Are Still Liable for Damages They Directly Cause
Even though Sixt isn’t responsible for its customers’ accidents based on vehicle ownership alone, it’s still responsible for any harm that arises from its own negligence, or the negligence of its employees.
Sixt might be liable for an accident if:
- The accident was caused by a recalled vehicle part, which Sixt failed to repair or replace according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- The Sixt vehicle had safety flaws caused by a lack of standard maintenance, such as bald tires or worn-out brake pads, which contributed to the accident.
- The driver was an on-duty Sixt employee, who failed to handle the vehicle in a safe manner.
- The driver was someone Sixt had reason to believe would not drive safely — a customer who was visibly intoxicated during the transaction, for example.
Unfortunately for accident survivors, renting to a customer with inadequate insurance does not qualify as negligence here. Although rental companies like Sixt are theoretically responsible for making sure their customers are insured, there are no real consequences for failing to do so. The liability does not shift to Sixt if the customer can’t cover it.
That said, just because the rental driver’s personal insurance company claims not to be responsible for your losses, that doesn’t mean that it’s true, or that there are no other possible sources of coverage.
The Complex Gaps and Overlaps in Rental Coverage Make Representation Crucial
Most of a rental company’s customers are not experts on insurance. The task of arranging the ideal level of coverage is confusing, and particularly daunting when the customer is in a rush to get on with a business trip, make the most of a vacation, or replace a suddenly out-of-commission personal car.
Some people try to spend as little as possible on their rental, and cross their fingers that nothing goes wrong. Others seek out as much coverage as they can get, to insulate themselves against bigger expenses in case of an accident.
Either way, when an accident does happen, there’s usually a complicated patchwork of partial or redundant coverage to sift through.
The main sources of coverage to investigate are:
- The driver’s credit card company — Lots of credit card companies provide vehicle rental insurance as a perk. When present, this is usually the best source of coverage. It tends to have fewer exclusions than other forms of insurance, and kick in immediately without the need to exhaust other sources of coverage first.
- Sixt Rent-A-Car — Like most rental companies, Sixt sells Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI) coverage as an add-on for its customers. If the at-fault driver purchased this add-on, Sixt might be financially responsible for your accident, not as a negligent party or vehicle owner, but as the driver’s insurer. On paper, an SLI policy from Sixt covers up to $1 million in damages. In practice, however, policies from rental companies typically have very restrictive terms and do not pay out easily.
- The driver’s personal insurance company — Although auto insurance policies mainly cover a specific vehicle, rather than a specific driver, many personal policies do include some coverage for temporary vehicles that the policyholder rents. Many people aren’t even aware that they have this underlying coverage when arranging a temporary policy for a rental car.
- Your own insurance company — If all else fails, you may need to fall back on the uninsured driver coverage in your own auto insurance policy. You’ll need to prove that there’s no other source of coverage available, however, which can be difficult if the other driver does have one or more policies that are refusing to pay.
With so many companies potentially involved, each one motivated to protect its own interests, it’s especially easy for victims of rental car accidents to end up getting the run-around. No company wants to take responsibility for an expense if it can pass it along to someone else.
For the best chance of tracking down exactly who is responsible for compensating you, and holding them to it, you’ll need a lawyer’s help.
Sixt Has a History of Aggressively Prioritizing Its Bottom Line
For-profit companies can generally be expected to put profits over everything else, including ethics and the law. That said, some companies are definitely willing to go to greater extremes than others.
When a company needs to compete for customer loyalty, in order to keep selling a product or service with a low dollar value as widely and as often as possible, it’s generally profitable for that company to at least appear ethical and caring.
Industries with lower competition, revolving around products and services with a high dollar value that most people need infrequently, tend to be more ruthless. This is the category car rentals fall into.
Sixt Rent-A-Car in particular has been sued over and over again for making allegedly fraudulent charges to its customers’ accounts. Most of these charges have to do with questionable claims of vehicle damage. Other disputed charges include traffic violations that customers say never happened, “junk” administrative fees, and arguably excessive markups on SLI policies.
One customer also reported being pressured into buying a policy from Sixt, which had a large deductible, voided his full coverage from his credit card company, and left him with the nearly $700 bill for a scratch.
While these kinds of issues primarily affect Sixt customers, they’re important for accident victims to be aware of as well. If you’ve been injured in an accident that has anything to do with Sixt, the company’s first priority will be minimizing its own losses, not helping you recover. The odds of improving your situation by appealing to Sixt’s sense of responsibility or sympathy are roughly zero.
What to Do If You’ve Been Injured or Lost Someone Due to a Crash with a Sixt Renter
The presence of a rental car in an accident may change a lot about the process for collecting compensation, but the first steps are much the same as they would be for any other crash.
To protect your health, your finances, and your rights, stick as close to this protocol as you can:
- Pull over and stop. Call 911 to report the accident, and let the operator know what services you will need. If anyone has obvious, serious injuries, request paramedics. If there are potentially hazardous conditions, such as a gasoline leak, mention that as well. Avoid moving injured people, unless it’s absolutely necessary to get them out of immediate danger.
- Make your insurance information available to anyone else involved in the accident, and get the same from the other driver. If you’re aware that the other car is rented, you can ask if it’s covered through a credit card or SLI. If you don’t get this information at the scene, your lawyer can track it down later, as long as the driver’s identity is known.
- Preserve as much evidence as you can. If you feel safe doing so, take pictures of the crash site. Write down what you can remember, and keep a record of all expenses related to the accident.
- Cooperate with healthcare professionals and keep up with the recommended treatment plan for your injuries. If your care does not begin at the scene with a paramedic examination, schedule your own exam with your own doctor as soon as possible.
- Do not allow Sixt or any insurance company to pressure you into providing a written or recorded statement about the accident. Instead, find a lawyer who handles rental car accidents in your area and re-route all communication about the accident through your lawyer’s office.
The Stoddard Firm is well-versed in the complexities of rental car accident liability. We’re also Metro Atlanta locals, so we know the roads and the city traffic laws. We’re deeply passionate about standing up for accident victims and their families, and holding large companies accountable.
We’ll look at liability for your accident from every angle, create a strategy unique to your situation, and handle the process while taking as much stress off your shoulders as possible. We’ll also work with you to take a complete inventory of what the accident has cost you, not only your immediate bills but also your lost income, lost time doing what you love, and potential future impact on your quality of life. This helps us argue for the most complete possible final settlement.
To get started talking to rental accident lawyer today, reach out through our online chat or at 678-RESULTS for a free consultation.