Thrifty Car Rental is one of lower-end brands owned by the vehicle rental corporation, Hertz. As with any rental brand, Thrifty’s rental cars sometimes end up at fault in accidents. And, as with any rental brand, the question of who covers the cost of these accidents isn’t always well-planned in advance.
Below, we’ll go over some of the legal challenges of rental car accidents, reasons you might have a case against Thrifty Car Rental, and some other possible ways of covering your losses after a Thrifty Car Rental accident. If at any time 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.
Rental Companies Like Thrifty Are Not Financially Responsible for the Cars They Own
Most companies (and individuals, for that matter) are legally responsible for accidents caused by vehicles they own. It doesn’t matter whether the owner did anything wrong. A company might hire a qualified professional driver, or an individual might loan a car to a trusted friend, with no reason to believe that they pose a danger to anyone on the roads. Yet if that driver does cause an accident, the damages are still the owner’s responsibility.
The reason for this is that auto insurance policies are more closely tied to a particular vehicle than a particular driver, so it’s considered the owner’s duty to either maintain liability insurance on their vehicle, or keep it off the roads. In cases involving motorcycle accidents in Atlanta, it’s crucial to consult a skilled motorcycle accident lawyer in Atlanta to protect your legal rights and seek compensation for your injuries.
Car rental companies like Thrifty are an exception to this rule. Under the Graves Amendment, rental companies are not responsible for insuring the vehicles they own while they’re in the hands of a renter. Technically, rental companies are supposed to make sure their renters have insurance, but there is no real consequence for failing to do so.
Basically, when someone causes and accident with a rental car, the law treats the at-fault driver as if they, instead of the rental company, were the car’s owner.
This does not mean, however, that there’s never a good, legally sound reason to sue Thrifty Car Rental or brands like it. Reasons can exist. Ownership of an at-fault vehicle just isn’t one of them, at least, not on its own.
Thrifty Car Rental Is Liable for Harm Caused by Its Own Negligence
Thankfully for accident victims, the Graves Amendment is not a free pass for car rental companies to endanger the public however they want with no accountability. Even though Thrifty is excused from the usual financial responsibilities of vehicle ownership, it can still be held liable if its own behavior contributes to an accident.
Some of the most common ways car rental companies cause accidents and open themselves up to lawsuits include:
- Operating vehicles unsafely between rental periods (employee joyriding, for example).
- Failing to perform adequate safety maintenance, such as replacing tires and brake pads.
- Ignoring manufacturer recalls warning of underlying safety flaws.
- Renting to customers the company has reason to believe will not drive safely.
Car rental companies choosing to prioritize closing a sale over protecting public safety is a serious and common problem. Performing maintenance on vehicles costs money and takes the vehicle out of rotation, which loses the company more money. And because renters typically take on more liability than the rental company, there’s very little incentive for the company to turn away a potential customer.
In 2020, a woman accused Thrifty of contributing to injuries she had sustained during a high-speed chase in Charleston County, South Carolina, some years earlier. She was a passenger in a Thrifty vehicle, when the driver refused a traffic stop and fled police at speeds reaching 120 miles per hour. The chase ended with the car crashing into a wooded area and catching on fire. The woman argued that Thrifty was responsible, because it had allowed the driver to rent the vehicle using someone else’s ID.
The same year as the woman’s complaint, another driver using a Thrifty vehicle crashed into a Mercedes dealership in Bradford, England, while participating in an illegal racing event. That driver was also unlicensed.
As similar as those two incidents seem, however, there’s one vital difference: the driver in Bradford did not rent the Thrifty vehicle directly. A woman he knew apparently rented and allowed him to borrow it, knowing that he was not included on the rental agreement.
That kind of detail can make the difference between liability or no liability for a company like Thrifty. Car rental companies have a duty to respond to warning signs about renters that fall into their laps — such as a renter not having their own driver’s license — but they are not responsible for proactively vetting customers or reading their minds.
If you’re not sure whether Thrifty had an obligation to help prevent your accident, a lawyer can help you pin down these distinctions.
Renters Can Choose to Purchase $1 Million in Liability Insurance from Thrifty
It’s standard practice in the car rental industry to offer a few different forms of optional coverage, which renters can add onto their contracts for an extra fee.
From the perspective of someone injured by a Thrifty renter, the most important of these options is what Thrifty calls a Liability Insurance Supplement (LIS). This kind of policy goes by different names at different companies, but the concept remains the same.
If a renter purchases an LIS, it means the rental company is assuming responsibility for the harm the driver might cause to others while operating the vehicle, with certain caveats.
Thrifty’s LIS terms are more favorable to victims than most. The dollar limit on the coverage is a full $1 million, and there’s no requirement for the victim or renter to exhaust other possible sources of coverage before turning to Thrifty.
However, virtually all LIS-type policies share one serious drawback. They’re void if the renter has violated any part of the rental agreement. Violating the rental agreement might mean allowing an unapproved driver behind the wheel, driving drunk, or even something that has nothing to do with the accident at all, such as smoking inside the vehicle.
Some rental agreements are so meticulously strict that it’s practically impossible to use the vehicle, let alone crash it, without giving the rental company a reason to deny coverage.
Thankfully, there are limits to the coverage exclusions courts will actually uphold, so it’s worth checking with a lawyer, even if Thrifty has already told you that the at-fault driver’s LIS is void.
If Thrifty Is Not Liable for Your Losses, There Are Other Options
When a big brand name like Thrifty/Hertz is connected with an incident that injured you through no fault of your own, it’s natural to hope for that particular company to end up footing the bill. Large companies have the ability to pay for fair settlements. They have entire departments dedicated to handling legal matters as a part of everyday business. They wield enormous power over the safety of thousands of people, not just those involved in one particular accident, and that power should come with accountability.
It’s important to recognize, however, that your options for covering your losses aren’t necessarily limited to suing Thrifty, suing an individual driver who may not be able to afford it, or eating the cost yourself.
In most rental car accidents, there are more parties involved than just the drivers and rental company — and some of them are similarly large and powerful companies.
If it turns out that Thrifty isn’t legally responsible for your accident, either as a negligent party or as an insurer, you may be able to collect compensation from:
- The renter’s personal auto insurance company. Even though auto insurance policies mainly follow vehicles, many of them do allow the policyholder to rent additional vehicles with the same or similar coverage.
- The renter’s credit card company. If the at-fault driver used a credit card to pay for the rental, the credit company may provide liability insurance as a perk. Rental insurance through credit cards is surprisingly common and usually more comprehensive than insurance through the rental company itself.
- Your own personal insurance company. If all else fails, that’s when it’s time to fall back on your own uninsured driver coverage.
It’s also important to remember that each of these companies exists to make a profit. Just because a company has sold you or the at-fault driver a promise of coverage does not mean that it will fulfill that promise voluntarily. Most insurers will try to lowball victims if they can, even at the best of times. In a situation with multiple possible insurers, it’s especially common for each one to try to pass the responsibility to the others, regardless of what the law or the policies say.
Working with a lawyer can help you avoid the runaround, figure out who’s really responsible for compensating you, and hold them to it.
What to Do If You’ve Been Injured by a Thrifty Car Rental Driver
There are a few things you’ll need to do immediately after any serious car accident in Georgia, in order to stay on the right side of the law, protect yourself physically, and set yourself up for the best chance at a fair settlement.
If you initially treat your accident with a Thrifty car the same as you would any other wreck, you’re already off to a good start, but if you’re up to it, you can also ask a few extra questions about the car’s ownership and possible insurers.
For safety and the smoothest path forward, follow these steps:
- Pull over if you can, and stop. The goal is to minimize the danger of further collisions, without abandoning (or appearing to abandon) the existing crash site or the other involved parties.
- Make a quick assessment of your physical condition and the condition of others. If there are any visible injuries at all, or even property damage that appears to be worth more than $500, you must call 911 to report the accident. If injuries appear serious, specifically request a response by paramedics.
- Make your insurance information available to anyone involved in the crash, and request the same from the other driver. If you know the other car is a Thrifty rental, this would be the moment to ask if the other driver has coverage through a credit card or an LIS.
- If you feel safe and well enough, take pictures of the crash site to keep for your records.
- Cooperate with all health care advice, and keep a record of your diagnoses and expenses. If you do not receive hospital care immediately following the accident, schedule an exam with your own doctor to check for internal injuries.
- Reach out to a lawyer in your area with experience representing victims of rental car accidents. Until you have secured representation, do not make any statements to Thrifty or any insurer. These can be used to weaken your case, even if you did nothing wrong.
The Stoddard Firm has experienced professionals who know traffic law, insurance law, personal injury law, and wrongful death law inside and out. We understand how complex rental car accident cases can be and how to handle them.
We’ll investigate the cause of the accident and the terms of all relevant contracts, to optimize our strategy and get you the best settlement. Our top priority is helping our clients recover from their ordeals with all possible support, peace, and comfort. To that end, we’ll work closely with you to take an inventory of the damages to your finances, health, and quality of life, to help determine what full, fair compensation truly means in your case.
To get started discussing your options with a rental car accident lawyer in the Atlanta area, reach out at 678-RESULTS or through our online chat function for a free consultation.