Knowing your rights after a car accident

Wade Coye, Accident & Injury Attorney

Friends and family sometimes ask me for tips and tricks on processing insurance claims if they are involved in an auto accident. Typically, people are most concerned with getting their vehicle repaired, and so I remind them that if they’ve been hit by someone, the other person’s insurance isn’t just responsible for covering the cost of damage to the vehicle, but also potentially the vehicle value lost, and the loss of use while the car is being repaired.

It is your right as the consumer to take your car to any repair shop you prefer, rather than one the other person’s insurance company recommends. The at-fault driver’s insurance company should pay for repairs as long as the cost at the shop you choose is reasonable. Since the insurance company is also responsible to compensate you for the loss of use of your vehicle, this is sometimes handled by offering to rent you a car. This doesn’t mean that you can rent an expensive sportscar with the insurance company’s money, but it does mean you are entitled to rent something comparable to your damaged vehicle. For example, my pick-up truck was totaled when I was struck at an intersection and the other party’s insurance offered to provide me with a compact car rental. However, I needed a pick-up, and reminded the insurance company that they were required to provide me with a comparable vehicle, similar to the one that was damaged. (Needless to say, after discussing the situation with a supervisor the company provided a comparable rental vehicle.)

Unfortunately, renting a car can be a devilish detail if the driver of the car being repaired is under 25 years of age. Most rental companies will charge an insurance premium for an under-25 driver, but it does happen that young adults are involved in accidents and find themselves needing access to a vehicle until theirs is repaired. When my daughter was attending the University of Florida, she was the victim of an auto accident when she was struck by another driver. Luckily, there was only property damage, but the insurance company was hesitant to compensate her at a rate that took into account the fact that she was an under-25 driver. Depending on the car and the company, the rate to rent a car can be twice as much for a driver under 25. The bottom line is that she needed a car for transportation to work and school, and the insurance company was required to compensate her for being unable to use her car.

Typically, it is more convenient to process a claim for the loss of use of your vehicle through the insurance directly, rather than renting a car on your own and requesting a reimbursement. Knowing your rights during an accident claim can help you receive all the benefits to which you are entitled, including compensation for property damage, loss of use, and diminished value of the vehicle.

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