How To Deal With a Car Rental Damage Claim

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Dwayne Coward

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Staff Member
Director
Apr 13, 2016
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St. Louis
#1
We receive a lot of cases dealing with rental car damage claims. In many cases, these claims can be received weeks or months after the rented vehicle is returned.

The fact is that when renting a vehicle, the rental agreement the consumer signs make them responsible for any and all damage to the vehicle during the rental period if the applicable waivers offered by the company are not included. Unfortunately, due to the nature of these claims, without adequate documentation proving that the damage occurred prior or after the rental period, we are unable to mediate these cases on behalf of consumers.

INSURANCE AND FILING A CLAIM.

If you didn't accept the rental companies waiver for damages, or the damage is not covered by their waiver, the first thing that should be done upon receiving a claim for damages is to review any other insurance or coverage. This including any coverage offered as a benefit of the credit card used to pay for the rental. In most cases, especially with coverage provided by the credit card, there is a time limit on when an initial claim must be submitted. Once the initial claim is made, there is usually additional time limits set for providing the documentation need to support the claim. You can let your coverage provider know you plan to dispute the claim, but you still should be aware of any required time limits.

It is important to note here, that rental agreements are written in a way that usually makes the renter responsible for the damage (not the insurance company or benefit providers), therefore, it is in your best interest to ensure that claims are properly filed and followed up on. While some billing services/agencies may take your insurance information and file a claim, still follow up to ensure it was filed and properly resolved within any allotted time limits.

If a third party is involved and you have your own auto insurance policy, due to the complexity of insurance claims, you may want to consider filing with your insurance company and let them deal with the third party's insurance company. In most cases, rental/billing companies will not work third-party claims on your behalf, instead, they may expect you to pay them, and it would be up to you to file a claim directly with their insurance company. Unfortunately, this may require an attorney if the insurance company decides not to pay all of the claims. Obtaining payment from a third party that is not insured will be more complicated and may require some degree of legal action.

OBTAIN REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION

Usually, the claim is going to come from the billing company that provides this service for the rental company. If they have not already provided the following documentation with the claim, it is recommended that you email a request directly to the claim agent handling your claim requesting it. You can let the claim agent know that you plan to dispute the claim with the company, but require the documentation to initial any insurance/coverage claim.

- Their copy of the original agreement and the receipt given to you when you returned the car. (Compare them to your copies to make sure they are identical)

- Time-stamped and dated pictures of the damage

- A picture of the mileage indicator showing the mileage on the car when the damage was noted.(Compare it to the mileage when you turned the car in).

- A copy of the incident report

- Copy of the invoice showing the repair cost estimated repair cost or if the vehicle was sold, the amount it was sold for. Note: Some rental agencies (Avis for example) may sell the vehicle in damaged condition and charge you the difference from the current value vs what it was sold for.

- A copy of the license plate number on the car to ensure it is the car you rented.

DISPUTING THE CLAIM.

Once you have received a claim and the documentation supporting it, if you feel that you are not or should not be responsible, it is time to dispute it with the company. It is best to do this directly with the rental company in writing, including a courtesy copy (cc) to claim company (agent) who sent you the claim. We have listed on our website the company contacts for many of these companies. The following posting on how to resolve consumer issues provides the recommended method to dispute your claim, and appeal it up the executive chain if needed.

https://forum.elliott.org/threads/resolving-consumer-complaints-and-developing-a-paper-trail.8903/

IF YOUR DISPUTE IS UNSUCCESSFUL

Your options at this point will probably be limited to some type of legal action. If the company has already charged your credit card, you may want to attempt a dispute with the bank. Keep in mind, even if you win the dispute, the company can send the amount to collections and place you on their "Do Not Rent" list. This is true if you decide not to pay the claim. Otherwise, depending on the statutory limits allowed in your State, you may want to consider filing your case in small claims court. If not you may want to consult with an attorney to determine your legal options.

A WORD ABOUT FEES.

It is common for rental agencies to charge a variety of fees in association with the claim, the most common being Loss of Use, Diminish Value and an administrative fee. Any charges for these will normally be outlined in the rental agreement, and unfortunately, these fees may not be paid by the insurance/coverage provider. If your insurance/coverage pays the claim minus these fees, it may be worthwhile to try and negotiate a lower settlement with the company. It is not unheard of for companies to accept a lesser amount or drop these claims altogether, though this probably will be at their discretion. Also, you may want to review the State's regulation where the vehicle was rented as some States may not allow or may limit what the company is allowed to charge.

SOME ADVICE ON FUTURE RENTALS.

The following linked post provides some suggestions on how to protect yourself from these types of claims in the future.

http://forum.elliott.org/threads/how-to-protect-yourself-when-renting-a-car.1314/


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Many thanks to Neil Maley, his previous posting on this subject was used as a basis for this one.

If you have any feedback on this post, please send me a note through a forum conversation or you can email me.
 
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