How To Get Rental Car Reimbursement In Virginia After An Accident

How To Get Rental Car Reimbursement In Virginia After An Accident

How To Get Rental Car Reimbursement In Virginia After An Accident

A car accident can lead to many difficulties in your life, from injuries and medical bills to car repair expenses. Insurance carriers may take time getting back to you on your claims, or refuse to pay them at all. Meanwhile, if your car is no longer drivable, you may find you have to rent one to get to work or other important places. Here are some frequently asked questions about rental car reimbursement coverage:

What Can You Do To Recover Rental Costs After An Accident?

Under Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-66, you can recover a “reasonable cost” that you sustained from renting a vehicle while yours was in the repair garage or while you were shopping for a new one if it was totaled. However, there are some stipulations of VA. statute. § 8.01-66 about what is a “reasonable cost” and balancing restrictions.

Are You “Entitled To Recover Damages?”

A lot of people think they should be able to collect damages, but the insurance company they’re attempting to collect from may not agree. This is complicated by the fact that Virginia state law uses the concept of “contributory negligence” to determine who is or isn’t eligible to recover damages from an accident in general. With contributory negligence statutes, if you contributed to the accident at all, even if you are only found to be 1 percent at fault, you will not be able to collect damages.

This can be a frustrating thing to learn, and it’s also one reason why it’s so important to speak with a Virignia personal injury lawyer any time you’ve been involved in an accident and suffered damages. Insurance company adjusters are always on the lookout for any excuse to deny a claim. If your state has contributory negligence laws, this is often the tactic they will use, claiming that you are not entitled to recover damages because you “contributed” to the accident in some way. 

You should also be wary of speaking with an insurance adjuster, as you may find that they’ve misinterpreted something you said to mean you were at fault! Remember that you aren’t required to talk to the insurance company, and it’s okay to tell them you’re busy and will call them back. Then speak with a personal injury lawyer who can advise you on the situation.

It can be very upsetting to learn your claim has been denied because the insurance adjuster thinks  you were even partly at fault, especially if you don’t believe you did anything wrong. Fortunately, the insurance company’s opinion that you contributed may not be upheld by a judge or jury. A skilled and experienced attorney may be able to negotiate with the insurer on your behalf, reminding them of the evidence in your favor and the cost of a lengthy trial that the insurance company might lose. If your car rental reimbursement claim was denied for any reason, the smartest thing you can do is to call a car accident lawyer for a free consultation.

Were Your Rental Costs “Actually Incurred”?

This is another phrase that may sometimes be confusing, especially since Virginia law doesn’t offer a strict definition of it. However, the language used in the law is generally interpreted to mean that the injured party has to have rented a car and paid for it. So you can be reimbursed for the expense of your rental car, but you can’t claim it as a cost and get the money up front. This is intended to prevent people from collecting the potential cost of a rental car then not renting one.

What Is A “Comparable Substitute Vehicle?”

If you’re thinking that it would be fun to rent a high-priced sports car to drive while your ten-year-old sedan gets fixed, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, state lawmakers have taken steps to prevent insurance companies from footing the bill for “dream car” rentals. Virginia law only allows you to receive compensation for a “comparable substitute vehicle.” However, the law also recognizes you shouldn’t have to drive a smaller or less functional vehicle, either. So if you drive a large pickup, you will not have to settle for a tiny compact car. In general, a vehicle of a similar size and function will probably be a comparable substitute, but it’s a good idea to check with the insurance company that is paying the bill to be sure.

How Long Can I Use A Rental For?

Virginia law permits you to recover the cost of renting a “comparable” vehicle for the time you did not have your own vehicle. This period is required to be “reasonable.” The law doesn’t define a specific time period, but it’s usually considered to be the time your car was being fixed, or the time you were looking for a new vehicle. Again, it may be up to the insurance company to decide what’s a “reasonable” amount of time for having certain car repairs, and you should check your policy for specifics. In most cases, the more extensive the work you need done, the longer it will be expected to take, and more time will be considered reasonable.

Similarly, you can’t expect to be paid to rent a car for five or six months while you look for a new car. Depending on how busy you are and other factors (such as being in the hospital from your injuries in the accident), the insurance company may find 1-2 months appropriate, or they may allow you more time. Again, you should check with the insurance company to learn what they consider a reasonable time period for you to rent a car. If you believe this period is too short, speak with your attorney – they may be able to negotiate with the carrier to get you more time.

What Can You Do If The Insurance Company Refuses To Reimburse You?

Resist the urge to argue with the insurance adjuster – sometimes people inadvertently say things that may make the situation worse. Instead, speak with a Virginia personal injury attorney right away. Virginia statutes say that if an insurer “fails to provide a temporary, comparable substitute vehicle,” and you are otherwise eligible to recover these costs, then the insurance company is required to pay either $500, or double your incurred rental cost, whichever is larger. Your lawyer can help you with recovery of damages for loss of use of your vehicle.

Keep in mind, however, that this is a double-edged sword: If the court decides your lawsuit against the insurer was “frivolous,” or you didn’t pursue it in “good faith,” they may find you liable for the insurer’s legal fees, up to $350. Your personal injury lawyer will advise you on whether or not you have a strong case. If not, it may not be worth the time or expense to pursue in court.

Rental Car Reimbursement vs. Rental Car Coverage 

Rental car reimbursement is different than rental car coverage, which is insurance for your rental car. Rental car insurance will cover accidents that happen while driving a rental car.

If you have questions about a personal injury settlement or case, please contact a personal injury lawyer in Virginia who offers a free consultation, so you can learn more about the ways you can proceed. Your personal injury attorney will be able to make recommendations and represent you in negotiations with the insurance company or in court. Here at Luger Law, we’re always happy to offer a free consultation about your case.