Sorry baby, I had to crash that Prius.
March 17, 2008 5:36 PM   Subscribe

Do I have to pay $1000+ the insurance co. won't cover?

CarAccidentFilter: Last Thanksgiving we rented a Prius from Dollar Rent A Car to drive from Portland, OR to Idaho. In Walla Walla, WA someone pulled out in front of us on the highway and we crashed. The other driver (18 yr old girl) was cited and I was not. The car was towed to a wrecking yard in Walla Walla (and we rented another car and finished the trip). Luckily no one was hurt.

The other party's insurance co. (Safeco) paid the balance of the cost of the car minus what Dollar RAC received after they sold the Prius as salvage. However, they refuse to pay about $1000 in towing charges because they feel that Dollar was unreasonable in requiring the car to be returned to PDX for assessment after the accident. Safeco told me that Dollar could have had it towed to any number of closer yards where a "field agent" could deem the car a total loss. Dollar tells me that they don't have field agents and they needed to tow the car to PDX because that's where it came from/that's where their office is. Dollar wants me to pay the $1000+ that Safeco won't pay although it sounds like Dollar is correct in requiring the car to be returned to PDX and I think Safeco should be ponying up the rest of the cash. They've already paid over $11,000 and they're sticking me with $1000 in towing charges.

So, my question is, am I on the hook for this? I don't want to fight it too much and incur a bunch of atty fees and interest, but I really don't feel it's my responsibility. I know, YANAL, etc. (unless you are and that would be awesome).
posted by hulahulagirl to Law & Government (16 answers total)
You'd probably have to read that lengthy contract to be sure, but I'd assume the insurance you bought would cover it. It covered the accident, sure, but after that it shouldn't be your concern, it was Dollars choice or requirement that it be towed to a specific yard. I'd fight this.
posted by sanka at 5:42 PM on March 17, 2008

If you bought the extra insurance, that should cover it, unless there is a specific exclusion for towing (which is not unlikely) If you have your own towing service, they might cover it up to their maximum (usually based on some combination of mileage and cost). Your own auto insurance might cover the amount over the deductible. You are responsible for the rest. I know this because it happened to me (not quite that much, but we got stuck with a towing charge and damages on a rental.)

If you don't have auto insurance or towing coverage, yes, unfortunately you are screwed. I am so sorry and will light a candle for you tonight.
posted by nax at 5:47 PM on March 17, 2008

Response by poster: Yeah....well, it sounds like I'll eat it then since I didn't buy their insurance and don't carry my own (we don't own a car). I guess I should be grateful I'm walking away with it for only $1000. It still sucks, though.
Dollar RAC and Safeco can bite me.
posted by hulahulagirl at 6:20 PM on March 17, 2008

I'm not a lawyer. You should read the contract. Seems to me the responsibility lies between Safeco and Dollar; none of the factors that led to the $1000 towing bill was within your control. Your contract may say something different, though.

Do you have a friend or a friend of a friend who is an attorney that could write a letter for you? If not, it may even be worthwhile to pay a lawyer a few hundred bucks to draft a letter to both parties outlining your position.

Did you sign anything absolving Safeco of blame for any injuries you may have suffered in the accident? If you haven't, that could be a bargaining chip.
posted by MegoSteve at 6:35 PM on March 17, 2008

If you paid by credit card, double check with them. Some of them have riders for things like this. It would be worth calling.
posted by 6:1 at 6:37 PM on March 17, 2008

Yeah....well, it sounds like I'll eat it then since I didn't buy their insurance and don't carry my own (we don't own a car).

Wait, what, you drove a car with no insurance (rental agency's or your own)?

Is that legal?
posted by zippy at 6:47 PM on March 17, 2008

Seems this should be between Dollar and Safeco, not you. If Dollar wanted the thing towed to PDX, then either they need to pay, get Safeco to pay, or convince a court to make Safeco pay. None of this was your fault.

How did you manage to rent a car without having or getting insurance? I thought that was a requirement in every state.
posted by SuperNova at 6:55 PM on March 17, 2008

Oh, I guess the actual advice that I didn't explicitly state was that you should either insist that Dollar not hold you responsible for the $1,000 ... or have a lawyer insist upon that for you.
posted by SuperNova at 6:56 PM on March 17, 2008

In most states (well, the two I've rented in), the rental company covers the state minimum insurance.

Many credit cards cover the loss damage waiver, though you probably had to report the accident right away.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:12 PM on March 17, 2008

I think talking to a lawyer would be cheaper than $1000.
posted by bkeene12 at 7:25 PM on March 17, 2008

Both Visa and Mastercard provide rental car insurance if you use your card to pay for it; you don't even need to sign up for anything, it's automatic. I'd check into that first, as it's already paid for (vs a lawyer).
posted by bizwank at 10:18 PM on March 17, 2008

I'm sure this is an overly simplistic view, but it's their car. If they want it moved somewhere, they should be on the hook for paying for it. Less simplistically, who did the towing and in whose name was the towing contract?
posted by gjc at 4:28 AM on March 18, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the input everyone, interesting answers and I will definitely be checking with my credit card company.

Wait, what, you drove a car with no insurance (rental agency's or your own)?
Is that legal?

Rental car co's have never asked to see proof of insurance from me and since I don't own a car I don't have a regular policy. I have never been in an accident (until this one), so I always just assume we'll get there and back safely----wrong assumption. However, I know that a rental car co is not going to release a $20,000 car to me if it's not insured. And all co's are required to provide the state mandated minimum for insurance on rental cars (according to the contract I read). Obviously I'm not the first person who doesn't own a car but needs to rent one. And I doubt very much I'm the first person to refuse their additional insurance.
posted by hulahulagirl at 9:41 AM on March 18, 2008

Best answer: what visa and mc provide is SECONDARY insurance, to be utilized after your primary insurance has been used. now, you already said that you don't carry insurance since you don't own a car, and you didn't purchase the rental company's LDW (something i would never be brave enough to do).

now, what that insurance and does and does not cover is a matter of reading the contract. i did not do the research to find the links again, but it's generally understood that car rental companies hate that default insurance and no matter what, you end up having to pay about $500-1000 for some kind of administrative fee/replacement fee/ripoff fee that you can't get around.

you need a lawyer or someone who can write a letter that sounds like it came from a lawyer AFTER you have read every bit of fine print in your rental contract, anything else you signed about the accident, and your credit card's rental insurance coverage (provided that the card you used to rent the car actually had coverage) making the allegations above. chances are this can be negotiated, but you need to either be able to argue with them convincingly or have someone (they don't even have to be an attorney, they can be a friend who is good at negotiating and sounds formal) do that for you.

Whatever you do, don't not do anything and ignore their demands. Send a letter right away disputing your liability for the fee.

as a point of information: amex has PRIMARY insurance available for $25 per rental. those who do not have car insurance b/c they don't drive might want to look into having an amex just for these purposes. it's awesome.
posted by micawber at 9:43 AM on March 18, 2008

Response by poster: Less simplistically, who did the towing and in whose name was the towing contract?

I only know the name of the yard it was taken to in Walla Walla, not who towed it back to Portland. Which I assume means Dollar RAC would be on the tow contract. ? I will investigate more.
posted by hulahulagirl at 9:46 AM on March 18, 2008

Very confusing -- I used to work for State Farm, and generally the towing coverage we provided only allowed for the car to be towed to the nearest location where it could be repaired, regardless. Same with my VW roadside service. Anything further has to be paid by yourself. But in this situation, I would assume that because it's Dollar that wants the care moved somewhere else, it's their responsibility to pay that fee. Sounds to me you should talk to a lawyer, like others have stated, and see what they say. Best case scenario is you get a free consultation, he tells you he can write the letter for $250, and you're done. Worst case scenario is that he tells you you're on the hook for the $1000.
posted by PandemicSoul at 11:36 AM on March 18, 2008

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