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I Gotta Drive: Rental Car Woes

Monday, October 23, 2017


If your car is damaged by the fault of another driver, you are entitled under the law to a rental vehicle for a reasonable time.  The code sets out the conditions for a rental as follows:

  • 8.01-66. Recovery of damages for loss of use of vehicle
  1. Whenever any person is entitled to recover for damage to or destruction of a motor vehicle, he shall, in addition to any other damages to which he may be legally entitled, be entitled to recover the reasonable cost which was actually incurred in hiring a comparable substitute vehicle for the period of time during which such person is deprived of the use of his motor vehicle. However, such rental period shall not exceed a reasonable period of time for such repairs to be made or if the original vehicle is a total loss, a reasonable time to purchase a new vehicle. Nothing herein contained shall relieve the claimant of the duty to mitigate damages.

What is a reasonable time?

The key phrase here is “a reasonable time.” What is reasonable to you and me may not be to an insurance company.  That last sentence about duty to mitigate damages means that you have a duty to do everything necessary to expedite the repair of your car.

Will the insurance company front the cost of a rental?

The insurance company for the person that is at fault in the accident will pay the rental cost up front for you if there is no issue about how the accident happened.  However, those companies love to use the threat of taking your rental car if you do not do their bidding.  Then, they want to tell you that you are only entitled to a set period.  Clients come in and tell me the company said “in Virginia you are only entitled to a rental for 10 days”.  Well, that is not the law.  You are entitled to the rental for a reasonable time for the repairs to be made.

What if my vehicle is a total loss?

If your vehicle is a total loss, then you must take reasonable steps to replace it in a timely manner, but how long is that?  Once again, there is likely to be a difference of opinion between the insurance company and you.  What is reasonable is in the eye of the beholder.

What are my rights if the insurance company takes the rental back?

The insurance company may threaten to take the vehicle back after some period of time.  You have the right to continue to rent the vehicle, but you then must pay out of your own pocket.  Then you can sue the insurance company and a judge will decide if you or the insurance company was correct in what was a reasonable time.  Most people do not have the resources to do that so the insurance company can call it any way it pleases.

How can a lawyer help with my rental car?

A lawyer can help you find your way through this maze.  Call an experienced accident lawyer early in the process and get the help you need.

A. David Hawkins, Esquire