Car hire accident - advice ? - TrevorH
My wife hired a car through a well known car hire company for a fortnight, paid a deposit which, as it was explained to us, would be our maximum exposure should any loss occur.

Some days later she is in a queue of stationary traffic in a multi-storey car park. Someone reverses out of their space into the side of the car. She collected the other driver?s insurance details but neglected to take any witness details. All this was passed on to the hire company the same morning. We return the car some days later and told the deposit would be withheld until fault was determined. Fair enough, we thought, it should be cut and dried.

Fast forward two weeks. A letter arrives from the car hire co saying we will be presented with a bill for the repair as well as consequential loss of earnings whilst the hire car is off the road.

Whilst it appears to be a standard letter and possibly sent in error (the contact at the car hire co is on holiday) I am mindful that chasing a big hire company for cash through legal channels could well result in more loss. Are we at liberty to chase the other driver for any loss incurred by us, regardless of whether the car hire co is in the wrong or not? We will no doubt contact the other driver to see if she has already coughed up to the car hire co for the loss. I wouldn?t put it past them to extract money from as many parties as possible.

Advice anyone?
Car hire accident - advice ? - mmm-five
Check your contract very carefully, especially around the boxes that have your signature/initials as there may be a clause on there that says the opposite of what you were told/understood at the time.

I've been through something similar and refused to pay on the basis that I had not signed the damage waiver - which basically says that you refused the offer of their extended insurance scheme (at extra cost of course, almost the same price as the daily hire charge).

Even though I hadn't paid any extra, the fact that I had not ticked this box meant that I had the right to assume that the extended cover was in place and therefore not liable to anything other than the agreed excess.
Car hire accident - advice ? - TrevorH
I take your point and, yes, a re-read of the contract will be required when I get home.

However, even if the contract says we are liable regardless of whose fault, I must be free to chase the other driver for our loss to the car hire company - even if it turns out her insurance may already have paid out. What about the affect on my wife's own private insurance? She is required to tell them but is this regarded as a claim?

I can't help feeling we are held hostage by the hire co. They are not in the business of determining truth, just the cost effective extraction of cash. It is easier to recover the loss from us - they have part of it already in the form of a deposit - and maybe they think a stern letter would have us cave in and pony up the difference. Easier than dealing with a 3rd party and their insurers.
Car hire accident - advice ? - daveyjp
The 'consequential loss of earnings' could be dodgy. From what I remember from my contract law lectures you can only reclaim such costs if you can prove these losses. e.g. If you have a contract to perform a task and need a piece of equipment from a third party and you make it clear to the third party that the equipment is needed to perform this contract and the third party fail to deliver you can sue them for the losses incurred in you not being able to perform your part of the contract for your customer. If they fail to deliver the equipment and as a result you miss out on bidding for a contract you can't sue as you were unaware of this potential loss when you placed the equipment order. The hire car company have to prove that the car involved in the accident would definately have been used and as a result have suffered financially. I suspect a big hire company will never be in a position where every car is on hire so they haven't suffered a loss of earnings whilst one car is being repaired.
Car hire accident - advice ? - DavidHM
Yes, Davey - but they only have to show this on the balance of probabilities. They don't have to show that the car would definitely have been used, only that the loss is reasonably foreseeable. They must of course mitigate their loss - they can't insist that you pay for the car for a month until they feel like getting it repaired.

Furthermore, a bit of deft drafting means that the car is actually hired out to you, for your use (maybe via any insurance that you've agreed) while it is being repaired, even if you can't actually drive it, although this could prove tricky to actually enforce.

However... you can still claim back all this via the other driver's insurance. In agreeing to pay for any damage, even if it is not your fault, you have not given people carte blanche to drive into the hire car and bill you. You have merely signed an indemnity agreement with the hire company, and if they claim their losses from you, you are then put into the hire company's position and you have the right to sue the party that caused you loss - i.e., the other driver.

Of course, before you sue, you just contact the insurance company, provide evidence of your own loss, and they pay up. Will it count as a claim? Almost certainly, depending on how your policy documents are drafted, but it won't cause your wife to lose her NCB. She may find that her premium increases by literally a few quid because of the incident, but she won't suffer serious financial loss in that respect.
 

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