Law Office of Lowell Steiger

Car Rental or Loss of Use?

Author: Lowell Steiger

Published On: May 1, 2007

A question that is frequently asked by people who have been in automobile accidents is “What is the difference between rental and loss of use?” Jonathan G. Stein of the California Personal Injury and Insurance Blog answered this question by using the following illustration:

Okay, so your car is damaged in a car accident. You can’t drive it and it is in the shop. You think you are entitled to a rental car (because you read this blog, you know you are entitled to a rental car). But what about loss of use? What the heck do you get?

This is pretty easy. If you were not at fault, the other person’s insurance is going to either pay for a rental car or loss of use. In other words, you cannot collect both. However, if you do not rent a car immediately, you can collect loss of use for the days you do not rent a car.

For example, your accident is on day 1; on days 2 through 5, you do not rent a car; on day 6, you rent a car until day 10. You would get 4 days of loss of use (days 2, 3, 4, and 5) and 5 days of rental (days 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10). Rental is basically what it costs to rent a similar car to what you had. If you had a luxury car, that is what you rent. If you had a Ford Focus, then you rent a compact car.

Loss of use is generally calculated at $20 per day. For some cars, it may be more. It is usually not less. But, the $20 per day number is a good number to start with.

In the above example, you get $80 plus your actual of out pocket rental expense. They will not pay for gas or the extra insurance (which most people do not need anyway), but they will pay for tax and fees.

Source:  “Car Damaged in Accident? – Rental vs. Loss of Use” by David Brannen, published at his Injury Law Blog.

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