Sunday, March 08, 2009

A question for all you great legal minds...

Here's a law school hypothetical for all you lawyer types that are still reading this.

A woman, let's call her ES, rents a car at a car rental place (let's just say she's on a BUDGET...hint hint) in a remote city in Alaska. She arrives at 11pm. The keys are handed over, but there is no opportunity to check the car for damage as it is pitch black and raining and late. ES drives the car to the hotel, to her work meeting the following day, and back to the airport at 6am on the second day. There is no attendant at the rental car counter, and no one to check the car in. ES leaves the receipt for the gas, the contract, and the keys on the counter.

ES DID purchase the rental damage waiver offered by the company. ES did drive less than 25 miles. ES did not violate any of the terms of the rental contract, such as driving while intoxicated or on non-paved roads.

Approximately 2-3 weeks after her return to her home, ES receives a bill from the car rental company for $500.00 for a scratch allegedly done to the car while she drove it. She disputes the bill, and points out that she bought the insurance offered by the company. She is told that the insurance does not cover "ONE CAR COLLISIONS" and since she doesn't know what happened to the car, it is automatically a one car collision.

ES attempts to submit the bill to the Mastercard that she rented the car with, but is turned down due to the fact that she bought the supplemental insurance.

The national office of the rental car company will not help/get involved due to the fact that this is an independently owned franchise.

The $500.00 bill, which is in dispute, is turned over to collections.

ES obtains the cell phone number of the owner of the rental company franchise and explains the situation. He points out there is no way to know what happened, maybe another car hit her car in a parking lot. ES points out that a situation such as that would be a TWO CAR COLLISION, and thus covered by the insurance. The owner laughs at ES, says he doesn't care is she files a complaint with the BBB, but eventually agrees to look into it...albeit half-heartedly.

The "one car collision" loophole is listed in fine-print on the front of the contract, but is not listed on the back of the contract under the list of conditions that nullify the damage waiver.

ES believes the rental car company is using the "ONE CAR COLLISION" loophole to siphon off every instance of damage onto the consumer versus having to cover it with their own insurance, which would raise premiums and costs, etc. There is no way for the consumer to prove a one car collision didn't happen, nor is there any way for the consumer to investigate the damage as it is only pointed out long after they are gone from Small Town, Alaska.

This blog is sponsored by The Reeves Law Group at 515 South Flower Street, 36th Floor. Los Angeles CA 90071. (213) 271-9318