Car crash victims say they had to pay for rental upfront, even though other driver was at fault

CHARLOTTE — Some drivers are finding out the hard way that they have to pay for a rental car with their own money, then hope they get reimbursed after they’ve been in an accident.

Juliana Dotson told Channel 9 that her car was rear-ended at a stoplight. She said the other driver admitted it was their fault.

According to Dotson, the driver’s insurance company, Allstate, emailed her and said it was still investigating, that she would have to pay for her own rental car and that it may or may not reimburse her for it.

“I had to pay $500 to even get the rental, and then each week I have to pay an additional [$]200,” Dotson told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke. “I didn’t have enough to pay my rent, so I had to wait until I got paid next to pay my rent and it’s just like put me in a horrible situation.”

Allstate emailed Stoogenke saying that it “provides rental car reimbursement for transportation expenses based on the claim. We give claimants the option to receive an advance payment or we will make alternative arrangements as appropriate.”

Dotson’s lawyer, Cameron DeBrun, says he has multiple clients in the same situation.

“It’s frustrating to me because these companies are extremely wealthy,” DeBrun said. “They could easily afford a rental car. You know we’re not talking a million dollars. We’re talking 30 bucks a day for a global company. And to do this in middle of Covid, when people are struggling more than ever, it’s just cruel.”

The North Carolina Department of Insurance said there aren’t any laws about this and that each company handles rental car claims its own way — some pay upfront and others reimburse.

Mark Friedlander, with the Insurance Information Institute, which speaks for the insurance industry, says something similar.

“If you have rental car reimbursement coverage on your policy, your insurer will cover the rental regardless of who is at fault (up to the limits of your policy), which is the simplest process,” Friedlander explained. “If another party is ruled at fault, their insurer should be responsible for providing you a rental, but you may need to pay for it upfront and then seek reimbursement, which could take several months. The at-fault driver’s insurer is not obligated to pay you upfront. That’s why you should consider having rental coverage on your own policy.”

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