When someone causes an accident, they become responsible for the consequences. They are obligated to pay for repairs and pay for the cost of a rental while the vehicle is in the shop. Although the correct legal term for the cost of the rental is “loss of use”, it essentially translates into the cost to rent a vehicle of comparable value for however long it takes to finish the repairs. Of course, when faced with this responsibility, most people simply turn it over to their insurance company. To enhance profits, most insurance companies enter into arrangements with major rental car companies for discounted rates. When one of their customers causes an accident, they try to steer people with damaged cars to one of these discounted rental agencies. As long as the vehicle provided is comparable in nature to the vehicle damaged, no harm is done. Unfortunately, in an attempt to enhance profits further, many companies try to make consumers accept basic transportation vehicles instead. Consumers with large SUVs, luxury cars or pick up trucks find themselves being told they must accept a small sub compact or that the law only requires the insurance company provide basic transportation. This is a clear and most likely knowingly misrepresentation of the law. Most state laws require a person who damages property, whether a car, boat, tractor or piece of equipment to pay for the reasonable “loss of use” until the repairs are completed. What constitutes reasonable compensation for the “loss of use” of damaged property is a question of fact in each case. No court rulings to date have permitted any one size fits all or any standard rate for vehicles damaged in auto accidents. The applicable law in Washington can be found at Holmes v. Raffo, 60 Wn. 2d 421, 374 P.2d 536 (1962), and Bricker v. Myers Construction Inc., 92 Wn. App. 269, 966 P.2d 335 (1998) as well as at Washington Pattern Jury Instruction WPI 30.16.
For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Car and Motorcycle Accidents.