The Investigators offer car rental wreck advice - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators offer car rental wreck advice

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC TV) - National Rental Car will pay for damages to an East Memphis woman's car after it failed to verify the insurance of a customer who crashed one of its vehicles.

According to a Memphis Police report, Melissa Hoffman was driving her 1994 Toyota Corolla north on White Station Rd. when a 2013 Lincoln MKX pulled off Interstate 40 at White Station and slammed into her car.

No one was hurt, but police cited the Lincoln's driver for failure to yield. The report revealed National Rental Car owns the Lincoln. The Florida-based driver rented it from National's office on Rental Rd. near Memphis International Airport.

Hoffman said she had difficulty getting the driver's insurance information when she contacted National Rental Car.

"They had no record of him having any insurance at all," she said. "Why don't they have proof that he has liability insurance on a rental vehicle?"

Tennessee law requires motorists and rental companies to carry liability insurance. Yet the Insurance Research Council estimates 21 percent of Tennessee drivers are uninsured.

Rental car companies must carry insurance on their fleets, but their trade group said they are not required to request a customer's proof of insurance.

"State laws do not require car rental companies to ask for proof of insurance," said Sharon Faulkner, executive director of the American Car Rental Association. "There are many legal drivers who simply do not own vehicles – and therefore do not have car insurance."

Kathy Thurmond-Edwards, a State Farm insurance agent, said the prevalence of uninsured motorists in Tennessee and rental car companies' lack of accountability are why consumers should carry both collision and uninsured motorist coverage in their policies.

"In this case, uninsured motorist coverage would help (Hoffman) at least get her car in the shop, and when it's repaired, she could go after the rental car company," Thurmond-Edwards said. "That would go down as a 'no-fault' claim and would not affect her rates.

"If all she has is liability -- no collision, no uninsured motorist -- she's out of luck."

Hoffman does not carry collision or uninsured motorist coverage.

"My car's a 1994 Toyota Corolla with 130,000 miles," she said.

After The Action News 5 Investigators reached out to National Rental Car, its regional leadership, its insurance carrier and ACRA, they revealed they did have trouble verifying the insurance status of National's customer. His phone number is no longer in service.

"An effort was made to contact the renter and work with his insurance carrier," said Faulkner. "After further investigation (which took just about a week) – it was determined that the claim would be handled directly by the car rental company so that the claimant is compensated for her damaged vehicle."

Hoffman confirmed National Rental Car's insurance carrier contacted her Wednesday to offer her the use of a rental car and to send an adjuster to assess her car's damages.

"All of a sudden after a week, I now get some help," she said.

State Farm offered guidelines regarding insurance and rental vehicles:

* MAKE SURE YOUR POLICY EXTENDS TO A RENTAL CAR. If it doesn't -- or it carries a high deductible on rental vehicles -- then you might consider buying insurance from the rental company.

* CHECK YOUR CREDIT CARD FOR RENTAL COVERAGE. Many credit cards offer rental car insurance as a benefit. Read your card's terms and conditions.

* IF YOU DON'T OWN A CAR OR CARRY AUTO INSURANCE, YOU MUST BUY INSURANCE FROM THE RENTAL COMPANY. Check the company's packages carefully. Rental companies typically offer a menu of insurance packages with varying coverage and costs.

* CHECK FOR EXCLUSIONS IN YOUR POLICY WHEN RENTING A VEHICLE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY. You might have to consider travel insurance as a supplement.

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