A ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court earlier this month may make it possible for victims of car accidents to obtain compensation under their insurance policies if damages exceed the maximum amount that rental car companies can be required to pay.
This ruling stems from an incident in 2007 when an insurance company declined payment to the family of an accident victim who was hit and killed by an uninsured motorist in an Avis rental car. The victim had insurance that would pay in the event that she was injured in a car accident with an uninsured driver. However, her insurance company said that the rental car did not fall within that definition since the rental car company was self-insured. The family sued for wrongful death and bad faith.
Wisconsin law requires that car rental companies pay up to $25,000 per victim, with a limit of $50,000 per accident, when a person negligently operates a car owned by the rental car company. The rental car company paid the woman’s family $50,000, as required by the statute.
The victim’s insurance policy provided $500,000 coverage for accidents involving an under-insured driver. When her family sought compensation under her policy, the company declined. The family sued, and the case went all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The court ruled that the laws surrounding this case were conflicting because it is unclear whether or not a self-insured company should be excluded from an uninsured motorist policy.
This case is especially unique. However, it shows that compensation may be awarded when negligent drivers cause injury to others. Compensation can be used to cover medical costs, funeral expenses and lost earnings. An experienced wrongful death lawyer may be able to help the wounded parties and their families obtain compensation.
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Rental car liability laws lead to ‘absurd result,’ Supreme Court says,” Bruce Vielmetti, Feb. 1, 2013