Claims under the contract for rental of a replacement vehicle

In society there is still a low awareness of the fact that the owner of a car damaged in a traffic accident, in principle, has the right to reimbursement of the cost of renting a replacement vehicle. This entitlement is shaped in different ways, so in today’s article we would like to introduce you to the subject of the contract for rental of a replacement vehicle and the claims available to the Insurer.

The injured party, as a rule, has the right to choose any rental company offering substitute vehicles, nevertheless, according to Article 362 of the Civil Code, if the injured party contributed to the occurrence or increase of the damage, the obligation to repair the damage is appropriately reduced in accordance with the circumstances, especially the degree of fault of both parties. From this provision emerges the principle of the injured party’s obligation to minimize the damage. The Supreme Court in Case No. III CZP 20/17 also concretized the duty of the injured party to minimize the damage and adopted the following resolution:

Expenses for renting a replacement vehicle incurred by the injured party in excess of the cost of the insurer’s proposed use of such a vehicle are covered by liability under the contract of compulsory motor vehicle liability insurance, if their incurrence was purposeful and economically justified.

The above rule is particularly revealing in the framework of the damage dealt with under the liability of the perpetrator. As a rule, under OC damage, you will receive a replacement car if:

  • the vehicle has been damaged to such an extent that it prevents its further use, which is to be understood, among other things, when the Police seize the vehicle’s registration certificate, or the vehicle does not meet road safety requirements,
  • no blame for causing the incident,
  • the perpetrator of the accident had valid liability insurance.

Turning to the discussion of individual issues, it should first be pointed out that the daily rental rate varies depending on the class of vehicle, which range from PLN 70 to over PLN 250. On the market, we distinguish between segments A (the cheapest), B, C, D, E, F (luxury cars), G (sports cars) and H. When renting a replacement car, remember that it should be of a similar class to the damaged vehicle. Thus, the rental rent for a replacement vehicle should be set according to the rate prevailing in the local market (macroeconomic condition). If the replacement car is rented at a higher class or at an inflated daily rental rate, the insurer will certainly underestimate the compensation. This will also be the case if the insurer informs at the time of reporting the damage about the applied rates of substitute vehicles, then such an offer will be binding unless their incurring was purposeful and economically justified, i.e. justified by the special circumstances and needs of the injured party. In this case, the insurance company should make a specific offer to rent a vehicle that in material respects corresponded to the injured party’s vehicle. As can be seen from the justifications of the analyzed rulings of the common courts, if the insurance company fails in this task, e.g. is unable to indicate which could rent a vehicle that corresponds to the needs of the injured party, then the injured party has a better chance of having the full rental costs incurred by him recognized as reasonable.

Significantly, in cases concerning reimbursement of the cost of renting a replacement car from the liability of the perpetrator of the damage, insurers refer to the so-called technological repair time as a reasonable period for which the injured person is entitled to compensation in the case of partial damage. The technological repair time is nothing more than a purely hypothetical time calculated on the basis of relevant computer programs, which does not take into account many actual elements of repair such as: waiting in line for repair, importing spare parts, the technological break needed for the fresh coat of paint to dry before proceeding with maintenance work and vehicle assembly, etc. In the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court and common courts, it is unanimously accepted that the limitation of the period for which reimbursement of the cost of renting a replacement vehicle is due to the so-called technological repair time does not implement the principle of full compensation expressed in Article 361 of the Civil Code. Thus, compensation from the liability of the perpetrator of the damage for a substitute car means the obligation to reimburse the cost of renting a car for the actual, and not the technological period of repair of the damaged vehicle. Analyzing the data over the years, the repair of a vehicle usually takes from 7 to 30 days, depending on the extent of the damage and the time of repair, including the availability of repaired parts.

At the same time, one more point should be noted here. Often Insurers refuse to provide a replacement vehicle when the injured party has another vehicle. The case law so far shows that the insurer may refuse to cover the costs associated with renting a replacement car if you can freely use another car while the damaged vehicle is being repaired. The key issue here, however, is the actual ability to use the car. Therefore, even if you own two cars, but the other vehicle is used on a daily basis by a member of your family, for example, you can demand that the company provide a replacement car.

Summarizing the above, one must conclude that awareness of one’s own rights and obligations, on the one hand, will avoid generating rental costs that the insurance company will not be obliged to reimburse. On the other hand, it allows the injured party to more confidently defend his interests if they are violated by the insurer.

We also recommend you our legal blog, where you can find, among other things, articles related to the topic of litigation prepared by our Team.