If Eric Geyer could retake his Arizona vacation, he’d do many things differently. He’d find out about the Avis loss of use policy when reserving his rental car. He would also check out the auto insurance coverage available through his Visa credit card. He’d carefully photograph the car at the beginning and end of his rental.
And, of course, he’d avoid getting into the accident that triggered a damage claim from Avis.
Geyer’s story offers many lessons for car renters. Had he been aware of his options, he might not be facing an $811 rental car damage claim now.
An Avis loss of use claim – seven months later
Geyer used his Visa credit card to rent a car from Avis during his vacation in September 2017. While driving the car, he backed into a pole. When he returned the car to the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Avis facility, he filed an accident report. His insurance company paid for the damage to the vehicle, minus a $500 deductible. Geyer paid the deductible and heard no more about the accident in the months that followed.
Then in April 2018, Geyer received a claim from Sedgwick Claims Management Services, a claims administrator for Avis. Sedgwick was billing him for vehicle damage, the Avis loss of use, and diminishment of value. It was also charging Geyer an administrative fee.
Geyer called Sedgwick to question the claim. A representative told him that Sedgwick “had just received the claim” from Avis.
Too late for Visa to cover the Avis loss of use charge
Geyer then learned that his Visa card offered coverage for rental car damage claims. He filed a claim with Visa, only to receive bad news instead of a reimbursement. Had Geyer filed the claim within 45 days of the accident, Visa would have covered the claim. But that window of time had long since expired.
According to Geyer, he didn’t know about the coverage or the 45-day limit until after Sedgwick sent him the bill.
“Lesson learned,” he says.
But he feels blindsided by the bill coming seven months after the accident.
“It doesn’t alter the fact that Avis should have moved much more quickly in settling the claim,” he says. Because of the delay, Geyer wants Avis to absolve him from financial liability for the claim.
Is Avis abiding by its own policies?
Avis’ website contains the following language about responsibility for loss or damages to rental cars:
The renter is responsible for any and all loss of or damage to the car resulting from any cause including but not limited to collision, rollover, theft, tire damage and vandalism, medical condition, flood, fire, hail or other acts of Nature.
The Avis loss of use, diminishment of value and administrative fees charged to Geyer are consistent with this language in its FAQ:
Other charges that could be incurred by the renter:
- Loss of Use – as the renter, you are contractually liable for the loss of the specific vehicle rented as detailed in the rental contract. When our car is unavailable to be rented, Avis is entitled to compensation for such loss.
- Administrative Fee – Avis is self-insured and the expense of processing claims is passed on only to the responsible parties involved. Avis has a legal entitlement to return vehicles to pre-accident condition which includes the indirect damage of expenses related to administering a claim.
So Geyer had fair warning that Avis might assess him additional charges beyond the repair bill.
On the other hand, Avis makes this promise about the time frame for processing damage claims:
What is the typical timeline for processing a damage claim?
When a vehicle is involved in an accident you can typically expect to hear from Avis in a 30-60 day time-frame from the date of the incident. The time-frame heavily depends on the type and amount of damage the vehicle endured as a result of the incident.
Don’t do this when you protest a rental car damage claim
Geyer sent a letter of complaint to Sedgwick about receiving the claim seven months after the accident. Unfortunately, his attempt at self-advocating his case got off on the wrong foot:
The lack of urgency on either your part or Avis’s in this matter will be a consideration in my vendor choice moving forward. It will also influence my recommendation to fellow travelers and my online ratings of Avis.
We never advise making threats or accusations when trying to resolve a consumer complaint. You have a better chance of receiving a favorable response from a company if you observe the three P’s: be patient, polite and persistent in all your communications with a company.
Using our executive contacts for this Avis loss of use case
Geyer next wrote to our primary contact for Avis Budget, Becky Peachey, to protest the seven-month delay in the charges. He quoted the above language on Avis’ website about the time frame for processing damage claims.
All he received in reply was the following:
Sedgwick, The Claims Center and Viking Client Services are authorized representatives for Avis Budget Car Rental primarily in matters of damage claim collections. Please follow the instructions within the letter they have mailed to you. …
We apologize for any inconvenience as our Customer Service group is unable to directly assist in these matters.
Advice from our advocate
Finally, Geyer asked us for help. But our advocate, Dwayne Coward, didn’t have good news for him. Dwayne first asked Geyer if he had reported the accident to his Visa credit card as soon as possible after it took place. But Geyer admitted that he hadn’t done so until after he received the damage claim letter from Sedgwick. He hadn’t previously known that his Visa card could have covered the claim.
Dwayne told Geyer that we weren’t going to be able to help him directly. He suggested writing a polite, concise letter to the company executives. In that letter, Dwayne advised, Geyer should explain that the 45-day window for filing a claim with his credit card had expired. He also suggested that Geyer should request that Avis waive any loss of use, diminishment of value and administrative fees. But as Geyer had already written to Avis’ customer service, he decided to stop fighting the claim.
Geyer’s case contains some important reminders for car renters: Always report an accident immediately to the car rental agency as well as your own insurance providers. Never wait until you receive a damage claim from the agency to do this. Document your vehicle’s condition thoroughly, both before you accept the vehicle and when you return it. Make sure you know about your insurance providers’ policies for covering damage claims – especially the window of time they require for reporting accidents.
And of course, look behind you when you’re backing up.