Here is the most bizarre rental car accident report we’ve seen

Her rental car drove away without her -- twice!

Betty Caldwell has a mysterious tale to tell. She says she was injured after her rental car drove away without her — twice! And now she wants someone to pay for her injuries. But who?

Caldwell’s story begins in the parking lot of a motel where she was staying. She parked her Dollar rental car, a Chevrolet Cruze and started to walk away. What she says happened next could be a great plotline in a Stephen King novel.

The car drove away without her — twice!

I parked the Chevy Cruze in the motel parking lot, which is on a slope. Then I placed it in “park” and turned it off. I got out and locked it. The car spontaneously started to move forward, up the slope! I feared it was going to crash into a window of the motel. It stopped when it came to the asphalt curb on the edge of the lot.

I can’t imagine the confusion I would feel as my car turned itself on and started moving on its own. I would probably look around for cameras, wondering if Candid Camera had been revived. But that wasn’t the end of the car’s possession:

As it was sitting still, I opened the door to make sure it was still in “park” and turned off. Standing beside the car, with the open door behind me, I realized the car had started rolling backward, picking up speed as it moved. With the open door at my back, I could not simply stop or step out of the way. So I ran beside the car until I fell and was dragged for 10-15 feet as the car moved into the road. It turned and stopped when it hit the curb.

Caldwell says the motel management called emergency services for her. She suffered abdominal abrasions and bruised ribs, knees, arms and legs. The accident had also ruined her down jacket.

Is this mysterious rental car accident the responsibility of Dollar?

After the incident, Caldwell called Dollar. She reported that the “electronic ignition system spontaneously started the engine with no intervention on my part. The car drove away without me.”

Caldwell asked Dollar to reimburse her for the rental, the amount she paid for the emergency services call and first aid supplies. And she also wanted the cost of her down jacket. The total she requested from Dollar was $948.

The company refused to take Caldwell’s word that there was something wrong with the car. It wanted proof that the spontaneous car movement wasn’t caused by user error or negligence. But Caldwell didn’t have any evidence to support her claim.

Although the motel employees had called emergency personnel, no one alerted the police to this odd car rental accident. Caldwell says that since there was no damage to the rental car or to other property, no police report existed.

Why didn’t anyone call the police to report this accident?

But there were injuries, which usually prompts a call to police long before car damage.

Without a police report, Dollar was skeptical about Caldwell’s claim that the car moved on its own. But it offered her another option for confirming her claim. Caldwell could pay to have the car inspected by mechanics. If those mechanics confirmed a problem with the car, Dollar would pay her claim and reimburse for the cost of the inspection.

Surprisingly, Caldwell refused. Instead, she reached out to the Elliott Advocacy team.

Caldwell told our executive director, Michelle Couch-Friedman that Dollar should have the car inspected.

“It’s Dollar’s responsible for providing safe cars and addressing any mechanical problems,” Caldwell insisted. “It was not up to me to assume that responsibility.”

She also told Michelle that she had faced hard-to-diagnose mechanical problems with her own car in the past. This made her reluctant to pay to have the rental car inspected.

Michelle asked Caldwell the same questions that Dollar asked her. Did she have a police report or any other proof that there was something wrong with the vehicle? Obviously, she didn’t. She wanted Dollar — and our advocacy team — to take her word for it.

“A number of people witnessed this accident,” Caldwell persisted. “I would give more weight to the actual experience and subsequent injury then the chance of finding a definitive mechanical issue on a given day in a small town with limited resources for car repairs.”

No proof that this car drove away on its own

There is a problem with the claim that the incident was “witnessed by a number of people.” Caldwell never claims that any of these people were with her when she turned off the car and put it in park. And she provided no witness statements. I have no doubt they saw the car move, but she provided no proof that the car was the problem. All evidence points to user error.

I did a quick Google search on problems with the Chevrolet Cruze. The majority of complaints date back to 2011 or earlier, but none are related to the car spontaneously starting on its own. If it had been an ongoing, recurrent problem that had previously been documented, Caldwell might have had a case even though she never had this car inspected and didn’t file a police report.

She could have reached out to the Hertz contacts we list on our site (the parent company of Dollar). But I don’t think she would have any better luck with the executives, in the absence of any verifiable proof.

While we are very sorry for Caldwell’s injuries, we can’t help her with this case. We’ll have to close this novel without a “happily ever after.”

Should Dollar have paid Caldwell's claim?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...
Share this story
Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook

Underwritten by

This site is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at

This site is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

This site is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

This site is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

This site is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

This site is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

This site is underwritten by Enterprise Holdings

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

This site is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

This site is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

This site is underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

This site is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

This site is underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

This site is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

This site is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

This site is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

This site is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

This site is underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

This site is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

This site is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

This site is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

This site is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.