Ulkar Zeynalli says she didn’t report her car rental accident because a mysterious person called her home and warned her not to say a word.
She was frightened by the call, but since she’d purchased car rental insurance, she assumed it would cover the damage whether she reported the accident or not. No big deal.
But it was a big deal.
That’s because, after getting into a fender-bender with the rental car from Sicily by Car and not reporting the accident she found herself on the hook for the damage. And that’s when she called our advocacy team.
Zeynalli’s story serves as an important reminder to know what you’re buying when you take out insurance on a car rental, or for any other travel expense. It’s also a warning to travelers to cover yourself after a car rental accident by following the proper protocol. Unfortunately, Zeynalli did not follow proper protocol, and the result was a nightmare.
First, a few details about the car accident. The Azerbaijani student was driving in Italy when she said the vehicle slid into a grass median and the airbags deployed. She immediately called the rental company.
Two hours later, the car was towed, and she paid 1,200 euros (about $1,400). She thought this fee was a co-pay for the insurance plan she had purchased. Zeynalli thought the case was closed. But was it?
An anonymous caller with a strange request: Don’t report your car rental accident to the police
Later on the day of the accident, Zeynalli says she received a phone call from someone who said they were a representative of Sicily By Car. This person did not identify himself and was calling from a personal phone.
“He told me not to contact the police or file a report and to keep ‘as quiet as possible,'” Zeynalli said.
A phone call like that would have made a seasoned traveler take notice. For Zeynalli, it did not have that effect. For some reason, she said she thought she could relax and forget about her predicament.
Surprise! Here’s your damage bill
Four months later, Zeynalli’s mother received a registered letter addressed to her daughter. A collections agency employed by Sicily By Car demanded 7,723 euros (about $9,000) in damages caused by “malice (willful misconduct).”
Zeynalli quickly fired off an email to representatives at Auto Europa, the parent company of Sicily by Car. She stated that she thought she had settled everything with Sicily by Car and had paid all the necessary fees. She cited that she had paid for insurance and had not filed any medical claims and thought this was a misunderstanding between the rental company and the collections agency.
A Sicily by Car representative confirmed the accident, adding:
Please be informed that, as per our General Rental Conditions, it is expressly agreed that the “Car Protection Plus”, “Pai Plus” and “Super Gold Protection” clauses are effective only provided that the damages occurred are not due to malice (willful misconduct) or gross negligence of the Renter. It is expressly agreed, therefore, the right of the Lessor to full compensation, if the damage is due to malice (willful misconduct) or gross negligence of the Renter.
The company asserted that because of the seriousness of the damage to the vehicle, Zeynalli had shown “willful misconduct” that violated the terms of her insurance. She was liable for all the damages to the rental. She explained to the company’s representative that she’s a student and doesn’t have the money, but the agent held firm.
Why you should report your car rental accident to the police
Frustrated with the company’s response, Zeynalli contacted our advocacy team and asked us to help persuade Sicily by Car and its agents to drop the extra charges. Our advocate Dwayne Coward asked Zeynalli to forward her paper trail.
Zeynalli provided scans of all the documents she received. But, she explained that someone hacked her iCloud account, so she had no records of any of the mysterious call.
After reviewing the minimal paper trail, Dwayne determined that it would not be a case that the advocacy team could mediate. The reasons? The company claimed negligence on her part and the insurance policy doesn’t cover negligence. Without any supporting documentation, most especially a police report, Zeynalli’s case stalled.
Dwayne recommended that Zeynalli contact an attorney who can help her evaluate her options. He also suggested that she attempt to contact executives at Auto Europa. Their contact information is on our website.
Lastly, Dwayne directed Zeynalli to our help forums, which are read by industry executives. It’s possible that one of them might read about her case and drop the charges as a goodwill gesture.
Hopefully, after reading about Zeynalli’s car rental fiasco, you’ll always remember to report your car rental accident to the police. For Zeynalli, unfortunately, there was nothing we could do to help.