Did she wait too long to file a damage claim?

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By Christopher Elliott

Susan Young has waited too long to file a damage claim with her credit card company. But it’s not her fault – a Budget employee told her to do it. Who’s responsible?

Question

I recently rented a car from Budget in Ontario, Calif. When I returned the vehicle, a representative claimed that I scraped the bottom of the front bumper on the passenger side of the car.

I did not cause this damage and told him I wanted to dispute the claim. He gave me a form to complete and told me not to do anything — including notifying my insurance company — until I heard back from Budget.

I received a letter from Budget in February, stating that I would be held responsible for the damage. I immediately notified my credit card insurance company, through which my rental was covered.

To make a long story short, my credit card company is denying the claim because it was filed on the 46th day after the incident, even though I filed the claim the same day that I was notified I was being held responsible.

When I called the Budget facility directly, the manager told me I needed to find out why the Budget claims adjustor, who is a contract employee, didn’t notify me until 6 1/2 weeks after the incident, saying that I should have been notified within 3 to 4 weeks.

My take on this is that the Budget claims adjustor took what should have been a viable claim and negated it by not following the timeline Budget has for notifying customers. I’ve filed an appeal with my credit card insurance, including a timeline of events. Any advice you could provide would be gratefully accepted. — Susan Young, Lopez Island, Wash.

Answer

I’m suspicious about a few items in this claim.

Faye Travel Insurance provides whole-trip travel coverage and care that brings out the best in each journey with industry-leading technology that enables smarter, faster, smoother assistance and claims resolutions. Our robust travel insurance covers your health, your trip, your stuff, and even your pet, via an app that provides real-time proactive solutions, quick reimbursements and 24/7 support from anywhere in the world. Wherever you go, we’re there too, taking care of the details so you can make the most of each moment, with the only travel protection that is by your side and on your side every step of the way.

First, there’s the mysterious damage to the bottom of the front bumper. I’m not saying the bill was bogus. I’ve dealt with numerous car rental damage claims. Employees often find unseen damage beneath the vehicle or on the roof.

Second, there’s the lag time between your return and your claim. A damage claim should be sent in within four weeks or less. What took Budget so long?

Add that to the directions you received on the damage claim, and I had little choice but to ask Budget to review your case. I’ll have the outcome in just a second.

But before I go there, my advocacy team and I have a little advice for you. Always, always take a photo of your rental car before you rent it and afterwards. These will prove (or disprove) and damage claim. Car rental companies ought to be photographing their cars, anyway, and thankfully, some are. (Here’s our ultimate guide to renting a car.)

Also, if you believe there might be a damage claim – even if it’s not your fault – you’ll want to notify your insurance company immediately when you return a car with reported damage. Your credit card requires you to report any claim within 45 days. The contract employee you spoke with was incorrect.

Budget dropped its claim against you.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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