Do I have to pay this late car rental damage claim?

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By Christopher Elliott

Shawna Amella gets a bill from Hertz more than a year after her rental, even though the car she damaged has already been fixed. Does she still have to pay?

Question: I rented a car in 2014 from Hertz in Canada. While I rented it, the vehicle received a small dent in the driver’s door. It happened overnight; it looked like someone hip-checked it. I took a photo of the damage.

I filled out an incident report and contacted my credit card company to open a claim. My credit card requires claims to be processed within 100 days.

For two months, I took the initiative in repeatedly calling Hertz’s claims department to get a claim number for my credit card company. At the 60-day point, the Hertz representative I was talking to said she had made some inquiries and found that the car had been rented out the next day; they had simply suctioned the door and everything was fine.

More than a year later, I received a letter from Hertz with pictures of not just the dent, but bumper damage as well. I have been emailing and talking to people at Hertz’s claims department to let them know that there is damage unrelated to my rental and that it’s been 15 months since my rental.

I can’t file a credit card claim because it’s past the 100 days. Hertz wants $790. Can you help?
Shawna Amella, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

Answer: Hertz should have processed your damage claim promptly, not waited until 15 months after your rental. And if the dents in your pictures didn’t line up with the damage in its photos, that also should have been a red flag.

You did everything you could to resolve this on your own. You took photos of the car. You filed a damage report instead of returning the vehicle and hoping no one noticed. And you followed up with Hertz frequently to inquire about the status of your claim.

When a Hertz representative told you the damage had been fixed and the vehicle rented out, that should have been the end of your claim. You might have asked for something in writing, absolving you of any future claim, and the company should have sent you something that verified you were off the hook.

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When Hertz revived your claim, you could have appealed this to someone higher up at the company. I publish the names and email addresses of its executives on my website (elliott.org/company-contacts/hertz). A brief, polite email to a manager should have cleared this up right away.

Instead, you tussled with someone in Hertz’s claims department. Even after I suggested that you formally appeal your case, a representative called you and, in your own words, “doubled down” on the damage claim, insisting you pay up.

But here’s the thing: You wanted to do the right thing. You asked for a bill and tried to work within the system. Hertz gave you the all-clear, and then returned with a $790 bill, which it expected you to pay. That doesn’t seem right.

I contacted Hertz on your behalf and asked it to take another look at your case. It contacted you, apologized for the “long delay” in sending you a bill, and dropped its claim.

 

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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. He is based in Panamá City.

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