Understanding Loss of Use After An Auto Accident

“Loss of Use” is a term that is frequently used in the aftermath of an auto accident in Texas. It refers to the inability to use your damaged vehicle while it is being repaired or replaced, causing inconveniences such as being unable to get to work or perform daily tasks. This guide aims to explain what “Loss of Use” means, how it impacts victims of auto accidents, and the legal avenues available for recovering these types of damages in Texas.

Loss of Use for Repairable Vehicles

In the case of repairable vehicles when you are not at fault for an accident, “Loss of Use” applies to the period during which the vehicle is being repaired. This period can range from a few days to several weeks, depending on the extent of the damage. During this time, victims may face significant inconvenience and additional costs, such as the need for alternative transportation.

The Texas courts have established several precedents in this area. While your vehicle is being repaired, you may need to rent a car for your personal or professional use. The cost of this rental car can be claimed as part of your damages. In the context of a repairable vehicle, there are several elements of Loss of Use that you may be eligible to claim, such as:

  • You Can Recover the Reasonable Rental Cost During the Repair:  According to the Texas case Pasadena State Bank v. Isaac, 149 Tex. 47, 228 S.W.2d 127 (1950), the plaintiff can recover reasonable rental value of a substitute car for the time reasonably required to repair their vehicle.
  • Fair Market Value of a Rental is the Evidence Required:  Under Pasadena State Bank v. Issac, evidence of the fair rental value of a hypothetical replacement vehicle is adequate to substantiate a compensation claim for the loss of the vehicle’s use.
  • You Don’t Have to Actually Rent a Vehicle to Claim Loss of Use:  Under Pasadena State Bank v. Issac, the owner is not required to rent a substitute vehicle to seek compensation for damages related to losing the ability to use your vehicle.
  • Damages are Not Capped by the Vehicle Value:  Under Mondragon v. Austin, 954 S.W.2d 191 (Tex. Civ. App. – Austin, 1997), damages for the loss of use of a repairable automobile are not automatically limited to the total value of the vehicle. Texas courts have awarded these damages even if it meant exceeding the total value of partially damaged property.

Loss of use claims for auto accidents

Loss of Use for Total Loss Vehicles

In the case of “total loss” vehicles, or vehicles so damaged that they are considered “totaled,” a different approach is used for determining “loss of use” damages when you are not at fault for an accident. The vehicle is deemed beyond repair and the victim is entitled to recover the full market value of the car as it was immediately before the accident.

Until 2016, Hanna v. Lott, 888 S.W.2d 132 (Tex. App. – Tyler 1994, no writ) established no loss of use claim could be made because the totaled car could be immediately replaced. However, J&D Towing, LLC v. Am. Alternative Ins. Corp. No.14-0574 established that a plaintiff is entitled to recover damages for the lost of use of their vehicle during a reasonable period of replacement, even for a total loss. This case signifies that the victim can claim damages for the period reasonably required to replace the totaled vehicle.

The period considered “reasonable” for replacement can depend on several factors, such as the availability of comparable vehicles in the market, financing arrangements, and the plaintiff’s due diligence in seeking a replacement vehicle. The claim for loss of use damages in this context can include costs for alternative transportation such as car rental, public transit, or ride-share services (e.g., Uber, Lyft).

Loss of Use When You Are At Fault for an Accident

When you are at fault for an accident, the dynamics of claiming “Loss of Use” damages change significantly. In such situations, your ability to recover these costs largely depends on the specific terms of your insurance policy. Typically, unless you have rental reimbursement or loss of use coverage in your auto insurance policy, you cannot claim loss of use. This type of coverage is not a standard feature in many insurance policies, and it usually comes with additional premiums.

Rental reimbursement or loss of use coverage pays for a rental car if your vehicle is damaged in an accident and needs to undergo repairs. The coverage is subject to daily and total limits, which means your insurance will only pay up to a certain amount per day and overall. It is crucial to review your policy or speak with your insurance agent to understand the specifics of your coverage.

If you don’t have this additional coverage and are found at fault in an accident, you would be responsible for all the costs associated with the loss of use of your vehicle, including costs for alternate transportation during the repair or replacement of your vehicle.

While each situation is unique and laws vary by state, it’s important to note that being at fault for an accident does not necessarily preclude you from recovering certain damages. Legal advice should be sought to understand your rights and responsibilities in the specific context of your accident.

Contact Us for Help With Loss of Use Claims if You are Injured in an Accident

If you have been injured in an accident and are looking to recover “Loss of Use” damages, contact Thompson Law today. Our experienced accident attorneys specialize in personal injury cases and are well-versed in the nuances of “Loss of Use” claims.

We can help navigate the legal complexities and assist you in pursuing the compensation you deserve for your loss of use and personal injury claims. Let us take on the stressful legal aspects, while you focus on your recovery. Get in touch via web form or call us today at 1-800-LION-LAW for a FREE CONSULTATION.

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State law limits the time you have to file a claim after an auto accident. If you have been injured in an accident, call now to get the help you need.