The Legalities Behind the Wheel of Car-Sharing Programs

Consumer protection, Insurance, Tips & how-to

zipcar_banner Pay-as-you go car-sharing programs like ZipCar or Car2Go are convenient for city-dwellers or travelers. The programs allow you to pick up cars at convenient locations, drive to your destination, then park the car for the next user to pick it up. This can save infrequent drivers loads of money, especially when you consider the cost of car maintenance and insurance. People are often concerned about insurance when using these programs, understandably. Who pays for damages when accidents occur?

Car-Sharing Insurance

There’s a small insurance deductible for users but ZipCar and Car2Go carry the insurance policy on their car fleets. Car-sharing customers 21 or older are covered up for $300,000 per incident by ZipCar and Car2Go; younger drivers are given far less coverage.

So what if your car is hit by a car-sharing customer? Assuming the accident was the fault of the ZipCar driver, you would pursue a claim or file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. The insurance company for ZipCar would step in and defend the driver, paying up to the insurance limits. At that point, let’s hope you (the one not at fault) have underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. UIM is designed to help to pay you for damages caused by another motorist who may not have enough insurance to fully compensate you for all of your damages.

At times an accident could be the fault of the car-sharing program itself. In the case of faulty brakes or tires, the company providing the cars would be held responsible for failing to maintain its fleet of cars. For this reason, ZipCar covers itself up to $5 million.

What To Do If You Are in an Accident

To avoid as much unnecessary legal trouble as possible, use these common-sense tips at the scene of an accident you are involved in:

  • Before heading home or to the hospital, exchange information with those involved in the accident.  Get names, addresses, insurance company names, and policy numbers. Write down license plate numbers of all vehicles involved.
  • Find witnesses. Point bystanders out to police, and get contact information for them (name, address, telephone numbers).
  • Take photos of the cars and scene, which can often help prove what happened. Pictures of injuries can be helpful, too.
  • Be careful what you say about your injuries. You may feel so lucky to be alive that you exclaim “I feel fine!” despite being banged up.  Later you may not feel so great, or even find that you have a herniated disc or swelling in your brain.
  • Let police and medical professionals know if you hit your head, since a headache may not come for as long as weeks after the accident.
  • Call your insurance agent. Your policy requires you to inform the company if you are in an accident. Be careful what you tell them because it can be used against you later.