Many car dealerships provide customers with loaned vehicles to use while their cars are being serviced. Drivers of loaned cars are as likely as other motorists to be involved in accidents. Still, if they are, the issue of who is ultimately responsible for any damages caused can be a convoluted question. This was demonstrated in a recent Tennessee ruling in which the court affirmed that an insurer of a dealership was not liable for damages caused by a person driving a loaned SUV. If you were hurt in a crash involving a rented or loaned vehicle, it is prudent to meet with a dedicated Tennessee car accident attorney to assess your options.
Facts of the Case
It is reported that the defendant took his vehicle to a dealership to have it serviced. The dealer provided him with an SUV to use in the interim, and he executed a rental agreement. He then saw another SUV that he wished to drive instead. Thus, a dealership employee crossed out the information in the agreement for the first SUV and wrote in the information for the second SUV, after which the defendant signed the agreement.
Allegedly, while the defendant was driving the SUV, he was involved in a collision with the plaintiff that caused the plaintiff to suffer significant injuries. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, and a jury returned a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor. The plaintiff then filed a second action seeking a ruling from the court that the dealership’s insurer was required to pay the damages awarded in the verdict. The court found in favor of the insurer, and the plaintiff appealed.
Determining Insurance Coverage for a Loaned Vehicle
The court noted that insurance policies are interpreted in the same manner as any other contract. In other words, the terms in an insurance policy should be afforded their ordinary and clear meaning so as to uphold the intent of the parties that drafted the contract. The court explained, however, that when an insurance contract contains an exclusion, the insurer bears the burden of proving that the exclusion applies. If an insurer meets this burden, the party seeking coverage must then prove that an exception to the exclusion garners coverage.
In the subject case, the court noted that an exclusion in the contract barred coverage for any accident caused by a driver using a rented vehicle. The court found this provision to be clear and unambiguous, noting it barred coverage for the subject incident. The court was not persuaded by the plaintiff’s argument that no rental agreement was entered into between the defendant and the dealership. Rather, the court found that the original agreement was modified, and the defendant consented to the modification by signing the agreement. Thus, the trial court ruling was affirmed.
Meet with a Skilled Tennessee Attorney About Your Accident
In some car accident cases, even if liability is straightforward, it may be unclear who must pay for the harm suffered. If you were hurt in a crash, it is advisable to meet with an attorney to determine what claims you may be able to assert. Eric Beasley is a skilled Tennessee car accident attorney who is adept at assessing damages caused by car accidents, and he can aid you in seeking any compensation you may be owed. You can reach Mr. Beasley at 615-859-2223 or through the online form to schedule a meeting.