A U-Drive-It entity is a business that owns vehicles in various sizes and leases them out to the general public or commercial transportation entities for profit. Some of the most popular U-Drive-It entities are U-Haul, Penske, Enterprise and Hertz Rental Car.
O.C.G.A. § 40-9-102 requires insurance for persons renting U-drive-it vehicles. It provides:
Any person who rents motor vehicles from a U-drive-it owner is required to provide his own insurance, and insurance companies authorized to issue automobile policies in this state shall be required by the Commissioner of Insurance to provide “spot” insurance, which shall be purchased by such person before the U-drive-it owner shall be authorized to turn a motor vehicle over to such person. If a U-drive-it owner turns over any motor vehicle to any person without first ascertaining that such “spot” insurance has been obtained, the U-drive-it owner shall not, as to that particular rental transaction, be exempted from the provisions of this chapter as provided in Code Section 40-9-4.
Although this statute requires that renters and lessors from U-drive-it entities must furnish their own insurance, it does not exempt U-drive-it entities from their duty under O.C.G.A §33-34-4 as owners of motor vehicles to obtain insurance as well. The State of Georgia mandates U-Drive-It entities possesses the same minimum liability coverage as other drivers in the State of Georgia, $25,000.00. As such, there can often be a discussion as to who has primary coverage and who has secondary coverage.
There is sufficient case law on this matter. See Jones v. Wortham, 201 Ga.App 668, 670, 411 S.E.2d 716 (1991). Jones set forth among other things that the parties may contract who is liable for primary and/or excess coverage. There are several cases that discuss the primary and excess coverage aspect of these cases.
However, U-Drive-It accidents are often accompanied by death due the use of a large moving trucks by individual(s) who are not trained nor equipped to drive a much larger vehicle. Most frequently this is the result of a driver who has built up too much speed and is now unable to slow and stop their U-Drive-It rental moving truck before colliding into the back of another. In this instance, assuming the collision is fatal, a combined $50,000 is simply insufficient.
Beasley Allen lawyers have come to find that the U-Drive-It entities often have more comprehensive coverage; however, this coverage may be attacked in the presence of direct negligence on the part of the U-Drive-It entity. One example of showing direct negligence is proving that the U-Drive-It entity rented their vehicle to an individual without a valid driver’s license. Ordinary citizens have the ability to check on the validity of a driver’s license. As such, a U-Drive-It entity has a duty to do so before renting a vehicle for profit to an unfit lesee.
Another way of finding direct negligence on the part of the U-Drive-It entity is the rental of a vehicle it failed to maintain, thus causing the accident. A direct negligence action for the failure to maintain a vehicle mandates the preservation of the vehicle and inspection of the vehicle before the entity repairs the subject vehicle and places it back on the roadway. Finding direct negligence against a U-Drive-It can be quite burdensome but yield a high reward for the client’s family.
If you need more information, or if you have a case dealing with a U-Drive-It entity, contact Ben Keen in the firm’s Atlanta office, or Cole Portis, head of the firm’s Personal Injury & Products Liability section.
This story appears in the December 2019 issue of The Jere Beasley Report. For more like this, visit the Report online and subscribe.