More Americans lease their vehicles than ever before. According to the New York Times, as many as 27 percent of drivers lease their vehicles. When a driver gets in an accident with a leased vehicle in Las Vegas, there are some unique things to consider.
Although much of the process for recovering will be the same as any other car accident, specific nuances for leased cars making having an experienced car accident lawyer on your side essential. Here are some critical considerations for car accidents involving leased cars.
What’s a Leased Vehicle?
A leased vehicle is a long-term car rental. You make a monthly payment in exchange for using a vehicle for a set period of time. When the lease is up, you return the vehicle to the leasing company.
Leasing a vehicle is different than buying a car with a loan. When you buy a car with a loan, you make monthly payments on the loan until you own the vehicle outright. With a lease, you don’t own the car at the end of your lease.
Instead, you return the vehicle to the leasing company. You may have an option to purchase the vehicle at the end of the lease agreement. However, unless you make special arrangements to buy the vehicle, a vehicle lease is an agreement with a leasing company to use a car for a set period of time.
What Do I Need to Do If I Lease a Vehicle?
If you lease your vehicle, it’s critical to make sure that you have the insurance you need to protect yourself if you’re in an accident. There are special considerations for making sure you’re covered if you’re in a crash in a leased vehicle. It’s important to make sure that you address the following:
- Meeting Nevada’s insurance minimum coverage requirements for all drivers
- Collision and comprehensive coverage to cover you if you cause a crash or the other driver can’t pay for an accident they cause
- Coverage that complies with the terms of your lease agreement
- Gap coverage
Notifying the Leasing Company and Your Insurance Company
If you’re in an accident, you must tell both your leasing company and your insurance company. It’s not enough to notify one company. Your contracts with both companies require you to inform each company about the crash.
Your contracts likely require you to make contact with each company very quickly after the accident. In most cases, you have only a few days to tell them that the crash occurred.
What Happens If You Can Repair the Car?
After you notify the insurance company and leasing company that you’re in an accident, you typically take the vehicle to a body shop for a repair estimate. The insurance company might recommend a body shop, or you can find one on your own.
The insurance company looks at the damage to your vehicle to make an estimate of the cost to repair the damage. That estimate is typically what the insurance company pays you up to the limits of your policy. You likely also have a deductible to meet before the insurance company pays for your losses.
For example, consider you’re in an accident. You take the vehicle to Betty’s Body Shop. Betty says that your vehicle needs $3,000 in repairs. You have a $500 deductible and a $10,000 insurance limit. Your insurance company pays you $2500 to make the repairs. On the other hand, if your damages are $12,000 and you have a $10,000 insurance policy, the insurance company pays you $9500. That amount represents the $10,000 policy limit minus your $500 deductible.
What Happens If the Car Gets Totaled?
The body shop looks at the damages to your vehicle. If it’s going to cost more than 65 percent of the value of the vehicle to repair it, the insurance company may declare the vehicle a total loss. In that case, your insurance pays you for the cost of repairs. If your car gets totaled, your insurance typically pays you for the current, actual value of the vehicle. However, you still owe the leasing company for the remaining payments under the lease.
For example, consider you’re in an accident in your leased vehicle. The current value of the vehicle is $5,000. You have a deductible of $500. Your insurance company agrees to pay you $4500 for the actual value of the vehicle minus the deductible. However, you still owe $7,000 to the leasing company. The leasing company expects you to pay the entire amount. You’re on the hook to pay $2500 to the leasing company.
Fortunately, you can buy insurance coverage to help you in a situation where the value of your leased vehicle doesn’t cover the amount that you still owe after an accident. Insurance coverage to make up the difference between the value of your vehicle and your obligations under your lease is called gap coverage.
Gap coverage is a lifesaver for drivers who don’t want to worry about paying a large sum of money if they’re unexpectedly in a crash. Some leasing companies require you to have gap insurance.
What About Fault for the Accident?
If another driver causes the accident, you have a right to compensation for your damages. Your losses include the damage to your vehicle as well as compensation for any physical injuries and other economic and non-economic damages.
In Nevada, the driver that causes the accident has to pay for the damages. You may bring a claim against the other driver and their insurance company to cover your losses.
How Can an Attorney Help?
If you’re in an accident in a leased vehicle, a skilled accident attorney can help you determine the best plan of action to get the recovery that you deserve.
Your lawyer will help you determine what to do to fulfill the terms of your lease and maximize your compensation. They can help you determine what damages you may be eligible to receive from the other driver and how to claim your damages.