Quick Answer: The insurance company owes you the cost of renting a similar vehicle during the reasonable time that it would take to repair your vehicle (you do not actually have to rent a vehicle, and you do not actually have to repair your vehicle.
We often receive this question right after the insurance adjuster calls our client and says “your vehicle is a total loss, we are paying $[__________], and you have to turn in your rental vehicle.”
So, the question our clients really want to know is, how much rental car reimbursement do I get when my car is a total loss. Unfortunately, you are not going to like the answer as the law in this area is not favorable to injured people.
According to North Carolina’s Pattern Jury Instruction 106.67 pertaining to loss of use of your vehicle, when your vehicle is a total loss, you can only recover for a rental vehicle if you cannot immediately find a substitute vehicle. The North Carolina Supreme Court, in Huff v. Thornton, narrowed this issue down when it wrote that ordinarily loss of use is not proper for the replacement of a motor vehicle because a motor vehicle can ordinarily be promptly replaced.
Practically, what this means is that you have to prove that a similar replacement for your vehicle is not available (meaning you can’t find one on craigslist.com, autotrader.com, cars.com or any local dealer). If you can prove that a similar replacement vehicle is not readily available, then you can collect for loss of use for the reasonable amount of time it takes you to replace your vehicle.
If you wish to pursue a case for loss of use when your vehicle is a total loss, you must be diligent in proving that despite all of your best efforts that you were unable to find a similar replacement for your totaled car. You must document exactly why you have been unable to replace your vehicle (something more than waiting for a loan payoff, too busy at work, obtaining medical treatment, not being able to find the exact same car, etc.).
Give us a call or send us an email if you have any questions about what rental car reimbursement you are entitled to. You can reach us at (888) 820-5885 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.