The use of a rental truck is a common
occurrence in the self-storage business. But, because renters are typically not
accustomed to driving large vehicles, sometimes those drivers will
unintentionally damage areas of a storage facility while visiting the property.
We see damage to the gates, fences, and buildings. Once the damage occurs (and
it’s oftentimes caught on camera), the facility operator is left with the
question: “Who’s going to pay for this?”
Although the initial expectation may
be to contact the truck rental company, the rental company is generally not
responsible for the damage even though their truck was involved. When asked
about insurance, it is common that the insurance that was purchased will only
be for the truck itself and not for damage caused to other vehicles or
property. So, the rental company will direct the injured party to the renter of
the vehicle. If the renter has personal vehicle insurance, it is possible that
their personal vehicle insurance may not cover the rental of a moving truck (a
vehicle larger than the 9,000 pounds). Other options to explore are the
renter’s credit card company, homeowner’s, or umbrella coverages, if any. It
may be possible that these coverages would include damages caused while renting
a moving truck, although some credit card companies specifically exclude these
coverages if you are renting a truck.
It is possible, at the end of the day,
that a driver who damages a self-storage property while renting a truck is
essentially uninsured for the risk of damage to others. That is a startling
reality and one that anyone renting a truck, loaning a free move-in truck, or
allowing rental trucks into their storage facility should be aware of.
As best as possible, all renters
should be required to verify their coverage for damages to persons and property
other than the rental truck itself. The customer should contact their insurance
agent, as well as their credit card providers, for clarification. If there is
not a verification of additional coverage from these sources, the renter should
obtain supplemental insurance coverage that’s approved for the size of the
truck and for possible damage to other persons or property.
In addition to the concern for other
persons or property, anyone who uses a rental truck for moving and storage
should also confirm that they have cargo protection in place in case something
happens to their property in transit. This type of insurance can lessen the
possible claims brought by rental customers that their property was damaged as
a result of the use of the rental truck.
Fortunately, many truck rental
companies do offer supplemental insurance policies when renting moving trucks.
The problem is that many renters are not aware of the exclusions to their
policies which leave them uninsured. It is important that the truck rental
companies, as well as the facilities offering free move-in trucks, discuss this
concern with their customers.
At the end of the day, if a building is damaged and there is no insurance, the facility (or its insurance company under a subrogation claim) can go against the individual assets of the customer itself. Whether the customer has the money to pay for the damage is a different story.
Scott Zucker is a partner in the law firm of Weissmann Zucker Euster Morochnik & Garber, P.C. in Atlanta, Georgia.