Driving a brand new car comes with a lot of reliability that some used cars just can’t compete with. But, they can be really expensive. That’s why more people are turning to leased cars. In fact, of the newly bought US vehicles in 2021, more than 20% were leased. However, what happens if you get in an accident in a leased car? You don’t own the car, so can you be financially responsible for the damages?
What is a leased car?
A car lease is a type of auto financing that allows you to rent a car from the dealership for a designated length of time and number of miles. Like most types of car payments, you’ll make monthly lease payments for the vehicle. In exchange, the dealer allows you to drive it. At the end of the lease, you’ll either return the vehicle to the dealership or buy out your lease if you want to keep the car. But, some lease agreements don’t provide the option to buy your lease, so make sure to read the fine print.
Florida Law for Leased Car Accidents
Florida law requires all drivers, including those who lease vehicles, to have $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP) and $10,000 of property damage liability (PDL) covered by their auto insurance. Unlike other states, Florida does not require drivers to carry bodily injury liability coverage for those injured in an accident caused by the policyholder, but you can add it to your policy.
If you are involved in a wreck in a leased car — regardless if you are responsible or not — you must report the incident to your leasing company. You typically only have one or two days to tell them. You’ll find details of this requirement in your leasing contracts. You will also need to abide by laws about reporting the accident to the police.
Who is responsible for repairs?
The person(s) responsible for repairs can vary. If you were responsible for the accident, then your insurance may cover part of the costs, or you’ll be solely responsible for the costs of fixing the car. However, if other parties — whether it be other drivers involved or third parties — are responsible, then they will be responsible for the damages. Florida is a comparative negligence state. This means that more than one person could be found at fault for the accident. In those cases, you may find yourself splitting the bill with the other driver(s).
What happens if you total the car?
If the accident totals your leased car, you’ll not only be out of a car, but you’ll be responsible for paying back everything you still owe on the lease. This can be done in a number of ways. You can pay it outright, or — depending on your insurance coverage — your insurance may pay the difference. In some cases, you may be able to roll the outstanding balance into a new lease.
If you’re not responsible for the accident that totals your car, you may need to pursue legal action to ensure you’re not left with the bill for your leased car. Those found responsible should pay for part or all of your leased vehicle. But, if the person responsible fled the scene, then you may be stuck paying anyway.
How does an accident affect the lease?
While an accident won’t negatively affect your lease, you will be responsible for ensuring damages are fixed before returning your leased vehicle. If you were found negligent for the accident, your insurance premium could increase, but that is separate from the leasing agreement.
Make sure to check the terms of your lease — some agreements require you to have your vehicle serviced at a pre-approved location. And, most contracts will prevent you from using parts that are not made by the original equipment manufacturer (also known as aftermarket parts).
How can an attorney help?
When an accident happens, there are many factors that determine if you were negligent, if you or your insurance are responsible for paying, or if another driver is responsible for paying for your leased vehicle. That’s why having an experienced attorney to walk you through all your options is crucial. At Clark Law, we work on behalf of you to get you the best outcome possible. This means conducting a diligent discovery process, working with your insurance and the insurance company of anyone else involved, and keeping your leasing company informed. And, we’ll help you file any claims needed during the process.
Call Clark Law for a Free Consultation with a Car Accident Lawyer
If you’ve been involved in a car accident in your leased car and don’t know how to move forward, let us help you. Our legal experts will ensure you have the best outcome possible. Call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.