If you get into an accident in a luxury leased vehicle, you may be confused as to whether you’re entitled to any damages for the serious inconvenience and costs you suffer while the vehicle is being repaired. In reality, the law is quite clear about damages in such circumstances.
Though you – the lessee (the person leasing a vehicle from the owner) – are not entitled to assert a diminished value claim for the reduction in value of the vehicle, you may be entitled to significant loss of use damages that are linked to the cost of renting a comparable luxury vehicle.
This can all be a bit overwhelming at first, so let’s break down the law into easy-to-digest pieces.
Florida’s Loss of Use Laws
When a lessee’s vehicle is being repaired, he or she has been deprived of the use of such vehicle for the duration of the repair. Under Florida law, both owners and lessees are entitled to rent a comparable vehicle.
Florida law entitles you to loss of use damages equivalent to renting a similar or suitable vehicle during the period of repair (see AT&T v. Lanzo Construction). What constitutes a similar or suitable vehicle is tied to the quality of the vehicle being repaired.
If you were leasing a luxury vehicle, then you would be entitled to the cost of renting another luxury vehicle for the duration of the repairs. If you were leasing a cheaper vehicle, by contrast, you would only be entitled to the cost of renting a similarly low-priced vehicle.
Reasonable Repair Period
Florida case law is clear: loss of use damages only account for the loss of use suffered during the reasonable period of repair (see Meakin v. Dreier). To put it in simpler terms, you are only entitled to the cost of renting a replacement vehicle while the leased vehicle is fundamentally unusable.
If your leased vehicle is at the body shop for extensive repairs, then you are entitled to the cost of renting a replacement vehicle. On the other hand, if your leased vehicle is only undergoing minor repairs (such as fixes for slight dings or scratches), and does not have to be at the body shop full-time, then you cannot claim loss of use damages for this usable period of time.
No Rental Needed
You are not required to a rent a vehicle in order to claim loss of use damages. Suppose, for example, that your spouse has a second vehicle that you can share for the duration of the repair. You may feel that it is unnecessary to go through the trouble of renting a replacement vehicle. Fortunately, Florida law does not eliminate your loss of use claim if you decide not to rent a replacement vehicle. The loss of use damages will be estimated based on what would have been the cost of renting such replacement.
Diminished Value as a Lessee
It may seem as though a lessee has a potential diminished value claim following an accident. Leased vehicle payments (and the purchase price of the vehicle at the end of the term) are negotiated for the term of the lease, and therefore remain static despite the reduction in value of the vehicle following the accident.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you will be able to successfully assert a diminished value claim as a lessee, as it isn’t a certainty that you will purchase the vehicle at the end of the lease term.
If you have suffered an accident in a leased vehicle, you may be entitled to loss of use damages while the vehicle is being repaired. Seek the support of an experienced team of attorneys that will ensure you receive fair and full compensation for your Florida loss of use claim. Our team at Coffey Trial Law is committed to your success. Contact us today.