Can I get compensation if a trailer rental company’s mistake caused damage to my car?

UPDATED: Aug 14, 2011

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Can I get compensation if a trailer rental company’s mistake caused damage to my car?

Before I started to move from PA to FL, I called a U-Haul store and asked what size trailer would be the best for my car. The employee who answered told me that 5×8 trailer should be just fine. As soon as I entered the highway, I saw an increase in my rpm’s, but didn’t think anything of it. When I got to FL the rpm’s were redlining and the car stopped going.The mechanics I went to told me that the trailer was way too big for the car. Now I have to spend nearly$ 200/week on my commutes to school and work. Is there any way U-Haul is liable for the damages?

Asked on August 14, 2011 Florida


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You could sue U-Haul for negligence.  Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that in this case a reasonable trailer provider would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm).  In order to prove negligence, you will need to prove duty of care (discussed above), breach of duty (failure to exercise due care by providing the wrong size trailer), actual cause, proximate cause and damages.  Actual cause means but for U-Haul providing the wrong size trailer, would your car have been damaged?  If the answer is no, which appears to be the case, you have established actual cause.  Proximate cause means were there any unforeseeable intervening events which would relieve U-Haul of liability?  If the answer is no, proximate cause has been established.  Damages means the amount of compensation you are seeking in your lawsuit for negligence.  Your damages would be the cost of repairs to your car and the cost of commuting to school and work.  You will need to mitigate (minimize) damages which means that the repair shop you select for repair of your car should be one whose charges are comparable to other repair shops in the area.  If you were to select the most expensive repair shop you could find, your damages would be reduced accordingly.  The same applies to the commuting cost you mentioned.  If there is a reasonable, less costly alternative, you would have to use that or your damages will be reduced accordingly.

Prior to filing your lawsuit against U-Haul, it may be possible to settle your case with their insurance carrier.  If you are dissatisfied with settlement offers from their insurance carrier, file your lawsuit for negligence.  If the case is not settled, you will need to file your lawsuit prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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