By Jordan W. Charness

“It seemed like such a great deal at the time,” said Peter with a perplexed tone in his voice. “I mean, it was almost like they were begging me to rent their car. Think about it: a nice shiny brand-new rental car, complementary ski rack, and free lift tickets, all at a really good weekend price…with unlimited mileage to boot.”

“I really couldn’t pass up such a deal, but it never occurred to me how much this deal was going to cost me in the end.”

Sometimes the preamble to Peter’s story can be just as much fun as the story itself. This one certainly got my attention.

According to Peter he was flipping through a magazine and found a special ad to rent a car for the weekend complete with ski rack and free lift tickets to a popular ski resort. Since the ski season was winding down and Peter is always interested in driving a new car this seemed like an excellent way to mix two of his favourite passions.

Peter rented the car, didn’t bother to read the rental contract and just signed at the appropriate places. In addition he declined collision damage insurance because he was renting with a premium credit card that included rental car insurance. He figured that the credit card company would pay for any trouble he got into. He was wrong.

Since Peter was in a hurry, he didn’t pay much attention to the rental car company’s employee’s explanation of how to use the ski rack. After all, he thought to himself, how difficult can it be to strap your skis to the ski rack?

As quickly as he could legally drive, he zoomed home to pick up his wife Mary, his son, their skis, boots, poles and other ski wear so that they could drive up to the mountain and get in a full day of skiing.

Peter told his son to strap the skis onto the ski rack and to load up the car. Peter’s son had never seen this type of ski rack before and tried to figure it out without asking Peter. Somehow he managed to get the rack closed around the skis but he did not think that it really looked right. He tried to mention it to Peter but Peter was in too much of a hurry to get going to listen.

About 15 minutes into the highway portion of their trip Peter heard a noise that sounded like something falling off the roof but upon looking behind him he could see nothing. What he failed to notice was that one of the skis had dislodged and fallen off the car and onto the road. Moments later another car hit the ski and spun out of control, into a sign post crumpling the passenger door but fortunately causing no injuries.

A couple of seconds later Peter really heard a loud noise. He looked behind him and saw another set of skis dangling from the rack and banging into the rear of the car. To his horror, he watched the ski smash the back window scattering glass all over the place.

Peter pulled over to see if anyone was hurt and assess the damage. Fortunately there were no physical injuries but the car was pretty well beaten up. While looking things over a police officer pulled up behind Peter and got out with a stern expression on his face.

The police officer informed Peter about the accident that he had caused to the car behind him. He was given a ticket for failing to properly secure the skis to his car and causing an accident. He was also ordered not to drive the car in its present condition and to wait for a tow truck.

The tow truck towed him to a garage where he notified the rental car company about the accidents. He then arranged for transportation home assuming that the credit card company would take care of everything.

The credit card company declined responsibility claiming that Peter’s failure to properly attach the skis to the ski rack was his own fault and was not a covered risk. His car was not in a collision nor in an accident and the damage that was caused was due to his own negligence.

To make matters worse the insurance company for the car that was forced off the road by the loose ski also went after Peter for the damage that was caused to that car.

The rental car company was deprived of use of their vehicle for over three weeks while it was being repaired and they charged Peter for the lost rental income for that time period.

If Peter had listened to the rental company employee, read the rental contract and taken the time to read the contract of insurance that came with his credit card he would have behaved in a completely different manner and would not be in the mess that he is in now.

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