Free Parking at Dulles, with Legal Questions Included

By: Allan M. Siegel

A new car sharing service known as FlightCar is setting up business at Dulles International Airport. They give you free parking and wash your car, and you just let them rent out your car to a complete stranger while you are away. FlightCar is already operating in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and is similar to another car sharing service, RelayRides that already operates in connection with Dulles and Reagan National Airport.Dulles airport

With FlightCar, a traveler drops off their car at a designated lot near Dulles, and the car is rented to a pre-screened driver. In exchange for allowing their car to be rented out, the traveler receives free parking, a ride to the airport, a car wash, and per-mile payment if their car is rented out to another driver. While the sharing economy is a growing market, operations like FlightCar bring not only new money-making and money-saving opportunities for consumers, but also legal questions.

One question that is raised is whether FlightCar will receive the necessary permits to operate at Dulles. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) selects rental car operators at both Dulles and Reagan National through a competitive procurement process which it completed just last year. FlightCar did not participate in that process and has not been granted a separate permit to operate. Without a permit, MWAA has the right to bring legal action against FlightCar for violating MWAA regulations.

A potentially bigger issue for drivers, both those who use the service and those on the road with "renters" of FlightCar vehicles, is what the insurance coverage will be for FlightCar users. Typically when a person uses their vehicle through a ride-share service, such as Uber, their own personal insurance coverage is voided unless they obtain a policy to specifically allow such use. Fortunately, companies like Uber, Lyft, and other car-sharing services provide liability coverage for their drivers, protecting both the driver and other people who may be injured by their driver's negligence. FlightCar seems to be following this model as it provides $1 million in primary liability insurance when the vehicle is in its possession. And while FlightCar states it pre-screens the driving records of its users, that still does not ensure that the driver will not cause an accident, or decide to misuse the owner's vehicle. Perhaps, a renter decides to use the vehicle to drive for Lyft or other car-sharing service, then who provides coverage.

As the sharing economy continues to grow, the area of car insurance and what to do when you have been in an auto accident becomes more and more complicated. The auto accident attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata, & Siegel, P.C., have decades of experience representing individuals injured motor vehicle collisions through no fault of their own, and helping them navigate the murky world of auto insurance. If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of another driver's careless actions, do not hesitate to call us at 202-659-8600 for a free consultation.