Rental vehicles allow you freedom and mobility when traveling. But what if you suffer injuries in a car accident when driving a rental car? Who is liable for your damages in a rental car accident?
Generally, the at-fault drivers in the rental car accident will be liable for damages. You, who rented the car, could also be held responsible for additional fees.
Remember that the rental car company will not be responsible for damages from the accident unless you can prove that its negligence contributed to it.
Liability in rental car accidents can be confusing. So, read this post to the end for a better understanding of rental cars and liability and what to do after a rental car accident.
Car Accident Liability Basics
Generally, the at-fault party is liable for any damages from a car accident. For instance, the at-fault motorist in a car accident is legally responsible for covering the accident victim’s injuries.
The insurance provider covers the victim’s losses up to the policy limits if the driver carries liability insurance. The driver is liable for any additional damages the insurance does not cover.
The following parties might be held accountable for a motor vehicle accident:
- The negligent motorist who caused the accident
- The at-fault driver’s employer
- The manufacturer of a faulty vehicle
- A contractor or government agency responsible for poor road conditions
Some states require drivers to have personal injury protection (PIP). PIP pays, up to a specific limit, for the driver’s medical bills, lost wages, and other costs stemming from the collision, irrespective of who was at fault.
It also pays for damages incurred by covered individuals, such as cyclists and pedestrians, when they suffer injuries in a collision.
Generally, a person with PIP coverage must use that policy to cover their damages following a crash before pursuing other parties for further compensation.
State regulations might occasionally impose limits on when PIP beneficiaries can file claims for further damages.
In Florida, for example, you can only file a claim against the at-fault motorist for damages your PIP does not cover if you sustained severe injuries such as disfigurement, loss of bodily function, or death.
Liability in Rental Car Accidents
A rental car accident does not change the earlier-mentioned rules.
After exhausting their PIP coverage, individuals who suffer injuries in a rental vehicle accident may, like other accident victims, seek compensation from the responsible or at-fault party.
The same liable parties mentioned above can be required to pay for damages following a rental car accident.
Rental car agencies are not usually liable for renter’s conduct
Some state laws hold the vehicle’s owner automatically responsible for damages incurred in a crash their vehicle was involved in, even if another person was driving it.
Rental car companies in these states occasionally had to compensate victims of accidents their renters caused.
This changed in 2005 when Congress approved the Graves Amendment, overturning state laws applicable to rental car companies.
The Graves Amendment excludes rental agencies from being held automatically responsible for the victims of their cars, irrespective of what state laws say on the matter.
But that is not to say you cannot file a claim against the rental agency for crash-related damages. It only means they are not automatically responsible.
The amendment has a loophole to sue a rental car company for negligence or criminal wrongdoing that caused a collision.
For instance, if a rental agency lends a mechanically defective vehicle unsafe for the road, it could be liable to accident victims.
Rental Car Accidents and Insurance
The issue of rental vehicles and insurance is a confusing one. Rental car agencies are to blame for this confusion since their salespersons usually use high-pressure techniques and intimidation to have you purchase costly accident insurance from them.
Here is something you should know.
Insurance does not change an at-fault party’s liability
An important thing to remember is that none of the laws we have discussed so far regarding an at-fault party’s responsibility for a rental car accident is affected by insurance.
Generally, insurance does not affect motor vehicle accident liability laws. It just helps allocate the monetary risks they generate.
So, just because a driver who caused a collision has liability insurance does not automatically absolve them of responsibility.
It simply implies that the insurer will act as the driver’s first line of defense in paying for damages up to the policy limit.
The motorist is still liable, and if their insurance doesn’t pay for all of the victim’s losses, they will be responsible for the balance.
The rental agency already has the compulsory minimum insurance on the rental car
Like typical car owners, rental car firms must carry minimum liability insurance and, when necessary, PIP insurance on their fleets according to most state laws.
The minimum insurance covers those renting a car in these jurisdictions per their rental agreement. They do not need to buy it separately.
So, if you rent a vehicle in a state that mandates PIP coverage, you may rely on this coverage if you sustain injuries in a rental car accident.
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Just like it would be if a negligent driver hit you with their car if hit by someone in a rental car, that vehicle’s liability insurance will often pay for your damages.
Your car insurance may step in front of the rental car company’s minimum insurance
Since most individuals who rent cars have personal cars at home, most already have auto insurance.
So, when driving a rented vehicle, their insurance usually offers liability coverage and personal injury protection when necessary.
That means they may be covered by two insurance policies against crash-related damages when they hire a car. These are the rental agency’s insurance on the rental car and the insurance on their car back home.
Rental agencies know this fact. For this reason, they frequently include a clause in their rental agreements stating that the renter’s insurance will cover liability first (primary coverage) in the case of a collision.
The rental company’s insurance then takes second place (secondary) to pay for damages exceeding the renter’s personal insurance policy limit.
The designation of your insurance as primary or secondary does not impact whether you are covered. It only determines which insurance plan to use to cover rental car accident damages.
The at-fault party pays for damages to your rental car
In most cases, the at-fault party must cover the repairs or the cost of a replacement car, either out of pocket or through their liability coverage.
Yet, realistically speaking, if you have collision coverage, you may use it to cover those costs first before leaving your insurance provider to seek the at-fault party’s insurer for compensation (a process called subrogation).
But in the case of a rental car, the vehicle damage falls on the rental agency, not you. Also, they want to recover repair costs as soon as possible and at no additional charge.
So, even if the accident was not your fault, you must cover the vehicle damage immediately based on the terms of their rental agreement. In essence, you take on the rental car’s insurance role.
It may sound unfair at first glance. Why should you be liable for rental car damages you did not cause?
The reason is that this is what the rental company wants. They get to decide the conditions under which they will lend the car to you because they own it.
That is where they use high-pressure sales techniques. The rental company offers to suspend the vehicle damage clause in their contract at a cost because they know you are nervous about having to pay for a totaled rental vehicle.
This is referred to as a collision damage waiver (CDW). If you acquire this, the agency will handle most of the vehicle damage without asking you to pay the bill.
But is this comfort worth the cost of CDW? For most motorists, it is not because their auto insurance covers the rental vehicle damage. It is also not worth it if you use a credit card to rent a car.
Besides, if the rental car accident was not your fault, you can pursue the negligent driver or their liability insurance to cover the damages.
What to Do After a Rental Car Accident
The actions you take after suffering injuries in a rental car accident, whether you were a pedestrian, cyclist, biker, or driver of the car hit by a rental car, may impact your legal rights.
Consider the following suggestions to protect your rights and place yourself in an excellent position to obtain substantial compensation.
Seek medical treatment
Your safety and health come first. Regardless of how minor you believe your injuries are, get medical help immediately following a rental car accident.
Some severe injuries might not manifest early symptoms. Then adhere to your doctor’s treatment recommendations.
Seeking medical care is a crucial element of establishing a personal injury claim.
Be cautious when dealing with insurance companies
Any insurer responsible for covering damages from your rental car accident will try to find excuses to avoid incurring that financial burden. Therefore, be careful when speaking to them.
You may have to inform your insurer about the collision and your injuries. Provide relevant details only and avoid being sucked into a debate over who caused the accident.
Generally speaking, you are not required to discuss what transpired with the other party’s insurance. But if you do, follow the same guidelines and refrain from saying anything that could imply an admission of fault for the collision.
Contact a car accident lawyer immediately if an insurance provider offers to settle your car accident claim. Do not accept or sign anything sent to you by the insurer.
Their settlement offer may not be enough to cover all your damages. Leave negotiations to an experienced lawyer who can get you the compensation you deserve.
Contact a Rental Car Accident Lawyer Today!
Sometimes, things can go wrong when riding a rental car, leading to an accident. You might be eligible for compensation if you suffered injuries not your fault in a rental car accident.
But these claims can be complex since rental agencies draft agreements meant to protect them. So, it is advisable to work with a knowledgeable compensation to seek compensation for your damages.
Legal Giant could link you with an experienced car accident lawyer in your state if you sustained injuries in a rental car accident.
Contact us at (855) 740-5024 for a free consultation and case evaluation.