Who pays when you cause an accident in a rental car?
When you rent a car, the rental agent always asks if you want to purchase their rental insurance. If you have your own car insurance, you may decide not to purchase their insurance believing that if you caused a car crash when you were driving the rental car, your auto insurance would be the one to pay. While that is true in many instances, there are times when that is not the case.
Instances when a rental car company may be liable for an auto accident
Although nationally most states agree that the rental driver’s own car insurance should cover the cost of damages if the driver is responsible for an accident, there are some instances when the rental car company’s insurance company has to pay in full or in part.
This is a legal doctrine and is enforced in situations where, for example, you let someone drive your own car knowing that person was not competent, and then they cause a car crash. This could be a teenager, an elderly person, or a known alcoholic with DWIs on his record. The same legal doctrine of negligent entrustment can apply to a rental car company. If they rent a vehicle to someone who is intoxicated at the time of the rental car transaction, the rental car company can be held at least partially liable. In a case like this, the rental company and the driver’s insurance may both have to contribute to damages the driver caused.
However, there are cases when the rental car company can be held totally liable under the negligent entrustment doctrine. Let’s say they rent a car to a minor or to someone who said they had insurance of their own. If they rented the car to a minor without checking his ID, the company may be found totally liable. In a case where someone said they had car insurance and the rental company doesn’t check to see if that is true, the rental car company can be found totally liable.
It is the rental car company’s responsibility to ensure that the driver is of age, is competent, and has his or her own auto insurance coverage.
Improper and/or Poor Maintenance:
There is every expectation that when a driver rents a car, it will have been properly maintained. However, should the rental driver cause an accident because the car he was driving was poorly or improperly maintained, then the rental car company’s insurance usually has to pay up. This is also true if the car was recalled for a problem and the rental company didn’t do anything about it. In these cases, if improper maintenance or negligence can be proven, the rental driver does not have to assume the cost of any damages, even though he caused the accident.
When you rent a car, it is important that you know if your auto insurance company covers a rental car accident and know of any exceptions when they wouldn’t. It’s also very important to decide whether to purchase rental insurance and what that coverage is. For example, if your own insurance coverage lacks Under-Insured or Medical Pay insurance, you may want to be sure that the rental insurance does and then purchase it.
Because liability will be questioned if you cause a car wreck in a rental car, be sure to purchase the rental car company’s insurance if you don’t have your own automobile insurance policy, and make sure you have a valid up-to-date driver’s license. These two factors will greatly help determine liability and who will pay for what much more easily.
If you have any questions about this topic or any other questions related to personal injury law, please call us at 920-725-8464, or toll free at 1-800-529-1552. Our personal injury consultations are always free.
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