Can I Sue a Rental Car Company for an Accident?

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Accidents happen – even when you’re on vacation and driving a rental a car. Whether you’re the party driving the rental vehicle or on the other side of the crash, you need to know what involvement of a rental vehicle could mean for your claim in California. Accidents with rentals are unique and can be more complex than other car accident cases. You might have the chance to file a claim against the other driver, the rental car company, and/or other parties. A Long Beach car accident attorney can help you understand the elements of your specific claim, starting with a free consultation.

Liability for Rental Car Collisions

For the most part, accident victims cannot bring injury claims against rental car companies. California is a fault car insurance state, meaning the party who is at-fault for the collision will be responsible for paying damages. If the driver of the rental car caused the accident, the driver will be liable, as is the case in normal car accident claims. The rental car company is not automatically liable for accidents that happen in its vehicles – even if the at-fault person was driving one of its cars at the time of the crash.

The individual driver of the rental car (or his/her insurance company) will be at-fault for the crash if he or she caused the accident. Victims can file personal injury claims against the rental car driver if they wish to pursue compensation for their medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, property damage, etc. In general, that driver’s insurer will pay victims’ damages. If you were driving a rental car and caused the accident, it will be your insurance company that pays, and/or the insurance plan you purchased with your rental contract.

Rental car companies offer liability coverage to people who rent their vehicles. In the event of an at-fault or not-at-fault accident, this insurance coverage can compensate victims for their damages. This is not the same, though, as the rental car company taking liability for the crash. Filing an insurance claim with the rental company’s insurance is not the same as suing the company for negligence. The driver of the rental car will still be the one at-fault and liable unless someone else caused the accident.

When Can Someone File a Claim Against a Rental Company?

The rental car company would not face liability for a car accident unless it directly or indirectly contributed to the crash through negligence. “Negligence” can be any action a reasonable and prudent entity would not take, or a failure to act when a reasonable party would have acted. Proof of the company’s negligence is a necessary element if one wishes to file a claim against a rental car facility. Examples of rental car company negligence include:

  • Poor vehicle maintenance. It is a rental car company’s duty to ensure the vehicles it rents out are safe and roadway-ready. The company must invest in regular vehicle maintenance, prompt repairs, part replacements, inspections, and car cleanings to keep its fleet of vehicles in shape for renters. Lack of maintenance and an unsafe car could expose the company to liability.
  • Refusing to fix a known dangerous defect. If a renter, manufacturer, or mechanic warned the rental company of a dangerous defect in one of its vehicles, but the rental company failed to fix it, the company could be liable for a subsequent accident.
  • Engaging in illegal business practices. Using an uncertified mechanic, renting to unlicensed drivers, skipping maintenance checks, and repairing broken parts with low-quality replacements are examples of misconduct that could get the rental company into legal trouble.

If an accident happens due to rental company negligence or wrongdoing, the victims(s) can file claims against the company. The company must be guilty of some type of negligence that injured others to be liable for damages. Talk to an accident lawyer in Long Beach for more information about a rental car accident claim.