Liability for an Accident in a Rental Car

Like any other accident, it’s important to establish fault after a car accident involving a rental car. While no-fault insurance may cover the drivers involved, fault may be important in serious crashes so it’s clear who is liable for the other driver’s damages.

The rental company’s, rental driver’s, and the other driver’s insurance policies may all come into play depending on the details of the accident. The case will be even more complicated if an auto defect in the rental caused the accident.

Who is liable for damages when someone is involved in an accident with a rental car?

In most states, the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident is responsible for covering damages. But some states like New York follow the no-fault system, which means that each driver must use his or her own personal injury protection (PIP) insurance for coverage of medical expenses, regardless of who caused the crash. This may apply even when driving a rental car.

In cases of serious accidents or if expenses exceed PIP limits, the injured rental car driver may file a claim against the other, at-fault driver’s liability coverage. And if the rental car driver was at fault, then the other driver may file a liability claim against him or her.

Keep in mind, though, that the state of New York requires rental companies provide the same minimum liability insurance that private car owners must purchase: 

  • $25,000 bodily injury liability for one person;
  • $50,000 bodily injury liability for two or more persons; and
  • $10,000 or property damage for one accident. 

In New York, drivers’ own liability and no-fault coverage follows them when renting a car. However, this is in excess to the coverage provided by the insurance company, which is outlined above.

The rental car company may request damages from the rental driver for anything that happened to the car. Typically the driver’s own auto policy or any optional vehicle protection purchased at the time of rental may cover this. Another option that may be available is coverage through the credit card the driver used to rent the vehicle.

How should drivers handle an accident if in a rental car?

For the most part, handling an accident involving a rental car isn’t much different than if it were your own vehicle. For instance, New York requires by law that drivers notify the authorities if someone is injured or killed in an accident. Not only do the police file an accident report, but so do all drivers involved in the crash.

Drivers should seek medical attention even if not given medical care at the scene of the accident or in an emergency room, and even if they do not feel injured. It’s important to keep a record of all medical bills and other injury-related expenses so you may recover compensation for these expenses later.

The renter should contact his/her auto insurance company immediately after the accident. Renters should also notify the rental company to notify it of the accident. The signed contract may give specific instructions on what to do if involved in an accident. Failing to follow the terms of their agreement could cause additional problems.

Is an attorney necessary after an accident with a rental car?

If there were no injuries or just minor injuries, it’s unlikely that legal counsel will be necessary. However, if you sustained severe, disabling or life-threatening injuries, it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney.

There can be a lot at stake financially from immediate and future medical bills to loss of income that may accompany a serious injury. For help pursuing fair compensation from the other driver’s liability insurance after a serious accident involving a rental car, call Gacovino, Lake & Associates at 800-550-0000 or set up your consultation via our online contact form.

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