Rental Car Accident Liability Stemming from an Auto Defect

In the case of a rental car accident, who is liable for auto defects that are to blame for the accident? The rental company? The vehicle manufacturer? These are common questions in such an event. The answers largely depend on whose negligence led to and/or failed to discover the defect before handing it over to the renter. 

While rental car companies are not required to cease rental of recalled vehicles, if it can be proven that a rental car company was aware of an auto defect, it may be held liable for damages resulting from a rental car accident. The manufacturer may also be held liable if a defect caused an accident. A car accident lawyer in Long Island can provide legal guidance in cases such as this. 

Liability in a Rental Car Accident Involving a Vehicle Recalled for an Auto Defect 

Although consumers should be protected in these circumstances, the reality is that rental car companies aren’t required to repair recalled vehicles before renting them out. 

The good news is that change is coming, which should make it easier to hold rental car companies liable for injuries or deaths stemming from defective vehicle. 

In fact, four of the biggest rental car companies: 

  • Enterprise Holdings Inc.;
  • Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Inc.;
  • Hertz Corp.; and
  • Avis Budget Group Inc. have agreed to not only support legislation banning the rental of recalled vehicles, but have pledged to not do so in the meantime. 

One of the most well-known cases stems from a tragic accident in 2004 that killed two sisters when their rented PT Cruiser caught fire and crashed head-on into a semi. The fire was caused by leaking steering fluid, and had resulted in a recall of the vehicle. The car rental company paid a $15 million settlement to the family. 

Proving Rental Car Company Liability 

As the aforementioned example shows, it may be possible to hold a rental car company liable for a defective vehicle that had been recalled despite the lack of current laws addressing this. In New York, Section 396-Z, which pertains to rental vehicle protections, the company is responsible for providing either a diagram or owner’s manual that shows the location of necessary functions for the safe and efficient operation of the vehicle. 

This specific law doesn’t necessarily hold the company liable if the malfunction of the vehicle leads to a rental car accident. However, if a rental car company knowingly allows an unsafe vehicle to be driven, they could be held liable. 

If it can be shown that the rental company was aware of the defect and failed to remove it from the road or to make the necessary repairs, it could be named in a lawsuit. Another element that can be used in this type of case is establishing that the rental company should have reasonably foreseen the risk of injury or death to a consumer based on a known defect. 

Not only is it a possibility to seek damages in a claim naming the rental car company in a rental car accident, but a claim may also be filed against the manufacturer of the defective vehicle in some cases, too. 

Compensation could address: 

  • medical bills;
  • lost wages;
  • emotional distress;
  • pain and suffering; and
  • other losses. 

If the defective rental vehicle resulted in death, damages may be available for funeral expenses and losses of the family. 

The car accident lawyer in Long Island at Gacovino, Lake & Associates has handled a variety of traffic accident cases, involving serious and fatal injuries. If injuries or death resulted from an auto defect that caused a rental car accident, an attorney can help determine liability.

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