California is a fault car insurance state, which means that the at-fault driver in an auto accident is responsible for paying for the injuries and losses of the other drivers involved. Usually, the funds for this compensation come out of the driver’s insurance policy for his or her vehicle – but what happens when the vehicle is a rental car? Is it possible to hold a rental car company liable for an accident that was not your fault?
Liability in California Rental Car Accidents
If you were responsible for the accident, you may have to pay for the damages of the other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians involved, even if you were in a rental car. Unless you purchased coverage for the rental itself, you will usually have to pay for these damages through your personal insurance policy.
If you were not at-fault for the accident and the other driver was in a rental car, you typically cannot file a lawsuit against the company itself – instead, you have three main options to collect compensation.
- You can file a claim with your own insurance company.
- You can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
- You can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver in California civil court.
Most rental car companies do offer liability coverage at the time of the rental. You could claim funds through this policy as well, if the at-fault driver purchased this coverage. However, filing a claim with the rental car company’s insurance is not the same as holding the company liable for your accident.
Can You Hold a Rental Car Company Liable for Your Injuries?
In order for you to name a rental car company as an at-fault party in your insurance claim or lawsuit, you will have to prove that the company contributed to the accident in some way. The company’s negligence must have played a role in causing the accident, not just the other driver. Usually, this negligence manifests in an issue with the rental vehicle itself.
This can occur in a number of ways.
- The rental car company could know about a dangerous condition in one of its vehicles, but choose to rent the car out to a driver anyway. You will have to prove that someone, from a renter to a manufacturer or mechanic, warned the company about the defect and they failed to take action.
- The company could have failed to perform standard vehicle maintenance. Since the company has a duty to ensure that each of its vehicles are safe to drive, they must perform routine maintenance and check-ups. If the company does not invest in maintenance, fails to fix a known issue, or otherwise rents out a dangerous car that is not in safe condition, you could hold the company liable for your accident.
- The rental car company must also follow state and federal laws and not engage in unethical or illegal business practices. If the company rents a vehicle to a driver without a license, for example, they could be liable for any accidents that driver causes. Using unlicensed mechanics and poor auto parts could also be grounds for liability.
Proving Rental Car Company Liability in Car Accident Claims
If you believe that the rental car company involved in your accident could share a portion of the liability, contact a California car accident attorney as soon as possible. You and your attorney will need to collect evidence to establish the company’s negligence in your claim. To do so, you and your attorney will need to prove four elements.
- The rental car company owed you a duty of care.
- The company breached their duty of care.
- You suffered injuries as a result of this breach.
- You can collect damages for your injuries in the claim.
Contact an attorney as soon as possible to begin collecting evidence and building your claim.