- October 15, 2021
- In car Accident
Renting a car while on vacation has many benefits. Tourists get more freedom and independence to roam, without abiding by public transportation schedules or paying surged rates for Uber/Lyft rides. However, driving through unfamiliar roads is an accident hazard. Tourists may pay more attention to road signs and maps rather than the road ahead, which is a form of distracted driving.
In the event of an accident with a rental car, the rental company is protected from vicarious liability claims, under the Graves Amendment (federal law passed in 2005). Meaning the renter of the vehicle will be held liable for any injuries caused by the rental car that is determined to be the renter’s fault. However, the Graves Amendment does not fully protect rental companies from liability. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help determine if the rental company can be found liable for the accident.
Have you or a loved one been injured in an accident involving a rental vehicle (i.e. Enterprise, Hertz, or Avis)? You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, including medical care costs, lost earnings, and pain and suffering. The car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates are well-versed in the unique legal issues involving rental car accidents. For more information or to schedule a complimentary case consultation, please call 949-727-9300.
Is the driver or owner of the vehicle liable for an accident in California?
In California, Vehicle Code § 17150 states “Every owner of a motor vehicle is liable and responsible for death or injury to person or property resulting from a negligent or wrongful act or omission in the operation of the motor vehicle.” This means that if you loan your vehicle to someone and they cause an accident, you are financially responsible. Typically, your insurance will cover any accident caused by anyone you have given permission to drive your vehicle. But what is the law when you are renting a car? Or if you are injured by someone driving a rental car? This “permissive use” is different when a rental car is involved.
Graves Amendment and Rental Car Companies
In 2005, Congress passed a federal highway bill called the “Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (“SAFETEA-LU”).” Part of this bill, 49 U.S.C. § 30106, referred to as the Graves Amendment, preempted state laws that imposed permissive user liability. In other words, old laws which made rental car companies liable for the negligence of their renters were abolished.
When A Rental Car Company Can Be Liable For An Accident
A car rental car company can be held liable for an accident in only a few scenarios where their own negligence contributed to an accident. For example, if a vehicle was returned and a customer had noted the brakes didn’t work, but the rental car company did not have it maintained and inspected, the rental car company could be liable for an accident that occurs due to the brake failure. In order for the rental car company to be held liable in an accident claim, you must establish:
- The rental car company had a duty of care to you and breached it
- You suffered injuries as a result of the rental car company’s negligence.
- Your injuries resulted in financial losses (damages).
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 94% of accidents are caused by a human failure in the causal chain of events leading up to the collision. Critical reasons involving drivers include recognition errors, decision errors, performance errors, and no-performance errors. These “driver errors” include speeding, delayed reactions, accidents caused by being distracted from cell phones, and other negligent and reckless actions behind the wheel. Accidents caused by driver negligence are far more common than accidents involving vehicle manufacturing defects or negligent maintenance.
If You Are Injured In A Car Accident While Renting a Car
If you are in a rental car and involved in an accident, you should do everything you would do if you were in your own vehicle:
- Get out of harm’s way and make sure everyone is safe
- Report the accident and request police or law enforcement prepare an accident report
- Take photographs and videos of the accident scene
- Gather information of all parties and witnesses
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible
- Report the accident to your own insurance company, and the rental car company, as per the terms of your rental agreement.
- Speak with a personal injury attorney.
If your accident occurs while you are out of town, it may be tempting to skip getting medical care. It is important to seek medical attention not only for your own well-being but to document specifically what happened. Medical records from your hospital visit, follow-up visits with your primary doctor, specialists, and physical therapists are important evidence in your claim. These records will establish the severity of your injuries, your pain levels, and the care you will need in the months and years going forward.
Contact an Experienced Orange County Car Accident Attorney
If you were injured in a car accident—due to the negligence of another party—involving a rental car in California, you may be entitled to compensation. Time is of the essence following a crash. It is always advisable to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.
The personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates can help! With multiple offices located in Irvine, Anaheim, Los Angeles, El Segundo, Riverside, and San Diego, our car accident attorneys have represented injured victims all across Southern California. For more information or to schedule a complimentary case consultation, please call 949-727-9300.
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