Who Is Liable in a Rental Car Accident?


If you are involved in a car accident, it is important to know who is liable for the damage that results. This is especially true if a rental car was the cause of the crash. Different states have different laws about liability for rental cars. In some states, the renter is liable for any damage. In other states, the insurance company pays for any damage and then sues the renter to recover their losses.

Since rental cars are often used on vacations or when travelling for work, you must understand which state’s laws apply as accidents may occur in a different state than where you reside or normally work. If you are renting a car and get into an accident, it is important that you understand which state’s law applies before making any decisions that could affect your rights and responsibilities. On the reverse side of the crash, if you are involved in a crash that was caused by a negligent driver who was driving a rental car, you also need to know what to do and what not to do. There may be more steps to take care of than if the accident occurred between two privately-owned cars.

The renter is liable for any damage if they are the cause of the crash. However, there are many sources of recovery if you are hurt due to the negligence of a driver of a rental car. It depends upon what type of insurance policies are available and what type of coverage is paid for on each policy. The rental car company is liable for any damage to the rental car if the renter was in an accident and was found to be at fault. If the renter is not found to be responsible, then the renter will be liable for all damage incurred in an accident.

If you are seriously injured in a car accident that is caused by a rental car driver, one of the first phone calls you should make is to a law firm. You will need a lawyer who knows about the type of insurance involved in these crashes and how the law applies.

Here are the potential insurance policies that may come into play.

Rental Car Insurance

When you rent a car, the rental company always offers the renter extra coverage. What type of coverage and how much is offered will depend upon the state where the rental agreement is signed. However, this extra rental insurance could come into play if the rental driver causes the crash, and someone was seriously injured.

The At-Fault Driver’s Personal Insurance

In some cases, the rental driver’s insurance policy that covers their personal vehicle might come into play. Again, this depends upon the law of the state and the details of their personal automobile policy, but it is something that a thorough attorney will investigate and pursue if needed.

Credit Card Company Rental Car Insurance

When people rent a car, they will always use a credit card. In many instances, the credit card company has a standard benefit attached to it where it provides insurance that covers the rental car. Again, there is no guarantee that such a policy exists with every rental car purchase. Also, there is no guarantee that when there is credit card company rental car insurance, it will provide benefits and coverage to injured people.

The Rental Car Company

Most people think that if they were injured by a negligent driver of a rental car, that the owner of the rental car would also be liable and responsible for any injuries their driver caused. But this is not the case. A federal law passed in 2005 by Congress called the Graves Amendment made it impossible to file a lawsuit against a rental company merely for owning a vehicle that was involved in a crash due to the negligence of the driver. This type of liability is called vicarious liability, which means that the owner of the vehicle is vicariously liable for the actions of the driver. The Graves Amendment ended that in the United States.

However, if the injured person can demonstrate that the company’s negligence or actions contributed to those injuries, then the rental company can be held responsible. The type of negligence on behalf of the rental company could be that it failed to professionally train and supervise its employees as to renting out vehicles to proper drivers. Also, if the rental car company fails to perform proper maintenance and inspection of their vehicles, and it was proven that a malfunction of the vehicle caused the crash, then the company could be held responsible. Last, if the rental car employees rented a vehicle to someone who they clearly should not have rented to, then the rental car company could be liable for the negligent actions of their employees. Here are some potential ways that a rental car company employee could rent to the wrong person and be responsible for your injuries:

  • The rental car company rented a vehicle to someone who was clearly intoxicated on either alcohol or drugs and let them drive off the lot in that condition. If the intoxicated driver, then goes out and causes a crash, the rental car company could be responsible for the injuries that happened in the crash.
  • The rental car employee rented a vehicle to someone whose license is revoked.
  • The rental car company employee failed to review and verify the driver’s license information and it turned out the driver either did not have a license or the license was restricted in some manner.

Wilmington Car Accident Lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow Represent Those Injured in Rental Car Accidents

If you were seriously injured by someone who was driving a rental car, our Wilmington car accident lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow have decades of experience and can help. We have office locations in Bear, Wilmington, Milford and Lewes, Delaware. With offices in all three counties, we serve clients throughout the state. Call us at 302-427-9600 or complete our online form to schedule a free consultation.


Delaware Injury Lawyers

R & M Lawyers
Rhoades & Morrow

Our attorneys provide exceptional legal service with a personal touch. Since our founding in 1990, we have helped thousands of Delaware citizens obtain full and just compensation for personal injury claims. We have gained an excellent reputation as the “go to” law firm. Let us put our decades of experience to work for you.

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