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Who is responsible for an accident involving a rental car in Pennsylvania?

The aftermath of an accident is stressful enough without having to deal with the complexities involving a rental car. If you got in accident while driving a rental car you may be wondering who may be deemed liable, and what options you have for coverage. Rental cars can be covered by several different insurance policies from your own coverage, to additional packages offered by the rental car company, to the credit card you used to purchase the vehicle. The Reiff Law firm explains various types of coverage and who can be held responsible for an accident involving a rental car in Pennsylvania.

No-Fault Coverage

Pennsylvania follows no-fault insurance, meaning that determining fault will be crucial in order to recover for any injuries sustained. Typically in car accidents, one of the two drivers will be fully or partly responsible for the accident. The first thing to note is that regardless of which driver is deemed liable, your insurance company will cover certain damages under the no-fault insurance rules. Personal Injury Protection (PIP) is a type of coverage on every insurance policy in Pennsylvania and will cover medical bills and lost wages even if you were responsible for the accident. If the other driver was at-fault, then you can file a claim with that driver’s insurance policy to receive compensation for your injuries. On the other hand, if you were responsible for the accident, you will likely look to your own insurance coverage such as your health insurance or the insurance you purchased when renting the car for compensation.

Since you sign a contract when renting a car, there are a few things to note. One is that you agree to drive safely and responsibly, so if you break the contract by disobeying traffic laws, there is a chance that you may not be able to turn to your insurance. Another thing to be aware of is that the rental car company may charge your credit card for any damages to the car without waiting for the claim process, even if the other driver is at-fault for the accident. In this case, you would need to file a claim and wait to be reimbursed.

Comparative Negligence

There is also the possibility that both drivers are partly responsible for the traffic incident. In this case, Pennsylvania follows the comparative negligence standard. This means that the insurers will use comparative negligence to assign fault to both parties depending on how much each party contributed to the accident. The amount you can recover for damages will depend on the amount you are determined to be negligent. If you are determined to be 20% responsible and the damages total $100,000 then you will only recover $80,000. Further, if you are more than 50% responsible for the accident, you cannot recover anything under comparative fault rules.

Types of Coverage

When renting a car, you will likely have to provide proof of coverage from your own auto insurance policy or will be asked to purchase insurance from the company. Your own auto insurance policy likely covers a lot, however, it is wise to look into exactly what your policy provides coverage for so you can make an informed decision about purchasing additional insurance.

Liability

Liability insurance will cover damage to the other party if you were at-fault for the accident. If you have liability insurance on your own auto policy it may cover the rental car as well, but if not you have the option to purchase supplemental liability insurance with the rental car company.

Collision/comprehensive damage

Collision damage will cover damages to the rental car that result from a collision. Comprehensive damage insurance will cover damage to the vehicle from events such as theft, vandalism, or other things that are not the result of a collision. It is likely your own collision/comprehensive insurance will apply to the rental car as well, but you should check with your insurance company before renting a car.

Damage Waiver (LDW)

A damage waiver is a combination of collision damage coverage and theft protection. An LDW waives your financial responsibility if the car you rent is stolen, and also covers “loss of use” if the car sustains damage and needs repairs.

Credit card coverage

When you rent a car with a credit card, your credit card company may offer additional coverage after your primary coverage has paid its portion. Credit card companies typically only provide coverage for damage to the rental car, and will not cover injuries sustained to other parties. Nonetheless, it is useful to cover deductibles, towing expenses, or other administrative fees.

Personal injury protection (PIP)

As stated earlier, PIP coverage is required on all insurance policies in Pennsylvania. PIP coverage will cover medical bills and lost wages due to injuries you sustained due to an accident.

Personal accident insurance

Personal accident insurance is a form of coverage that will cover your and your passenger’s medical bills following a collision.

Can the rental car company be held liable?

Though it is rare for the rental car company to be held liable, there are situations in which you can file a claim against the company on the basis of negligence. In 2011, a case Vargas v. Enterprise Leasing Company involved a car crash between a rental car and other vehicles. The driver of the other vehicle filed a lawsuit against the driver as well as Enterprise leasing company solely on the basis that it was the owner of the car. Enterprise appealed that it had no liability, as there was no basis for negligence or improper leasing. The case decided that the rental car company is no longer responsible for any injuries due to the negligence of the rental car driver. This case set a precedent and generally makes it harder for rental car companies to be held liable for accidents involving rental cars.

Despite Vargas v. Enterprise, it is still possible that a rental company can be held liable if they were negligent in some way. A few ways in which negligence can be established is if the company failed to train or supervise their employees, failed to keep the rental car properly maintained, or negligently rented a car to a driver they shouldn’t have. For instance, if the rental car company leased a vehicle to an individual whose license was revoked or failed to review and verify the driver’s license information.

Most commonly rental car companies are held liable when they failed to maintain or repair the vehicle itself. For example, if an accident was caused by or exacerbated by a dangerous defect that the rental company knew about or should have known about and failed to act upon, then you would have grounds to sue and establish negligence. The important thing to note is that you must be able to establish a causal link between the defect and the resulting accident, and prove that the accident led to injuries. Furthermore, in June of 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that rental car companies cannot rent cars that are under recall until the defect is repaired, and failure to comply with this rule can lead to a lawsuit or other reprimands.

Call Our Car Accident Lawyers for a Free Consultation

If you were injured in an accident involving a rental car, you may have to deal with various insurance coverage factors and disputes over liability that make recovery very complicated. The Reiff Law Firm has over 30 years of experience handling complex auto injury claims involving rental cars and can help you identify fault, determine how to allocate coverage, and ensure you receive full recovery for your injuries. Call our Philadelphia auto accident attorneys at (215)-709-6940 for a free consultation.

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