The rental car agency is a booming business that is present the world over. As a whole, the business generates about $42 billion in income; in the country, there are 22,000 rental agencies alone. Most of the individuals who rent vehicles are between the ages of 25 and 34. Older individuals tend to own their vehicles and younger individuals are not always legally allowed to rent. Rentals are often used by visitors to major cities. For example, airports generally have rental car agencies attached to the building or located inside so that customers can quickly pick up or drop off vehicles. It can be expensive for visitors to take public transportation every day or use Uber or Lyft to get around, and renting a car may be much cheaper, especially if the cost is split between a few individuals. Many high-population cities that are also popular tourist attractions have a few different rental car services available for out-of-towners. Rental cars are also driven by people who are in between vehicles or whose cars are currently in need of repair. Insurance companies may provide temporary vehicles to their customers if an accident totaled the car or sent it to the shop for an extended period of time. Additionally, businesses and corporations may provide rental cars to their workers or to customers as a way to guarantee transportation. A few of the most prominent rental car agencies are:
- Fox Rent A Car
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Rental Car Insurance Coverage
The primary way to receive compensation after a car accident is to pursue damages through the responsible party’s insurance carrier. For rental cars, there is a slightly different process and set of rules. However, the company will likely provide insurance at an extra cost if the customer wishes to purchase protection. Commonly, the company will provide a collision damage waiver, which states that the customer is not responsible for damages done to the car in an accident or if the car is stolen, unless the accident were a result of the customer’s reckless or careless actions.
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The company may also provide liability coverage that will pay for property damage and medical expenses for other individuals. This coverage often overlaps with your own personal insurance, just like personal accident insurance, which will protect the driver of the rental vehicle. In addition, if a vehicle is rented with a credit card, there may already be insurance for collision damage depending on your credit agreement. This must be verified with the company, though, and it will not likely cover liability. As long as you have your own personal auto insurance, you should be appropriately covered in the event of a rental car accident.
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Causes of Rental Car Accidents
Rental car accidents happen for the exact same reasons that most car accidents do: driver error and recklessness. Most of the time, though, drivers of rental cars are more lax in their treatment of the car and the general safety while on the road because they know they do not own the property, and a collision damage waiver frees them from paying for repairs. It is still a dangerous mindset, as even a minor accident can lead to injuries. Some of the primary causes of rental car accidents include:
- Running red lights
- Running stop signs
- Not looking when pulling out of driveways and alleys
- Ignoring right of way laws
- Failing to yield to pedestrians and oncoming traffic
- Turning left in front of oncoming traffic
- Attempting to pass on the right
- Riding in the shoulder illegally
- Failure to signal when turning lanes
- Failure to properly merge
- Drunk driving
- Distracted driving
- Texting while on the road
- Driving while exhausted or fatigued
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In addition to driver error, there may be other factors that contribute to crashes. The roads may be defective and have potholes and unlisted turns and hills, which could cause drivers to lose control very easily. The weather may also be adverse; snow storms, ice storms, rain, and fog can make visibility impossible, leading to a greater chance of crashes and injuries.
Less commonly, there may be vehicular defects that could cause accidents to happen. Sometimes, rental cars are returned with malfunctions and problems that the previous drivers did not divulge or were not aware of. The engineers may not recognize these problems until it is too late. Some common defects are brake failure, broken light, engine trouble, electronics and computer issues, and more.
Injuries from Rental Car Accidents
Those who have been involved in rental car accidents may be able to walk away from crashes with no injuries. Minor crashes like fender benders could feature no damages whatsoever. However, there are some instances where even low-speed crashes result in severe injuries. The higher the speed of the crash and the more violent the type, the more likely it is that people will get injured. For example, head-on collisions are very deadly, and T-bone crashes result in more injuries than rear-ends. Rear-end accidents, though, lead to more back injuries than any other. Some of the types of injuries that can be suffered include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Closed head injuries
- Brain bleeding
- Subdural hematomas
- Cuts and bruises
- Puncture wounds
- Crushing injuries
- Broken bones
- Torn muscles and torn ligaments
- Nerve damage and paralysis
- CRPS or causalgia
- Internal organ damage
- Internal bleeding
- Severed limbs and digits
- Knee and hip damages
- Neck injuries
- Back damage
- Herniated or bulging discs
- Emotional traumas
- Paraplegia and quadriplegia
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The risk of injuries is very high in rental car accidents. It is important that you get medical assistance as quickly as possible so that you do not suffer additional damages. Some car accidents could aggravate previously existing injuries and exacerbate their symptoms. For example, those with back issues could have the spinal damage worsened, which would make it even harder to work or live their daily lives.
Negligence In A Rental Car Crash
In most cases, determining negligence in a car accident can be straightforward, especially if one driver was breaking the law. However, there are times when other parties may be vicariously liable for damages, such as those who permit someone to drive or companies who hired drivers and commanded they finish routes no matter what. This can also be applied to rental car agencies. For the most part, you cannot hold a rental car agency liable if a customer got into an accident while driving one of their vehicles. They did not have any part in the incident; the driver himself made the choice to drive recklessly, and he was not employed by the rental agency or completing a task for the business. Employees, of course, would change this situation; if a rental car agency employee were transporting a vehicle, the company could be held accountable for any injuries and damages from an accident.
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There are a few situations in which the rental agency can be deemed negligent, though. For one, most states have age laws dictating who can rent a vehicle. In some states, this age limit is mandated to 18 years old as a lower limit, while others allow the companies to determine the limits. Thus, some companies deem that renters must be 25 years old or older; others may require drivers to be 21 years old or older. The reasons can range from driving experience to ample insurance coverage to savings for potential excess costs. It varies from agency to agency. Therefore, if an agency rents a vehicle to someone who is a minor and is not legally allowed to drive, the agency can be held responsible for his actions on the road.
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This also applies to those who do not have licenses, those who do not carry insurance, those with suspended licenses, those with a history of reckless driving, or those who are visibly inebriated at the time of the rental. If the rental agent allows the individual to proceed and an accident happens, the liability can be traced back to the company. Further, all rental car vehicles must be appropriately maintained, and the cars should be evaluated and checked before being rented out. Most agencies do not complete this check-up after each rental is returned because there is usually another individual waiting for the vehicle that same hour. Thus, many vehicle problems can go unnoticed. If a driver rents a car and there is a problem with it that should have been caught by a mechanic at the rental agency, the business can be held responsible for injuries.
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According to the law, filing a personal injury lawsuit based on negligence must include the proof of four points. These four points are as follows:
- You were owed a duty of care
- The duty of care was breached by the responsible party
- The breach of duty led to an accident of some kind
- The accident resulted in actual physical harm
As such, if the rental agency can be shown to have a hand in the accident by not completing its due diligence in renting a vehicle, it can be sued for damages stemming from the incident. In other cases where the rental company is not responsible, you can simply take action against the driver of the rental car and file a claim with his personal insurance carrier.
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Procedure After A Rental Car Accident
After you have been involved in a rental car accident, it is important that you gather as much evidence as you can to file a lawsuit against the liable party. Many victims are confused, injured, worried, and unsure of how to proceed. They may simply want to get home as quickly as possible and put the event behind them. However, injuries are expensive, and you should not have to pay for these debts and expenses if you were not responsible for the accident. You should take appropriate legal action against whoever caused the accident or who played a part in the incident.
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The very first step that you should take involves medical help. You can call the paramedics to be treated at the scene or go to the hospital yourself. You may need to be transported there via an ambulance. Some of the injuries you suffer could be hidden or unseen, or even masked by adrenaline. The paramedics can check you out and determine how injured you are. You do not want to avoid medical treatment because you feel as though you haven’t been injured only to suddenly break down in pain some days later. It is also beneficial to get medical help rapidly because of the tendencies of insurance agents. If you have a length o time between the incident and the visit to the doctor, the agent can claim that you were not as injured as you stated or that you were hurt elsewhere. It may be more difficult to prove that you were hurt in the accident if you do not get medical treatment at once. From the hospital, you can take copies of medical notes and statements. You should also retain any and all medical receipts and payments to prove that you received treatment.
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Next, you should take photos of your injuries and the damage to your car, the rental vehicle, the environment, and more. You can also take videos if necessary, or try to ask nearby businesses or other drivers for their surveillance camera footage and dashboard camera videos. These videos can be critical in proving who was at fault and who initiated the accident.
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You can then take down the information of the driver who hit you, such as his insurance information, contact details, rental agreement, phone number, and more. This will allow you to file an incident report with the rental agency and file a claim with his insurance carrier to be reimbursed for your damages.
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If there were any eyewitnesses or bystanders who saw the accident occur, you can ask them for their testimonies and to reiterate what happened. Their statements can be added to your claim to provide more proof. The police may have shown up to direct traffic or to conduct an investigation. They will likely file a police report with their perspectives and a collection of interviews. You can request a copy of this report from the station once it has been submitted. If you were in the rental car or operating it, you can keep your credit card statement and contract showing that you were the driver and legal customer. This will come in handy if you intend to sue the company for a defective car.
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Lastly, it is important that you hire a lawyer to handle your case for you. You may not have the legal necessary to move forward with your claim and you may not know the first step about negotiating. If you were injured the added stress levels could exacerbate or worsen your damages, and you should not have to continue suffering through the legal process. An attorney can handle the legal facets for you and ensure that the rental agency or responsible driver will be held accountable for your damages and that you are properly covered for your expenses.
Value of a Rental Car Accident Lawsuit
The value of a rental car accident lawsuit is not something that can be immediately calculated with a program that allows you put in your damages and receive a round number. Instead, it is determined by the insurance agent responsible handling your case, or by the jury who will try your case if it goes to trial. The primary factor in weighing the worth of your claim is your injuries. If they were extensive, severe, and had a profound impact on your life and ability to work, your claim value will likely increase. Minor injuries will not be given as much compensation as major injuries. It is important to understand how the value of your claim can fluctuate according to your injuries, as well as how much certain damages are worth. Simple sprains and non-serious injuries will likely result in less than $10,000 for compensation, while many spinal cord injuries and disc injuries can be worth over $50,000. If you can file a claim against multiple parties, you may receive stacked compensation. Other specifics can influence the value, too. A wrongful death can easily be worth over $1 million, for instance. Pain and suffering damages are non-economic in nature and are not measured how medical bills, lost wages, and property damage are. They are easy to add up. It is not so easy to add up how much pain and suffering you underwent. These damages are often the most valuable and can total over $100,000 by themselves.
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Further, the agent will look at your age and career type; those whose jobs were not impacted, who will not have to receive accommodations, or who will not have to change paths will not receive as much coverage. Moreover, the level of negligence you had in the accident will be examined. If you were partially responsible for the claim, such as by driving recklessly yourself or by not having your lights on at night, your offer would be heavily reduced.
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Bear in mind that no lawyer will be able to give you a true worth of your case; it will always be an estimate, and the real offers will come after lengthy bouts of negotiation. The insurance agent will do all he can to reduce the offer or even refuse to pay. Insurance agents tend to protect their companies’ profits and will try to deflect liability or claim that your injuries were not that serious. You may not be able to reach an insurance agent and he may simply toss your claim to the side after examining it. A lawyer can make sure that this does not happen. The goal of a qualified and respected attorney should be to negotiate the fairest deal for his client.
Sample Verdicts and Settlements for Rental Car Crash Lawsuits
The primary question many victims of rental car accidents have concerns the worth of their cases. They want the maximum restitution available, and rightfully so. However, each case is different, and extenuating circumstances can cause some claims to be worth much less than others. There may also be jury disagreements, a lack of proof, slightly different injuries, and more that could affect the value of two seemingly identical cases with similar causes and results.
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We have listed some sample case results for you to consider. These cases show the wide variation in rental car accident lawsuits and should not be taken as examples of what your case will yield.
Kim, Kim, and Han v. Vejsicky and Hertz Vehicles LLC
In Heywon Kim, Kunja Kim and Heather Han v. Eugene Joseph Vejsicky, Hertz Vehicles LLC, a woman was driving her family when a rental car agency employee struck her vehicle. The Kim family, consisting of a mother, grandmother, and young daughter, where driving on the road when they entered an intersection. Vejsicky was operating a rental car that had displayed mechanical troubles; the car would jerk forward randomly or not stop adequately when he needed it to. He was transporting the car from the rental agency to a facility nearby. As Vejsicky approached the intersection and applied the brakes, the car did not stop; instead, it accelerated and crashed into the Kim family. The impact caused the car to spin around and be hit by another vehicle that was traveling in the opposite direction. As a result of the crash, Heywon and Heather, mother and young daughter, were taken to the hospital for treatment for soft tissue damage, burns, and minor bodily injuries. The grandmother, Kunja, suffered a fractured toe, but there was lingering and radiating pain left throughout her body. The doctors diagnosed her with CRPS, or complex regional pain syndrome; she was not able to take pain medication due to stomach issues and opted for physical therapy instead. She further suffered degenerative damage to her leg and toe, and the pain has not gone away in the time following the incident. The defendants conceded that they were liable for the accident, but the defense counsel claimed that Kunja did not have CRPS and that her injuries were a result of natural aging and other such diseases, like arthritis. The family eventually settled in separate amounts with Hertz for over $375,000.
Annocki Family v. Turner
In Eileen Annocki, Joseph Annocki, Sr., and Michael Annocki v. Terry Allen Turner; Geoffrey’s Malibu Inc., Fox Rent A Car Inc., California Department of Transportation, and the People of the State of California, a man was killed when he turned onto the highway. Joseph Annocki was riding on the highway by himself one night. Turner pulled out a restaurant and proceeded to turn left despite the road being one-way. There were no signs indicating that it was a turn-only lane, and when Turner pulled onto the freeway, Annocki’s motorcycle struck the car. Annocki passed way from injuries he suffered at the scene. Annocki’s family brought a wrongful death charge against numerous parties involved, including the driver of the rental vehicle, the rental agency, the restaurant, and the department of transportation. Caltrans settled before trial.
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The defense claimed that the paddles on the highway were enough to determine the flow of traffic and ha there was no need for individuals to be warned about the one-way. The case went to trial after some hiccups and settlements. The jury found that Turner was 50% liable, while two other parties were 35% and 15% liable. As a result, the family earned about $5,000,000 in damages, including the previous settlement by Fox Rent a Car.
Ballesteros v Carrillo and Ryder Truck Rental
In David Frank Ballesteros v. Daniel Carrillo, 99 Cents Only Stores LLC, Ryder Truck Rental LT, a man was hit from behind while at a red light.
– Rear end collision
Ballesteros was in traffic waiting at a red light when he was suddenly struck by behind. Carrillo was operating a tractor trailer and the force of the impact caused Ballesteros’s car to careen into the vehicle that was stopped in front of him. As a result of the crash, Ballasteros suffered neck, back, and shoulder injuries, brain and cognitive injuries, and surgery for hernias. Initially, there was a counter that he was not as injured as he stated, but ultimately, the company paid out of court in an $850,000 settlement.
Franks and minor children v. Koseki and EAN Holdings
In Porchea Monique Franks, Individually and as Guardian Ad Litem for Trinity Arrianna Thomas, a Minor, and Meyonni Jamari Varnado, a Minor v. Masaki Koseki, EAN Holdings LLC, a woman and her children were rear ended on the freeway. Franks was driving on the freeway with her children when a man driving a rental car hit her in the back; she and her two children went to the hospital, where she was given basic treatment for pain. A year later, she discovered that she had a herniated disc; she required injections and a hemilamenectomy. She stated that she was unable to work after the surgeries and the accident due to ongoing pain. The defense claimed that she was not suffering from the extensive injuries that she claimed and she only sustained a strain. They also said that the herniated disc was a result of degeneration associated with aging. The jury found that Koseki was largely responsible for the injuries that Franks suffered. She was awarded $500,000 to cover her damages.
Baguyam v. Brandies
In Henry Baguyam v. Irene Dorothy Brandies, a man was broadsided by a car as he was driving on the street. Baguyam alleged that he was driving when Brandies pulled out of an alley and struck him from the side. Brandies, on the other hand, claimed that she saw no vehicles approaching from the street when she exited the alley, and that when she was midway through her turn, Baguyam rounded the corner and tried to pass her, leading to the crash. Baguyam’s counsel said that Brandies’ age (84 years old) was a factor, as well as her vision – she had droopy eyelids, and they claimed that she could not see. However, the defense showed that she passed all medical and eye exams, and previous treatments for macular degeneration did not necessitate her to abstain from driving. The medical expert claimed that she would have seen an approaching vehicle. The defense further noted that there were issues with Baguyam’s statements, which contradicted eyewitness reports. A witness said that there were additional individuals in the rental vehicle, one of whom fled the scene as he was not authorized to be driving; thus, Baguyam entered the lawsuit. As a result of the crash, Baguyam made a long list of damages. He claimed that he suffered a lumbosacral disc herniation, neck and shoulder pain, emotional distress, PTSD, emotional changes, personality changes, fear, and loss of relations. He required surgeries, injections, psychotherapy, and more to deal with these issues, and still claimed residual damages. Baguyam sought nearly $1.5 million for his damages, but the jury did not find Brandies liable for his injuries or the accident. Baguyam did not receive any coverage. The defense aimed to file a bill for reimbursement totaling $120,000.
A rental agency is likely to be held liable if an employee causes an accident, but not if there are no factors that can link them to the crash. If a driver behaves recklessly but was legally and rightfully allowed to rent a vehicle, the agency will be absolved of liability and probably dismissed from the case. Lawsuits will then proceed against individuals and their insurance carriers.
Rental Car Accident Compensation
Because a rental car accident lawsuit is a personal injury claim, victims can recover different types of restitution for their damages. These expenses can provide monetary relief and pay off the different entities that needed payment. You may be able to secure coverage for the following:
- Medical bills, including surgery, hospitalization, medication, physical therapy, and future treatments
- Property damage to your vehicle, personal items, electronics, and more
- Lost income from your job if you could not go to work because of your injuries or treatments, as well as future lost earnings
- Pain and suffering damages if you were stricken with fear, anxiety, PTSD, emotional trauma, psychological distress, and more
- Punitive damages, which are monetary forms of compensation meant to punish the defendant and are handed out in times of gross negligence or when the party deliberately attempted to harm you, but these damages are usually seen as excessive or severe and are not easy to secure
- Wrongful death damages if a loved one passed away in the incident, which can net you funeral and burial costs, loss of consortium, loss of relations, reimbursement of pre-death medical bills and pain and suffering, loss of expected savings and inheritance, and more
Statute Of Limitations For Rental Car Accidents
All personal injury claims, including rental car accident lawsuits, have a statute of limitations of 2 years in the state of California. This means that your lawsuit must be filed within 2 years of the date of the injury, not the incident itself; if the injury showed up three months after the crash, then your statute would reflect that. The statute of limitations allows individuals to sue within an acceptable time frame that is fair to both parties, as key evidence will be preserved sand damages will still be relevant. In some cases, though, the two-year limit can be extended. The most common reasons include:
- Minor individual is injured in the crash, which would prevent him from filing a lawsuit until he is 18 years old, at which point the statute of limitations would begin
- Individual is left physically incapacitated, such as in a coma; he would have his statute suspended while indisposed
- Individual is left mentally unable to sue, as in cases of nervous breakdowns or extreme cognitive troubles, which would halt the statute until he returns to health; if he does not, a guardian could file on his behalf
- Defendant left the state or country, which would suspend the statute for the duration of his absence and would resume once he returns
The statute of limitations can be difficult to adhere to and recognize deadlines for, so it is recommended that victims of rental car accidents hire a skilled attorney to keep track of such important dates. Many victims miss out on their compensation because they do not file a claim on time, which could have been avoided had they had appropriate legal representation.