Who Is Liable for Injuries When a Rental Car Crashes?

On behalf of Gordon Law Offices, Ltd.   |  Feb 12, 2021   |  Personal Injury
Driver making a phone call after a car accident

Depending on circumstances, the driver or the rental car company can be held liable for injuries when a rental vehicle is involved in an accident. Coverage for the accident may be from the driver’s personal insurance, the company’s coverage, or the credit card that paid for the rental vehicle. 

When Is a Rental Car Company Liable?

Typically, rental car companies are not liable for the injuries or damages after one of their vehicles crashes. The company can, however, be responsible in specific circumstances. The company is likely to be liable if an accident is caused by a vehicle defect linked to poor maintenance.

In Chicago, a rental car company can be held responsible for an accident if it allows an unlicensed person to rent its car and that customer later crashes the vehicle. That is because, under Illinois law, a rental car company can be held liable for negligently entrusting a vehicle to a person whose recklessness, inexperience, or incompetence is known or should have been known by the company. Rental companies are required by the law to verify that the people renting their vehicles have valid driver’s licenses.

When Is the Rental Car Driver Liable?

A renter is contractually obligated to return the car to the company in the condition it was in when they rented it. In general, the rental driver will be held liable for damages or losses in the event of an accident. The driver’s liability coverage will pay for the medical expenses and property damage incurred by the other individuals involved in the accident.

Even if the rental car company is not liable for the accident, its coverage might apply as some drivers purchase an additional insurance policy through the company. The insurance is triggered by the rental car accident and covers the associated costs. Some credit cards pay for damages in rental car crashes if they were used to pay for the rental.

Different combinations of insurance coverages can be applied to cover the damages that follow a rental car accident. The specifications in the insurance contracts will determine how the various policies will apply. Navigating a rental car accident with a personal injury lawyer’s help is useful in understanding the legal process that may be used to determine the policy that will apply first, and how the other policies might be applied.