When someone is injured in a vehicle accident, there is a fairly well-defined number of parties that may bear responsibility for the injuries involved. Obviously, the at-fault driver of the car may be held liable, as well as anyone else who contributed to the accident: a bartender who overserved a drunk driver; a mechanic who failed to maintain the car in working order; or a maintenance worker who did not repair a stop light that failed at the time of the crash. ￼
When it comes to rental car companies, however, are they ever liable for damages? Can a rental car company be sued when someone is hurt or killed in an accident involving one of their vehicles?
Rental Car Company Liability: A Slippery Slope
One of the problems with suing a rental car company after an accident involving one of their vehicles is that the company may not have done anything to open themselves to liability. In many cases, the rental car company is blameless; instead, the driver of the car was speeding, ran a stop sign, or was drinking and driving. Certainly, the rental car company has little to no control over these actions on the part of a driver.
However, that does not mean that rental car companies can never be held liable in accidents. There are several scenarios in which a rental agency might take on legal liability for a crash through its own actions, including:
- The company failed to properly screen the driver of the car. Most rental car companies will not rent a car to anyone under 25, due to the fact that younger drivers are so often involved in crashes. Additionally, rental car companies will not rent to someone with a suspended driver’s license or someone who cannot be insured to drive the vehicle. If a company rents to a driver without following proper screening procedures, and an accident ensues, the company might be liable for at least part of the damages.
- The company failed to maintain the vehicle to the degree required by local and state laws. In some cases, rental car companies fail to regularly maintain and repair their cars. They may do this to save money or because they have such a fast turnaround that it is difficult to find time to get the car inspected. If a company knowingly avoids inspections and maintenance, however, it may result in liability for the rental agency in a subsequent lawsuit.
- The company failed to pursue a driver whom it knows broke the law or violated rules. If the company has certain knowledge that a driver has broken the law or violated the company’s terms of service during a rental but does not pursue action against the driver to stop him or her from using the vehicle, there may be a case for liability on the part of the company if that driver then harms an innocent victim.
At Barber & Associates, we have worked for many years with the victims of all types of personal injury accidents to help them recover compensation to pay for medical bills, lost wages, expenses and pain and suffering. We have a proven track record of recovering large settlements for our clients, and we want to put our expertise to work helping you with your personal injury case. Give us a call today to learn how we can help you get justice after an accident.