Liability for a Rental Car Accident in Pennsylvania

Determining liability is probably the most challenging aspect of the rental car accident claims process. Rental cars can be covered under numerous policies, from the rental car company to a credit card company, which makes matters particularly confusing. Plus, many rental car customers simply do not know exactly what their coverages are or where to turn when an accident occurs. Rarely do customers know the fine print of their insurance policies by heart.

If you were hurt in a wreck while driving a rental car, in addition to having to determine who is legally liable for the accident, you will also need to figure out which insurance policy will cover the losses. For help from an attorney in Pennsylvania that can answer all of your questions about rental car accidents and help you with your claim, call Cordisco & Saile LLC at 215-486-8196.

Who was at fault for the accident?

Pennsylvania is a “choice no fault” insurance state, which means that there is a good chance that determining fault will be a critical part of the claims process after a rental car accident.

So the first piece of the liability puzzle is answering the question, “Who caused the accident, you or another driver?”

Sometimes the answer is clear-cut. For example, if you were rear-ended or the other driver was intoxicated, then the insurer may automatically assign fault to the other driver. Other common driving behaviors that indicate fault and negligence include speeding, not obeying the rules of the road, and distracted driving.

But fault is not always easy to identify. What if one driver was texting and not paying attention, and pulled out in front of another driver who could not stop in time to avoid a collision because she was speeding? Who is at fault in this scenario? The insurers, attorneys, and law enforcement may need to investigate the facts a little deeper to correctly identify the negligent party and assign fault. And sometimes both parties might be partly to blame, which further complicates liability matters.

Once you have determined fault and identified your applicable coverages, your attorney will be able to explain your legal options and help you decide how to proceed.

For instance, under the fault system, if the other driver was at fault, then you can likely just file a claim for your personal injuries with that driver’s insurance company.

On the other hand, if you were at fault or your claim falls under no-fault rules, you might have to rely on your own coverage, such as through your health insurance, personal injury protection (PIP), or personal accident insurance provided by the rental car agency.

What types of insurance policies might cover a rental car accident?

When you rent a car, the company will ask that you either purchase insurance or provide proof of other coverage such as from your personal auto insurance policy. The more you know about the available coverages and what they entail, the better equipped you will be to make smart decisions about your protection.

Ideally, you would sort out your coverage and ensure you have covered all of your bases before an accident occurs.

“For help sorting out your coverage options, call your insurance agent and your credit card companies before you hit the car rental counter… Ask about the protections offered and take the info with you to the rental counter. When it comes to figuring out what rental protection makes the most sense, it pays to ‘know before you go,’” explains Allstate.

There are several types of coverage that can cover a rental car:

Loss Damage Waiver (LDW)

A LDW is not an insurance product per se, but rather a collision damage waiver in which you waive your financial responsibility if the car you rent is stolen or sustains damage. It also covers “loss of use” if the car needs repairs for damages while you are renting it.

Liability insurance

If you have liability insurance on your own auto policy, it probably covers rental cars, as well (Do not take our word for it. Call and check beforehand). You can also purchase additional liability insurance with the rental car agency that covers other victims’ damages if you are at fault for an accident.

Collision and comprehensive coverages

If you have collision/comprehensive coverage on your own car, then it is likely that your policy will cover any damage you cause to the rental car. Many people do not know this and wind up duplicating coverage at the rental car counter. Check with your agent to confirm your coverage.

Credit card coverage

Your credit card company may offer secondary coverage that will kick in after your primary coverage (be it from the rental car agency or your private insurer) has paid its portion. This secondary coverage can be useful to pay for things such as deductibles and coverage gaps.

It is important to note that it is likely that the credit card company will only cover damage to the rental car. As this is not a liability policy, it will not cover damage or injuries to others involved.

Of course, most credit card rental car insurance policies state that you must have used that card to rent your car in order to use that coverage, and there is not set standard for these types of policies, so you will need to do your homework to see what your coverages entail. You can call your credit card company and ask it to send you a paper copy of your rental car insurance coverages.

Personal injury protection (PIP)

If you have PIP coverage on your auto policy or if you have health insurance, you can use either of these coverages to pay for your medical bills.

Personal accident insurance

If you do not carry PIP or health insurance, you can purchase personal accident insurance from the rental car agency, which will cover your and your passengers’ medical bills in the event of the crash.

Defective car accident protection  

In June 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that rental car agencies may not rent out cars that are under recall until the manufacturers have remedied the defect, and that violators will receive reprimands.

If a defect in the rental car caused your accident or injuries, such as with defective brakes or steering, you can probably hold the rental car agency or the car manufacturer liable for your damages. Your Pennsylvania car accident lawyer can explain more.

How do I pursue financial recovery after a rental car accident in PA?

These kinds of cases are exceptionally complicated in nature. There may be coverage gaps, duplicate coverages, disputes over liability, and many other factors that muddle the claims process. And sometimes the insurance providers try to pass the buck to other providers when there is confusion over coverage, which can be quite frustrating for accident victims.

For serious rental car accidents, your first step is to enlist the help of an attorney at Cordisco & Saile LLC to help you through the legal process and pursue recovery. You need to ensure that you reduce your liability and get maximum compensation for your losses.

Our attorneys can help you do just that. We can help identify fault, determine which coverages you can use, and walk you through the claims process to completion.

Call our office today at 215-486-8196 for a free, no-obligation consultation.