Renting a car has gotten a lot easier in recent times. All that you need to do is visit the rental agency's location, sign some documents, provide a credit card and valid driver's license and you'll be driving off a few minutes later. In most cases, the whole rental goes without any problems. But any car accident attorney will tell you that things can get a bit complicated if an accident was to occur with the rental car. Some individuals get in touch with an personal injury lawyer to find out whether the rental car company can be held liable for an accident.
In the majority of cases, the driver causing the accident is liable for any property damage or personal injuries that they've also caused. However, there are situations when both the owner of the vehicle and the driver will share responsibility. This is called a theory of negligent entrustment. Furthermore, vehicle owners have a general duty to keep any vehicle they lend or rent correctly maintained and roadworthy. If an accident has happened that can be attributed to lacking or improper maintenance on their part, they may also be held liable for any damages resulting from that accident.
What Is Negligent Entrustment?
Under the theory of negligent entrustment, a vehicle's owner may be held responsible for any accident caused by the driver that they lent their vehicle to. A car accident attorney will usually deal with this theory in the context of a friend or relative lending their car to a person that they know is an unsafe driver. Parents may also be held responsible for damages caused by a minor child driving their vehicle as well.
Situations in which negligent entrustment may apply in the context of a car rental would include a company renting a vehicle to a person who doesn't have a valid license or was intoxicated at the time they took possession of the vehicle. In practice, this rarely happens, as all reputable rental companies have procedures to verify license validity and would refuse to rent to someone showing any sign of intoxication.
In any negligent entrustment situation, both the driver and owner will be liable for the accident, though some states, such as California, limit the amount of liability an owner may face.
Can the Rental Company Be Liable For Improper Maintenance?
Should a rental company provide a vehicle that is subject to a recall that wasn't performed or that wasn't adequately maintained, they may face liability in the event of an accident. For example, if the tires or brakes on a rental vehicle were worn out and well past the point that they should have been changed and a driver gets into an accident that can be attributed to this, the rental company can be held liable.
If you believe that an accident you were involved in was due to the car rental company neglecting to properly maintain the vehicle, you should contact an experienced traffic accident lawyer as soon as possible. Should improper maintenance on the part of the rental car company be demonstrated the driver is likely to avoid most or all of the liability for the related accident.