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Steps to Take after a Rental Car Crash in NY

If you have suffered injuries in an accident in a rented car in New York, your first step should be to seek prompt medical care from a doctor or visit an emergency room. If you are seriously injured, you should call 911 and seek emergency support.

As soon as you are in a position to take further action, you should call the police and report your accident (regardless of whether or not they come to crash site). Depending on your condition at the time of accident, you should also try to exchange contact details and insurance information with the other driver and obtain name and phone number of any eyewitnesses.

Thereafter, you have an obligation to inform your rental car company about the accident because they own the vehicle that you were driving at the time of the crash. You should carefully note down the instructions you receive from the rental car company’s representative and follow them carefully. Finally, you should speak to an experienced rental car accident attorney in New York to evaluate your claim for damages.

How to Determine Liability in a New York Rental Car Accident?

The Graves Amendment says that if a rental car driver suffers an accident or injury, the rental car company cannot be held liable. In other words, you cannot file a personal injury claim against your rental car company just because they were the owners of the vehicle. But the rental car company’s liability is not absolved under all circumstances.

If the rental car company contributed to your accident because of their negligence in maintaining the rental vehicle or in their renting process, you may be able to successfully sue them for compensation for your injuries. The rental car company may have failed to service the automobile properly, or they may have ignored the scheduled maintenance of the vehicle.

In exceptional situations, they may have rented the vehicle to a dangerous driver which was avoidable by a simple background check. In general, the negligent driver who caused the accident will be held liable in a rental car crash – just was in a personal auto accident. However, issues related to insurance can be more complicated in rental car accidents.

What does the Graves Amendment Say?

The Graves Amendment pertains of a 2005 federal highway law that bars the filing of vicarious liability lawsuits against car rental service providers for injuries caused by negligent drivers (who are customers of the car rental company). The exception is when it can be proved that the car rental company’s actions or negligence resulted in those injuries.

According to the federal law, just the fact of ownership of a rental vehicle does not make the owner liable for damages or injuries resulting from the use of that rental car during its duration of lease or rental, subject to the following two conditions:

  • The rental car service provider (owner) is involved in the business or trade of leasing or renting automobiles
  • The owner has not committed any criminal wrongdoing or negligence

Rental cars in many cases cross state lines, which means they are involved in interstate commerce. Therefore, state liability laws are preempted by the Graves Amendment.

Rental Car Accident and the Role of Insurance

Many rental car drivers assume that their private auto insurance coverage can be used if they are involved in a crash while driving a rented vehicle. But instead of assuming this, you need to check whether this is really the case. Review your insurance policy terms to see whether rental car coverage is included or has it been specifically excluded.

You should also differentiate between two types of coverage:

  • Collision coverage will be applicable to any damages occurring to your own car, which means that the cost of fixing or replacing the car (up to the maximum amount of coverage).
  • Liability coverage will reimburse for injuries that another person suffers because of you in a car accident as well as property damage you cause in an accident (up to the maximum amount of coverage). 

Collision Damage Waiver

Your rental car company in New York will ask you whether you have personal car insurance coverage. Irrespective of your response, they will offer you a “collision damage waiver” at an additional charge. This waiver is only applicable to any damage that may occur to the rental car.

With this option, you can be relieved of any potential liability to get the rental car repaired or replaced at your own cost, and it becomes the rental car company’s liability. However, collision damage waiver will not apply to bodily injuries that may occur to another person because of your fault while driving.

Rental Car Accidents – Types of Coverage

Rental car insurance coverage can be unique to your case. As renter, you could have multiple insurance policies in place that cover the accident. For instance, you could supplement your own personal insurance coverage with the insurance of the rental car company. In general, rental car accidents involve the following types of insurance:

  • Insurance of the rental car company
  • Your own no-fault insurance
  • Bodily injury insurance of the other party
  • Credit card rental insurance

What Happens When Your Rental Car Crash Occurs due to Another’s Fault?

If you are injured in a rental car crash for no fault of yours, you may be able to claim compensation for your injuries and losses from the at-fault driver. Establishing fault in a rental car crash is vitally important because otherwise you could be held liable by the rental car company for damages to the vehicle.

Your contract as a renter with the car rental company may require you to pay for vehicle damages directly to the company even before your personal injury claim with the at-fault party is settled. Therefore, if you fail to establish fault of the other party, your car rental company is not going to reimburse you for the vehicle damages you pay to them.

Compensation in a rental car accident related personal injury claim are similar to those in case of a personal auto accident. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, you could claim compensation for your medical costs, loss of income, pain and suffering, and future loss of wages. Make sure you choose an established New York rental car crash lawyer who provide you a robust legal representation and get you the best possible compensation.

Liability of the Rental Car Company for Your Injuries

In most situations, the rental car company in New York will escape liability for your personal injuries. It will usually be a legal fight between you and the other driver regarding who did what in the moments leading up to the crash. Rental car companies are rarely a party in such personal injury lawsuits.

But you should be aware of exceptional situations where the rental car company could be held fully or partly liable for your injuries. Your rental accident attorney in New York City can try to prove that the rental company was negligent in maintaining the car. They could also establish that the rental car company knowingly ignored a serious vehicle defect that contributed to your accident.

For instance, your rental car accident may have occurred because the ABS braking system did not operate correctly. You might have pressed the brakes of the vehicle safely, but the vehicle might have failed to stop within a reasonable distance. If this situation caused your accident or injuries, you could hold the rental car company liable for damages.

Talk to the Dedicated Rental Car Accident NYC Attorneys at RMFW Law

Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff is one of the pre-eminent New York law firms with thorough knowledge and experience of rental car accident personal injury cases. Our seasoned rental car crash lawyers will evaluate your claim carefully, collect strong evidence to back your claim, and make the entire legal process swift and effective as much as possible.

We understand the local and federal laws related to rental car accidents, and will prepare a compelling legal strategy to help you obtain maximum compensation for your injuries. We will hold all the at-fault parties accountable and make sure your rights are fully protected. Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff will fight your personal injury case on a contingency basis. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at (212) 210-1615.  

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