Sacramento is a beautiful place to live, work, and visit. Within the area of California’s capital city lie 2,200 miles of roads ranging from multi-lane freeways to narrow country roads.
If you’re not traveling around Sacramento using a rideshare service or public transportation, chances are you are either driving your own car or a rental car. If you are driving a rental car, you should know who could be held responsible for a rental car in an accident.
How Does a Rental Car Accident Differ from a Car You Own?
Being involved in an accident with a car that you own is never a pleasant experience but, you should know what steps to take:
- Make sure there are no serious injuries with anyone involved in the accident, including yourself, other drivers, passengers, and bystanders.
- Call 911. This will allow the local authorities to respond and to begin tending to anyone’s injuries, directing traffic, clearing the accident scene, investigating and documenting the circumstances, and filing an accident report.
- Exchange contact information with any other people involved in the accident, including police officers and witnesses. Never admit fault.
- Take cell phone photos. Capture images of license plates, vehicle damage, street signs, weather conditions, and anything else that might be relevant.
- Call your insurance company.
If you are involved in an accident with a rental car, the steps are not significantly different, but they are a bit more complicated. In addition to all the steps above:
- Call the rental car agency to report the accident and receive instructions for where and how to return the car. Toll-free numbers to call are typically included with all car rental agency contracts.
- If you paid for the rental car with a credit card, call the credit card company to inquire about any available benefits.
Not at Fault vs. At Fault Rental Car Accidents
The concept of not at fault vs. at fault is fundamental to car insurance liability and how payments for bodily injuries and property damages are paid, assuming the drivers involved in rental car accidents have liability coverage.
California is considered an at fault state. This means the driver found to be legally at fault for causing the accident can be responsible for paying the bodily injuries and property damage they caused.
However, the concept of comparative negligence, also known as comparative fault, is also part of California’s rental car accident laws. Insurance companies will attempt to reduce their liability payments by searching for reasons to find comparative fault. For example, if you are found to be 10% to blame for the crash, your award would be reduced by 10%.
Determining Rental Car Liability in California
A police report can provide important information for determining fault. This is especially true if the police officers can talk to drivers, passengers, and witnesses at the accident scene. Any traffic violations issued to drivers at the accident scene can also be helpful indicators of liability.
However, it’s important to remember that the police do not have final say when it comes to civil liability for a crash. Someone could be held civilly liable even if they were never charged or if charges are dropped or don’t result in conviction.
Your attorney can conduct an independent investigation into the true cause of the crash. In some situations, an accident scene reconstruction expert could be helpful. Other types of evidence could also play a role – for example, cell phone records, evidence of intoxication, dash cam footage, and more.
If a rental car accident case goes to trial, the jury or the judge will decide the comparative negligence of each involved party.
Rental Car Insurance Regulations in California
California rental car insurance regulations for rented private passenger vehicles require the following coverages:
- Bodily injury liability coverage: $15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident minimum
- Property damage liability coverage: $5,000 minimum
While almost one-third of states require insurance for bodily injury coverage and property damage caused by uninsured motorists, California regulations allow for these coverages to be waived.
Rental car companies in California do not automatically provide liability coverage. This situation leaves car renters in California with three legal options and one illegal option:
- Prove they carry private or business liability insurance. This usually happens with people who own their own vehicles or are renting for business purposes.
- Purchase the required liability coverage from the rental car company.
- Purchase the necessary liability coverage from a third party.
Unfortunately, some people who rent cars in California may deliberately choose to drive illegally, meaning without liability insurance. This creates a risk for all drivers in the state.
California regulations also allow car rental agents to offer car renters the following types of insurance:
- Personal accident insurance, which covers medical expenses and accidental death or dismemberment.
- Liability insurance, which covers liability resulting from the negligent operation of the rental car. This liability insurance may or may not include uninsured motorists.
- Personal effects insurance, which covers the renter and other vehicle occupants for loss of, or damage to some, but not all, personal effects carried in the rental car.
- Roadside assistance insurance.
- Emergency sickness insurance.
As with any insurance, renters need to carefully read the details to clearly understand what may be included and excluded with each of the above coverages.
Compensation after a Rental Car Accident in Sacramento
A Sacramento rental car accident claim can be quite complicated and will depend on many factors:
- Type of liability coverage and the liability coverage limits for medical expenses and property damage
- Percentage of fault or no fault determination
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, and emotional distress
Another crucial thing to keep in mind is the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim in California. According to California Civ. Proc. §335.1, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim if you’ve been hurt due to someone else’s negligence. Failure to file your lawsuit within this time frame will result in the court being barred from hearing your case.
Contact Demas Law Group, P.C. for a Free Consultation About Your Rental Car Accident
Experienced rental car accident attorneys at the Demas Law Group, P.C., can help you seek the maximum compensation you deserve if you’ve been involved in a rental car accident in Sacramento. We have been protecting the injured and holding those who hurt them accountable for over 25 years.
Contact us today for a free no-cost, no-obligation consultation today.