California Law: What If I’m in a Rental Car Accident?

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You’d think that you would be covered; that’s not always the case unless you always read the fine print and purchase the extra that’s offered when renting a car. By ‘purchase’, we explicitly mean that if you’re ‘offered’ third-party liability insurance coverage, that doesn’t mean you’re actually covered. You have to accept that coverage and perhaps even purchase it as a fee, whatever the fee may be. Many rental car companies differ in terms of fees, so there’s another reason why you have to do your due diligence.

To Ensure You’re Covered In a Rental Car Accident,  Read Your Contract Start to Finish

You must also understand what the contract is saying and why. Most contracts will state something to this effect:

Note – Unless you purchase a waiver or protection product or one is included in your reservation as specified, to the extent permitted by the law applicable to your rental agreement, you are responsible to the Rental Company for theft or any damage to the vehicle during the full period of your vehicle hire.

Many, however, slip up when reading the rest of the contract thinking that third-party liability protection is, in fact, included. Here’s the thing: in the state of California, with respect to rental cars, that liability protection isn’t what you think it is.

California State Law Requires a Minimum Liability Coverage for Rental Cars

The keyword there is ‘minimum’. Their standard coverage may or may not cover everything. The standard coverages include:

  • $15K for Injury or Death of One Person
  • $30K for Injury or Death for More Than One Person
  • $5K for Damage to Property

If the damage caused to your rental car happened to result in more than the “$5K” in damages, then you’re not covered, basically. Many rental car companies would offer what some would term as “extended protection” or a “gold-plated” coverage, and most contracts will explicitly state that the purchase of the extended protection policy is optional and not required in order to rent a vehicle.

If You Don’t Pay Extra, You May Not Be Fully Covered in a Rental Car Accident

It will be completely up to you. Your regular car insurance policy may not even cover you because you’re not driving your vehicle. You’re driving a rental car. Even if you have travel insurance, it may not apply to you, because having a rental car isn’t as much a necessity as other factors attributed to travel; so if you’re in a car accident, you’re still generally responsible for anything that happens.

And that could easily be as much as $15K in damages for something that may or may not have been your fault.
In cases like these, it helps to have an advocate on your side who knows the law as it pertains to your case and the state it happened in. Reach out to a California car accident attorney if you’ve been involved in a rental car accident.

Written on behalf of Brian Chase by AskTheLawyers.com™

Author: Brian Chase

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