Sad man sitting by road after car accident

When an Accident Occurs in a Rental Car 

Ranken & Shnider, Attorneys at Law  July 7, 2023

In 2022, there were 572 serious injuries that occurred on Hawaii’s roadways, according to the state’s Department of Transportation. Since Hawaii draws so many tourists, it’s reasonable to assume that some of these occurred in rental cars driven by those visiting from out of state or another island.  

Rental car accidents are more common than you may think, and it’s crucial to understand your insurance coverage and liability in rental car accidents. If you have been in a rental car accident, give us a call at Ranken & Shnider, Attorneys at Law for legal help in Maui, Hawaii. Our team of personal injury attorneys can take the matter out of your hands and provide the compassionate legal assistance you need during these challenging times. 

Common Causes of Rental Car Accidents

Of course, anyone has the chance to into a car accident—not just tourists. However, there are some different reasons a tourist might be more likely to get into an accident in a rental car.  

  • Not familiar with the area: Even if you’re visiting Maui from another island in the state, it is likely you are unfamiliar with the roads. This is particularly true for those who have come in from out of state. When tourists are focusing on the scenery as they drive around, they’re more likely to become distracted and potentially cause an accident (or fail to avoid one that was caused by someone else).    

  • Not familiar with the car: Usually, we don't know the type of car we reserve from a rental car agency. Most of the time, it will be different than what you’re used to driving. Even small differences like how to turn on the windshield wipers or headlights can mean that you’re less prepared to deal with potential issues.   

  • Lack of vehicle maintenance: Although rental car agencies are supposed to ensure all their vehicles are working properly, and well maintained, this isn’t always the case. Problems like poor visibility, tire pressure being off, or engine maintenance that hasn’t been fixed can all be contributing factors to an accident. 

Insurance Coverage for Rental Cars 

If you’ve ever rented a car for a vacation, you know they’re always trying to upsell you to add on more insurance coverage. But is this really necessary? And will it make you more safe? The answer depends on your own insurance and the coverage options available to you.  

  • Your own insurance: Many people’s own insurance policy for collision and comprehensive coverage will cover an accident in a rental car as well. Additionally, liability coverage often extends to a rental car to pay damages in the event of an accident. However, you should always check the details of your policy beforehand and never assume you’re covered.  

  • Rental car insurance: All rental car agencies offer additional coverage options that you can tack on to your reservation. You may consider doing this if you know your personal coverage won’t extend to rental cars, or if you know you have a high deductible that will need to be paid before your coverage kicks in. 

  • Other insurance options: In some cases when you book your rental car, the credit card you use may provide certain coverage. 

Who Can Be Liable?

In any accident, you’ll need to determine who was at fault to know who’s responsible for paying the damages, and this is the same in a rental car. Importantly, Hawaii follows a comparative fault model, meaning liability can be shared between two parties. Because of this, it’s possible that if another driver was mostly responsible for causing an accident, you still could be on the hook to pay some damages.  

  • Rental company: Although rare, it’s possible that the rental company can hold some liability in an accident, but you’d need to prove they acted in a negligent way and that these actions were directly related to the accident.   

  • Renter: If you were the one who rented the car and you caused the accident, you’ll be held liable. This is even true if someone else was driving the car since it’s your name on the contract.  

  • Third-party: If another driver caused the accident, their insurance policy will be responsible for paying out damages. That being said, it’s possible you may have to pay a deductible to the rental company first, then get reimbursed by the at-fault driver after the claim has been settled. 

Taking Legal Action After Your Accident

In many cases, speaking with a reliable car accident attorney is extremely beneficial. This is true if the other driver or the rental agency is claiming you were responsible for the accident, but you believe it was someone else’s fault. A lawyer can then help you file a claim against the other party, gather and present evidence, then negotiate on your behalf with the adjuster to make sure you’re properly compensated.   

Hawaii law allows you to file a claim up to two years after the date of the accident, but you shouldn’t wait this long. The sooner you get started, the better your chances are of reaching a favorable settlement.   

Involved in a Hawaii Rental Car Accident? Contact Us Today.

If you’d like to sit down with a personal injury attorney and discuss your options after a rental car accident, contact our team at Ranken & Shnider, Attorneys at Law in Maui, Hawaii. We can walk you through the entire process and help you look toward a brighter future.