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Behind the Wheel of a Rental: Understanding Liability in Rental Car Accidents in LA

Posted by Alan Fassonaki | Dec 20, 2023

What happens if you're involved in an accident and the car you were driving (or the car operated by the adverse driver) was a rental car? This post helps drivers make informed decisions about rental car insurance and how to handle legal matters where a rental was involved. 

Types of Rental Car Insurance

Understanding the spectrum of rental car insurance is pivotal for anyone behind the wheel in Los Angeles. The Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) provides coverage for repairing or replacing the rental vehicle in the event of a collision. However, it's essential to note that CDW may have limitations and exclusions, excluding certain scenarios like reckless driving. Liability insurance is crucial for covering third-party injuries and property damage, aligning with California's state minimum requirements. Lastly, Comprehensive Coverage extends protection beyond collisions, safeguarding against theft and vandalism, albeit with additional cost considerations. Grasping the intricacies of these insurance types empowers drivers to make informed choices, ensuring comprehensive coverage on the city's bustling roads.

Rental Auto Accident Scenarios 

Rental auto accidents in California present varied scenarios, each requiring distinct considerations. In cases involving other vehicles, determining fault and responsibility is crucial, with insurance playing a pivotal role in covering damages. Accidents with pedestrians or cyclists require special attention, considering the nuances of non-vehicle incidents and the potential liability implications for both the driver and the rental company. For single-car accidents, understanding coverage for damages to the rental car is essential, alongside adherence to reporting procedures to mitigate potential consequences. Navigating these scenarios demands a complete understanding of insurance dynamics to address liabilities effectively.

Personal Insurance and Credit Card Coverage

When considering personal insurance and credit card coverage for rental cars, a comprehensive understanding is crucial. Personal auto insurance may extend to rental cars, but the extent of coverage, including limits and exclusions, varies. It's essential to review the terms of personal policies to ensure adequate protection. Additionally, credit card rental car insurance should be examined for coverage specifics provided by credit card companies. While credit cards may offer rental car insurance benefits, it's imperative to be aware of conditions and limitations, such as the requirement to use the card for the rental transaction. Being well-informed about the interplay between personal insurance and credit card coverage ensures a layered approach to protection while driving a rental car.

Steps to Take After a Rental Car Accident

After a rental car accident, taking prompt and decisive steps is crucial. At the accident scene, prioritizing safety and seeking necessary medical attention is paramount. Additionally, exchanging information with involved parties helps facilitate subsequent processes. Once safety is ensured, promptly notifying both the rental company and local authorities is essential. Reporting the incident to the rental company allows for timely assistance and adherence to their procedures. Simultaneously, documenting the accident thoroughly is critical for insurance purposes, providing a clear record of events and aiding in the resolution process. Following these steps ensures a structured and responsible approach to managing the aftermath of a rental car accident.

Legal Implications and Responsibilities

In navigating the legal landscape following a rental car accident in California, understanding the state's laws on liability is paramount. California operates under a comparative negligence system, where each party involved in an accident may be assigned a percentage of fault based on their contribution to the incident. This system plays a pivotal role in determining the extent of compensation a party can seek or may be required to pay. For example, if a driver is found to be 30% at fault for an accident, their compensation or liability may be reduced or increased accordingly.

The potential legal consequences for at-fault drivers in California extend beyond the comparative negligence framework. Depending on the severity of the accident and the degree of negligence involved, at-fault drivers may face civil litigation, including claims for medical expenses, property damage, and pain and suffering. Moreover, if the accident involves serious injuries or fatalities, criminal charges, such as vehicular manslaughter or reckless driving, may be pursued. Understanding these legal implications and responsibilities is crucial for individuals involved in rental car accidents, as it guides their actions and decisions in the aftermath of such incidents.


In the dynamic landscape of Los Angeles, where rental cars have become ubiquitous, understanding the intricacies of liability in rental car accidents is paramount. From the nuances of insurance coverage, including Collision Damage Waiver and Liability Insurance, to considerations of personal insurance and credit card benefits, drivers must navigate a complex web of choices. In the event of an accident, prompt and informed actions, such as ensuring safety, exchanging information, and notifying relevant parties, are crucial for a smooth resolution. Moreover, being aware of California's legal framework on liability, particularly the impact of comparative negligence and potential consequences for at-fault drivers, provides a necessary compass for responsible driving. Ultimately, a well-informed approach not only enhances safety on the bustling roads of LA but also ensures a positive and secure experience when behind the wheel of a rental car in this vibrant city.

Fassonaki Law Firm, P.C., is a Los Angeles auto accident law firm. Alan Fassonaki is an auto accident lawyer in Los Angeles who helps those injured in an accident due to the negligence of others.  If you have been injured in an accident, contact Fassonaki Law Firm, P.C. to schedule a FREE consultation by contacting us through our online form or calling 323-524-8994.

About the Author

Alan Fassonaki

What inspired me to practice personal injury law? I was 9 and imagining the win. My mother was driving me to my basketball game. My older sister came along to support me. While on the road, I thought about practice and replayed our team's game-plan in my mind. Suddenly, I hea...

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