The Insurance Pitfalls of California Car Rental


The law requires drivers to carry liability insurance, but the rental car companies are not required to tell you.

In 2015, Auto Rental News Reported that there were over 2 million rental cars in service across the nation, with California ranking among the top states for annual car rentals. With all of these rental vehicles on the road the chances of accidents occurring are high. Unlike privately owned motor vehicles, a great number of rental cars in California are being driven by uninsured drivers, even though state laws forbid it.

Many rental car drivers in California are visitors and tourists from out of state and unfamiliar with the roads, and many are unfamiliar with the vehicles, distracted by searching for climate control, seat and mirror adjustments or entertainment features.

Despite a state law that requires all drivers of passenger vehicles to carry proof of personal liability insurance, the law does not require car rental companies to ask if a potential renter is insured. Many renters rely on the insurance provided by their credit card companies or purchase a damage waiver from the rental company. However, these policies do not cover damage or injury involving another driver. The rental company may offer personal liability insurance but there is no law requiring them to inform the renter about it, and no law requiring the renter to take it. It is the solely the renters responsibility to know the law and provide their own insurance.

If you are a resident of the state, or a visitor, and decide to rent a car, driving off the lot without proof of personal liability insurance puts you at an elevated risk being legally responsible for harm to other individuals and property damage, if you are determined to be at fault in an accident. Failure to provide proof of liability insurance may also result in the suspension of your driver’s license, even as the result of a simple traffic stop.

If you do opt for taking the personal liability insurance from the rental company, the limits of coverage may not approach the staggering costs of property damage and personal injury, leaving you on the hook for a huge liability. Additionally, many renters falsely believe that liability coverage is included when they rent, until it is too late.


The rules that are provided to the renter by the rental companies point out the lack of personal injury insurance but few renters read those fine print statements and many would not understand them.

Rental car drivers in California can be classified under three different groups:

· Valid Liability Insurance Holders – Drivers that possess valid personal liability insurance have little financial concern when it comes to being at fault in an accident. The limits of their policies determine the coverage, which is usually more than adequate.

· Drivers Who Only Have Liability Insurance Purchased from the Rental Car Company – These drivers have insurance that covers at least the minimum required by California law. This policy would be more costly and provide less coverage than taking an annual non-owners policy for frequent renters.

· Uninsured Drivers who do not Purchase Liability Insurance from the Rental Car Company – Although the rental car companies list the fact in their rules that they do not provide liability insurance, as required for the driver under state law, they are under no obligation to check if a driver has liability insurance. They are also not permitted to mandate that a driver purchase insurance.

If you are planning to rent a car in California, be certain you understand the coverage you have on your primary car insurance policy. If you do not own a car and do not carry annual car insurance, it is advisable that you look into purchasing a non-owner policy from an independent insurance group. These policies generally have better coverage and lower deductibles than one purchased at the time of rental.

If you are driving a rental vehicle and are involved in a serious accident, it is important to follow these steps:

· Dial 911 – Wait for help to arrive. Offer assistance to anyone who needs it without risking anyone’s safety including yourself

· Do not give a statement to anyone other than the police when asked. Do not volunteer that you were driving a rental vehicle as this information may be used against you.

· Accept any medical attention offered to you or seek it immediately. This will validate the time and date of any injuries you may have received.

· Contact an experienced California auto accident attorney. Do not speak to any insurance adjuster until you have retained counsel, and then refer any inquiries to them. The insurance adjusters sole mission is to save his company money by discrediting you.

Unraveling California Rental Car Insurance Complexities

Car rental insurance in California is a conundrum of legal falsehoods and facts. If you are the driver of a rental car, involved in an accident, it may be possible for you to hold others accountable for your injuries, such as the other driver or even the rental car company.

As of January 1, 2016, federal law prohibits any company or dealer, with fleets greater than 35 vehicles, to rent unrepaired, recalled vehicles. If you were in an accident caused by failing recalled equipment or your injury severity was worse due to an unrepaired, recalled safety system, such as an airbag or seatbelt, the rental car company can be held accountable.

You may have more than one form of coverage in place at the time but the insurance company would prefer you to remain ignorant of that fact and shift the liability elsewhere. Do not allow the insurance companies to hide the truth from you. If you are involved in a California rental car accident call the Vititoe Law Group before the facts become obscured. You need an aggressive auto accident lawyer on your side to protect your rights and obtain the compensation you deserve. Call today at 818-851-1886 or contact us online for a free consultation with an experienced rental car accident attorney today.

By |2018-05-24T11:41:58-07:00April 2nd, 2018|Car Accidents|Comments Off on The Insurance Pitfalls of California Car Rental

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