Last year, officials reported record-breaking traffic on New England roads over the Thanksgiving holiday. More than 2.2 million people in this region make a turkey day trek more than 50 miles, representing a 3.5 percent increase over a year ago and the biggest boost in volume since 2005. It’s not clear exactly how many of those were in rented vehicles, but we know it’s common. There was also an uptick in air travel, with some 36,000 people flying out of Portland International Jetport, many opting for rental vehicles while in town. Nationally, it’s estimated some 51 million people traveled over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday period from Wednesday through Sunday (with Wednesday being the busiest day).
Maine car accident attorneys in Bangor know that when a collision involves a rented vehicle, there may be some unique elements to consider with regard to auto insurance and liability coverage.
Prior to 2005, victims of car accidents could take legal action against rental car companies, holding them liable for the negligent actions of the person driving a vehicle owned by the rental company. This falls under a special type of law called “vicarious liability,” meaning it’s not necessary to show the person you’re suing for injuries directly did anything wrong. Rather, motor vehicles are inherently dangerous and so the owner was responsible for negligent use of that dangerous tool by someone else if the owner gave that person permission.
But then Congress passed the Graves Amendment, part of a larger federal transportation bill, which largely released rental car companies from liability when a renter crashes a car. However, that does not mean they are entirely off-the-hook. They can still be held liable for direct negligence. For example, if a causal factor in the crash was worn tire tread, that could be the fault of the rental car company. If the brakes were old or the car hadn’t been maintained, that could be evidence of direct negligence by the rental car company.
Because of these special considerations, it’s important to discuss your legal rights with an experienced Bangor injury attorney as soon as possible after a crash. He or she will also want to look carefully at the type of insurance the car rental customer and/or company had.
If you are the one considering rental car insurance for a rented car in Maine, consider the following:
Most car insurance policies will travel with you when you’re on the road. However, you need to make certain of this before you rent a car. Rental car agencies do offer additional auto insurance, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea in some cases and can be supplemental to what you already have. However, it could be duplicative, meaning you’re paying twice for coverage and not getting anything extra for it. (Check with your credit card company too, as some provide both primary and secondary coverage.)
Check with the rental car company about who else is allowed to drive the rental car. If the car is driven – and crashed – by anyone not on that rental car agreement, it’s possible a claim for damages could be denied.
If you do purchase coverage, make sure it’s adequate. For damage you do to someone else if the Maine auto accident is your fault, you can buy supplemental liability coverage (also known as additional liability insurance). It basically gets you off the hook for additional damages your own insurance doesn’t cover, which might be a good idea if you only maintain the statutory minimum coverage. For injuries you suffer, there is personal accident insurance, which will cover medical costs to you and your passengers, including ambulance, medical car and death benefits. (The latter could be mostly redundant if you have health insurance/personal injury protection benefits and life insurance.)
Insurance is always an important consideration. Don’t assume you and your family are covered if your holiday plans include a rental car.
If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Record traffic expected on New England roads over Thanksgiving holiday, Nov. 21, 2017, By Penelope Overton and Peter McGuire, Portland Press Herald
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Maine Distracted Driving Leaves Pregnant Mother, Child in Critical Condition, Sept. 19, 2018, Bangor Car Accident Lawyer Blog