Liability in Rental Car Accidents in Las Vegas
Tourists flock to Las Vegas to try their luck in casinos as well as enjoy fabulous shows and world-class dining. A large number of tourists translates to rental cars traveling all over roads and highways in Las Vegas. Most drivers aren’t familiar with the area and as they focus on getting around, they lose focus on driving, leading to accidents. Also, many drivers do not drive rental cars with the same care they use in their own car.
Many scenarios can lead to a traffic accident involving a rental car, but the aftermath of a rental car accident isn’t as simple as it sometimes is with a typical car crash. Liability can be muddy when you get into an accident with a rental car because the driver in the rental and the car rental agency typically share liability for damages.
If you suffer injuries in a Las Vegas rental car accident, it’s in your best interest to hire a Las Vegas car accident attorney to guide you through the complexities of these types of claims. We have provided this guide to help answer some questions you may have until you have the chance to consult with a lawyer.
The Driver’s Auto Insurance and The Rental Car Agency’s Insurance Cover Losses
When you are involved in an accident with a rental car in Las Vegas, you can file accident claims with the driver’s personal auto insurance policy and with the rental car agency’s insurance policy. Nevada law protects other motorists by requiring rental car agencies to carry the same insurance minimums on their vehicles that private vehicle owners must carry.
Additionally, Nevada rental car agencies who do not carry the required minimums open themselves up to joint and several liability under the law. Joint liability speaks to the idea that more than one party can be responsible for damages when a person suffers injury in a traffic accident. Several liability refers to the idea that each at-fault party in an accident is only responsible for their portion of the damages. These laws ensure that you will receive compensation for damages when the rental car driver caused an accident.
Over the years, Nevada drivers have put the above laws to the test, especially as it pertains to joint and several liability. Ultimately, the Nevada Supreme Court’s opinion in Salas v. Allstate Rent Car Inc. clarified the law and set a precedent for today’s accident claims involving rental car drivers.
Nevada Supreme Court Opinion: Salas v. Allstate Rent-A-Car Inc.
In Salas v. Allstate the Nevada Supreme Court had to decide whether car rental agencies must pay damages when someone who rents a car causes injury to others in a rental car accident after the renter’s personal auto insurance has paid out minimum coverage to those who suffered injuries. More simply, the court case answers the question of what happens after an accident when the driver and the rental car agency both have insurance coverage.
In 1996, Stephen J. Romeo leased a car from Allstate Rent-a-Car while in Nevada. Romeo was driving negligently and rear-ended Pedro and Florence Salas in their personal vehicle. The Salas family settled with Romeo through his personal auto insurance policy, but the settlement did not cover all the damages. In an attempt to recover more compensation, the Salas’ filed a claim with Allstate for the remainder of their damages.
All-state refused to pay the claim on the grounds that Romeo’s policy already paid them the required minimums for damages and allowing the Salas to recover from both parties creates an unfair financial windfall. The case eventually made its way to Nevada’s Supreme Court in 2000. The court ruled that injured accident victims from rental car accidents can recover damages from the rental car driver and the company because they receive compensation for real damages from the accident.
Order of Insurance Coverage After a Rental Car Accident in Las Vegas
The other question concerning liability in Las Vegas rental car accidents revolves around whose insurance pays for damages first when the rental car driver is at fault. Insurance companies stay in business by denying and fighting every claim that comes their way. Both personal auto insurance policies and supplemental coverage through a rental car agency typically state that their coverage is secondary, resulting in insurance companies fighting over who should pay first.
In an earlier Nevada Supreme Court opinion, Alamo Rent-a-Car v. State Farm Mutual, the court decided that the best policy is for the driver’s personal automobile insurance policy to pay for damages to injured parties first. The court based their opinion on the fact that insurance companies who provide individual automobile insurance review driver histories and increase premiums or change coverage based on their knowledge. In contrast, rental car companies do not have the opportunity to review driving history when renters choose supplemental insurance, and they do not collect an additional premium from someone with a poor driving history. This gives individual auto insurance providers a leg up, so it’s better policy to have them pay first when accident injuries occur.
Las Vegas Rental Accidents When You’re at Fault
If you have rented a car in Las Vegas and caused a traffic accident resulting in injuries, the above determinations about liability and order of coverage apply. Your auto liability insurance will kick in first to cover damages, followed by the supplemental insurance from the car rental agency if you purchased it. You should also check with your credit card company. Many cards automatically provide rental car insurance coverage when you use them to pay for your rental.
Contact Gina Corena & Associates After a Rental Car Accident in Las Vegas
Car accidents are sometimes simply a nuisance, but more severe car accidents lead to serious injuries that come with significant economic and non-economic costs. Being involved in a car accident with a rental car compounds the situation with questions of liability. If you’ve sustained injuries in an accident with a rental car, contact the skilled car accident lawyers at Gina Corena & Associates online or at 702-680-1111 for a free consultation to discuss the details of your rental car accident and injuries and determine the best path forward for your situation.