Am I legally bound to reimburse a car rental company based on their liability waiver?

I was told at the car rental that the only insurance I needed was Collision Damage Waiver, which I bought. Not being a car owner, I had no other insurance and didn’t realize, nor was I told that I needed to have liability. I had an accident, was found at fault. The other driver claimed injury though it was considered dubious and suspect. The car rental paid out what they carry as the state minimum $5000 for vehicle, $15,000 for injury. Now they are trying to get me to pay them back based on 5 type-filled back pages of rental agreement that says that the renter indemnifies the company and is

responsible for all damages. I have found precedent in NY that this indemnity clause doesn’t hold up in court if the payout doesn’t exceed the state minimum that must be carried by law. However, the accident took place in CA.

Asked on March 7, 2018 under Accident Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

NY precedent is not binding in CA. If you signed an agreement stating that you are responsible for all damages and will indeminify them, you must do so--contracts are enforceable as written. It is not their fault (legally, that is; perhaps they are "ethically" at fault, but that has no bearing on who has to pay what) that you were not properly insured: it is the driver's responsibility to make sure that he has the insurance that he wants. (Remember: insurance protects *you* by providing another source of payment beyond your own wallet; if you choose to save money by not taking the rental place's insurance while accepting the risk of an accident, that is your choice and you must deal with the consequences of you choosing to not take insurance to protect you from liability.) The long and short of it is that you chose to rent a car without making sure you had liability insurance; you are responsible for the outcome of that choice. You best bet may be try to settle with them for either a lesser amount and/or for payment terms (e.g. payment over time) you can afford.


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.