If I got rear-ended by a driver who claims that he was hit from behind, am I responsible for the damages?

I got rear-ended while exiting the freeway by a driver who said he was hit from behind by another car that fled the scene. No police report was taken. I had a rental car. It was covered by the rental company’s liability insurance. The other driver’s insurance refused to pay claiming their driver was negligence-free since he was hit from behind. I only have damage on my rear-end. The other car is damaged on both sides, though there is no proof the other car’s rear-end damage happened the same day. Is the rental company right to make me pay? If it goes to court, what kind of legal services should I seek?

Asked on March 16, 2011 under Accident Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Generally, you are only liable or responsible to the degree you are at fault. If you are not at fault, you would not be liable, with the following limitation: in a rental car, you generally (almost inevitably, in fact) by contract agree to pay for damages to the vehicle. So you would have to pay anything not paid by insurance, such as a deductible. If you did not buy collision insurance when you rented, the rental company is allowed to seek full compensation from you. You, in turn, may submit a claim against or sue anyone else you think is responsible, such as the driver who hit you from behind (or a driver who hit him, knocking him into you), for compensation for your own losses, including any payments you made to the rental company.

A personal injury attorney will help you sue another driver; you may wish to consult with one and see if you can recover from the driver who hit or anyone else.

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