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Can I file a lawsuit against a car rental company?

Staten Island, NY |

On 2/22/13 at 9:24PM I was involved in a two car accident. I was the passenger and my sister was the driver. We were heading to Atlantic City on the Atlantic expressway when the brakes gave out on our car rental. We smashed into the back of a dodge ram at 40-45 mph. The airbags deployed, hitting me in the chest and face area. When I came to, the car had begun to roll across the highway. I was forced to jump out the car through the drivers side because my door would not open. Upon jumping out the car, I landed on my back. I have several bruises along my ribs, pelvis, lower abdomen and knees. I also have some fluid like swelling around my left knee as well as a slight bulge in the right side of my neck. I have a burn across my right collar bone to my breasts. Walking has been difficult since

Attorney Answers 4

Posted

You can, but you need to be able to prove that they failed to maintain the vehicle, that they leased a defective vehicle or that they negligently entrusted the vehicle to your sister. As much as you may not like the thought of doing so, you would also need to bring a claim against your sister as it is likely that any defense would include that the accident was the fault of the operator, and not anything wrong with the car itself. There could also be a potential products liability case; however, that would be extremely costly to undertake.

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4 comments

Asker

Posted

The police report has indicated that the brakes were indeed faulty. Where should I go from there?

Gregory Scott Gennarelli

Gregory Scott Gennarelli

Posted

You should speak with an attorney a soon as you can. Since the accident happened in NJ, NJ law applies, including NJ's no fault rules. However, you can bring a claim in NY since you live here, and it sounds like you and/or your sister rented the vehicle here. However, some more details would be needed.

Asker

Posted

The car was actually rented upstate in Montecillo. Would that cause an issue?

Gregory Scott Gennarelli

Gregory Scott Gennarelli

Posted

No. It shouldn't make a difference since the rental car company is in NY and conducts business in NY. Who rented the car? do you win a car or live with someone that does?

Posted

You would have to show that the rental car company failed to properly maintain the car. You would also have to show that you suffered "serious injury" as that term is defined in the NY Insurance Law. Be sure to fill out a no-fault insurance form within 30 days of the accident to get your medical bills and lost wages paid.

I am a former federal and State prosecutor and now handle criminal defense and personal injury/civil rights cases. Feel free to check out my web site and contact me at (212) 577-9797 or via email at Eric@RothsteinLawNY.com. I was named to the Super Lawyers list as one of the top attorneys in New York for 2012. No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by Super Lawyers. The above answer is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.

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5 comments

Gregory Scott Gennarelli

Gregory Scott Gennarelli

Posted

if the accident happened on the AC Expressway, NJ no fault rules apply.

Anthony A. Ferrante

Anthony A. Ferrante

Posted

There most likely would not be a serious injury threshold in this type of case. It happened outside of New York State but the parties involved are within the state, so the plain language of the insurance law excludes them from the threshold.

Anthony A. Ferrante

Anthony A. Ferrante

Posted

There most likely would not be a serious injury threshold in this type of case. It happened outside of New York State but the parties involved are within the state, so the plain language of the insurance law excludes them from the threshold.

Anthony A. Ferrante

Anthony A. Ferrante

Posted

I have the cases in my office if you are interested in the site.

Gregory Scott Gennarelli

Gregory Scott Gennarelli

Posted

I don't disagree, I was simply pointing out that it is a NJ accident.

Posted

This sounds like a horrifying incident. I am glad to hear that you walked away relatively unscathed. The answer to your question is: Absolutely yes.

A rental company has an obligation to keep it's vehicles in good repair to avoid exactly these types of situations. From what you describe, they have completely failed in their responsibility to maintain the vehicle rented by you and your sister. Specifically they failed to periodically maintain and check to see that the brakes on this vehicle were safe.

In no way is this a "slam dunk " type case but there is a claim worth looking into based upon the injuries that you and your sister have suffered. The rental company will likely try to pass the blame on to the vehicle manufacturer or some other party.

This is something that you probably do not wish to hear, but if you decide to pursue a case you may have to sue your sister. I am sure that this was not your intention at all but the truth is that a jury may find that her actions as driver of the vehicle in some way contributed to the happening of the accident. If you both brought a claim you would likely need two different lawyers as it may be construed a conflict for the same lawyer to represent you both.

Regardless it sounds as though you have something worth pursuing and I suggested that you immediately contact a local attorney to help guide you through the process. Do not give any statements to the insurance company for the rental agency as they will try to use this against you later on in the litigation.

Also you are both entitled to no-fault benefits but given that the accident happened out-of-state some investigation would need to be performed to see who is responsible, whether the rental insurance company or the carrier for your own vehicle.

Good luck!

The aforementioned opinion does not constitute legal advice and is for general educational purposes only. See an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction for competent legal advice. No attorney-client relationship has been formed through the within legal question and answer session.

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Posted

Were you in NY or NJ?

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