Virginia Injury Lawyer: Understanding Rental Truck Accident Liability | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

There is no single, simple and universal answer to the question of who bears responsibility for a crash involving a rental truck. And, while every collision with a large commercial vehicle raises tough questions regarding fault and insurance liability, wrecking in or into a rental truck adds even more layers of complexity.


Finding answers requires much more than just figuring out if someone ran a red light or whether the rental company failed to keep the vehicle in good repair. Often, several factors came into play, which can mean that several insurance policies apply.

Consider these common scenarios and their implications for filing and settling insurance claims for personal injuries and property damage:

  • The driver who rented the truck ran off the road and struck a tree, injuring a family member in the passenger seat. Without other complicating factors, the passenger would most almost definitely have grounds for seeking coverage under the driver’s car insurance policy. Yes, family members can “sue” family members.
  • The driver ran off the road, struck the tree and injured the passenger only because a tire blew out or an axle snapped. The driver would likely have grounds for filing claims against the rental company, and the injured passenger may have grounds for filing claims against the company and the driver.
  • Another driver crashed into the rental truck. The other driver would be liable if evidence showed that their negligence (e.g., failing to yield right of way, speeding, distraction) led to the collision. Note that in Virginia and North Carolina, the driver of the rental truck would need to have been doing everything correctly because those states disallow claims on the basis of contributory negligence.
  • The load shifted suddenly, making the rental truck impossible to control. Assuming commercial mover packed the truck, that organization could be found negligent and liable for settling injury and property claims.

Purchasing the optional insurance coverage offered by the rental car company will introduce even more variables. What does that limited and temporary policy cover and exclude? How does the optional coverage conflict with or supplement coverage carried by the at-fault party and the coverage available through the credit card used to pay for the rental? Will invoking the optional coverage help or hurt?

Consulting with an experienced truck accident attorney can be the best way to find definitive answers.