Rental Truck Accidents
Whether the mission is to move your family cross-country, to haul equipment or supplies for a landscaping project or haul away an old appliance, most Americans will find themselves behind the wheel of a rental truck at some point.
Rental companies like U-Haul, Budget, Enterprise and Penske advertise the ease of driving these large commercial vehicles, assuring customers that nearly anyone can handle the risk of driving one even if the largest vehicle they’ve driven before is a mini-van. When an inexperienced truck driver suddenly finds themselves trying to navigate the tollways around Chicago at rush hour while driving a 17-foot truck with a passenger vehicle towed behind it, well, bad things can happen.
The bad thing is that renters are not only assured by the rental company that they are capable of driving the truck, they are also relying on that same company to provide a safe commercial truck for them to drive. Because of these assurances, most renters and even drivers adjacent to the truck don’t always realize how dangerous driving a commercial truck like a rental truck can be.
Issues Confronting Renters
The fact of the matter is that the trucks and trailers rented by nationally recognized moving companies do not operate like a standard passenger vehicle. Among the issues that confront renters are limited rear visibility, decreased speed capacity, less maneuverability, and increased braking time. There are also considerations around weight and load distribution—anyone who has ever felt a rental truck tip can testify to the dangers of a tightly packed truck that was loaded by you and your buddies for the price of beer and pizza. These are just a few of the unique circumstances that need to be considered by any individual that rents one of these large rental trucks.
Trucks and trailers are also rented each day to people with zero training on how to drive them. These national rental companies have no investment in lending renters instructions on how to properly drive, load and use equipment around big rental trucks. Even if the renter is given a manual or instructions, there is no requirement to actually get it out and parse the information. Because of the dangers posed by complex rental trucks, complicated equipment and inexperienced drivers, these trucks and involved in dozens or hundreds of accidents each year.
A common question that arises in the wake of a collision involving a rental truck is whether the rental truck company can be held liable for damages cause by the rental truck. It’s a complex question and one that requires the type of legal experience held by the attorneys at Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C., P.C. Generally, rental truck liability can be limited by the waiver in the terms of conditions signed by the renters. However, there are unconventional avenues of litigation that have been successfully used against rental truck companies and other entities. Some of these issues include:
- Negligent entrustment. If the rental truck company knew or should have known that the renter lacked the capacity to operate the rental truck safely and the renter’s lack of practical experience causes an accident, the victims could file suit against the rental truck company for negligent entrustment. A renter’s lack of capacity to operate the truck safely could have to do with age, intoxication, lack of credentials or lack of auto insurance. In our state, the Illinois legislature passed a law obligating rental companies to verify renters’ identity and licenses before entrusting them with a rental truck.
- Willfully ignoring safety inspections. Rental trucks are not considered commercial vehicles for the purposes of federal transportation laws, so national rental companies like U-Haul, Budget, Enterprise, Penske and others are able to fly under the radar of the U.S. government. Case studies have regularly revealed that these companies have rental trucks on the road that are well overdue for inspections and maintenance.
- Negligent Maintenance. Those studies also reveal that some trucks never receive repairs, maintenance or inspections—at all—during the vehicle’s entire term of use.
- Renting vehicles that have outlived their practical use. No one has ever accused rental truck companies of turning down customers so renting a vehicle that has outlived its safe operation is certainly within their parameters for business. Even well-maintained vehicles break down due to constant wear and tear. A rental truck that has never been maintained is just going to reach that point faster.
- Known or unknown mechanical defects. This issue can split liability in an accident case involving a rental truck. Here the manufacturer of a rental truck may be held liable if defective equipment or a design flaw is found to have caused an accident. However, it is the responsibility of rental companies like U-Haul, Budget, Enterprise, Penske and others to inspect those trucks in order to identify a problem. If the rental company is found to have been negligent in their safety inspections, multiple parties may share liability.
In short, a variety of persons or entities may be found liable for damages in the event of a rollover crash involving a rental truck. These may include:
- The vehicle driver if the rental truck accident occurred due to driver error
- The manufacturer or truck maintenance team if a mechanical item such as brakes or tires were defective or poorly maintained.
- Another driver if their behavior or driving caused the rental truck driver to lose control
- The renter or their moving company if the cargo is found not to have been loaded properly.
- Cargo loading personnel if the cargo was not loaded properly
- A municipality if the rental truck accident was caused by dangerous road hazards
Call a Skilled Truck Accident Attorney at Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C.
If you have been in an accident with a rental truck, you may be wondering what your next steps are. Since establishing liability in truck accident cases can be confusing, you should enlist the help of an experienced truck accident lawyer at Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C.. We can investigate all aspects of your case and seek compensation from the responsible party on your behalf.