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I rented a car and told the rental company that I was using it for work. I then lent the car to a friend who was not under the primary driver. She then got into a car accident. I met her through a website and don’t have all her information. I do have her phone number. When trying to contact her she is not picking up the phone. I’m hoping all her information will be in the police report. There was damage to the rental car front bumper caved in and I believe the car in front of her was rear-ended. I am under my parent’s insurance. I know I will have to pay a huge amount of money, along with the embarrassment of my mistake and I don’t have any money, whatever the cost will be towards the damages and medical expenses, can I pay all this money in installments?
Asked on August 13, 2017 under Accident Law, New Jersey
SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney
Answered 4 years ago | Contributor
You are personally liable for all costs and damage: you violated the rental contract by giving it to someone not authorized to drive it and also rented it under false pretenses; also, if she rear-ended the car in front of her, she was at fault for the accident, which would provide a further basis for holding you, the person, who let her drive, liable, too. (The person who rents a car is liable if the person they let drive is at fault in an accident and the rear driver in a rear-ending accident is almost always considered at fault.) In short, there is no doubt but that, based on what you write, you are financially responsible.
You can try to negotiate payment over time with the other driver, and persons injured by the accident, and the rental car company, but bear in mind that accepting payment over time is voluntary on their part; anyone to whom you would owe money for this (including any other insurers, such medical insurers or the other driver's insurer, who have to pay out due to the accident--they are entitled to seek reimbursement from you, called "subrogation") has the right insist on payment in full immediately and can sue you (and, based on what you write, win) if not paid.
Your parents' insurance might not cover this, since you rented the car under false pretenses, loaned it to an unauthorized driver, and violated the contract. You should make them aware and maybe they will cover all or part, but advised that your actions create a substantial risk they can disclaim or deny coverage.
You can sue the woman to recover any amounts you have to pay from her, since she was evidently at fault, but 1) you can only sue her if you have a physical address for her (lawsuits require physical addresses or locations); and 2) even if you and win, if she has no money to pay, you will not get anything.