Rental Cars and Liability in Alabama: What Happens if There’s Damage?

Renting a car is useful if you don’t have your own car or don’t want to catch lifts or cabs, but it also comes with responsibility. If your rental car is damaged or involved in an accident during the rental period, you may be liable for the costs, depending on the circumstances. Here’s what to know about rental car liability laws in Alabama:

Liability Insurance Requirements

Alabama state law requires all motor vehicles operated in the state to carry a minimum level of liability insurance. This covers costs if you cause injury or property damage to others. However, it does NOT cover damage to the rental vehicle itself.

Damage Waiver vs Liability Insurance

Many rental car companies offer an optional damage waiver (also called “loss damage waiver” or LDW) to cover your financial responsibility for damage to the rental car. This is not technically insurance, but more like an agreement where the rental company waives their right to collect from you for damages.

Purchasing the damage waiver does not release you from all liability in every situation. You may still be responsible if you broke the rental agreement terms, operated the vehicle recklessly or under the influence, or drove in prohibited areas.

It’s important to note that liability insurance also does not cover the rental vehicle itself. So, having state minimum liability coverage does not release you from responsibility for damages to the rental car.

Assessing Rental Car Damage

When you return a rental car, the company will inspect it for any new dents, scratches, or other damage that occurred during the rental period. They will compare this to your original rental agreement and any notes on pre-existing damage when you picked up the car.

Dealing with Disputes

Sometimes renters dispute damage claims if they believe the car was already damaged or the charges are unfair. If you disagree with an assessment, first speak to the rental office manager to see if you can negotiate or provide more proof.

Getting their insurer involved or taking legal action is sometimes the only recourse, but it can be an uphill battle. It often comes down to the agreement you signed, so be sure to read the rental contract closely and take dated photos of any prior damage just in case.

Protecting Yourself

To minimize liability risk when renting a car in Alabama:

  • Purchase the rental company’s damage waiver, if available.
  • Inspect the vehicle at pickup and note/photograph any prior damage.
  • Avoid driving recklessly or on unauthorized roads.
  • Check if your own auto insurance or credit card provides rental coverage.
  • Consider separate rental car insurance for peace of mind.

With proper precautions, you can feel confident driving a rental vehicle in Alabama. But it’s always important to understand liability laws in case the worst happens. Following rental agreements and driving safely are the best ways to avoid extra costs.

If you run into difficulties or are involved in an accident, visit our personal injury offices in Montgomery or Birmingham. We also have offices in 30 other locations across 18 other states.

Call now for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597 if they have been hurt in an accident.