Personal Car Sharing and Manslaughter Charges

Personal Car Sharing and ManslaughterThe Shocking connection

In the worst case, a Vehicle owner who rents out their vehicle under the new personal car sharing market can be charged with manslaughter if they fail to regularly inspect their vehicle and a defect in the vehicle caused their renter to get into an accident that killed someone (e.g. bad brakes). Such a defect can be caused by a prior renter and it can go unnoticed by the vehicle owner absent periodic vehicle inspections. Thus, car rental laws mandate that vehicle owners perform periodic vehicle inspections.

Full insurance coverage does not mean you are fully protected

You continuously hear how car sharing services like RelayRides are providing a million dollar insurance policy to their members, which they claim will fully cover them from any liability. This is false. Once a vehicle owner starts to rent their vehicle to the public, they will be subjected to State and Federal car rental laws. One such law requires a vehicle owner to REGULARLY inspect their vehicle. For example, California Vehicle Code Sect. 24010 requires a vehicle owner who is engaged in the rental of their vehicles to regularly inspect their vehicles. Failure to regularly inspect the vehicle, which then causes a renter to get into an accident due to a defect in the vehicle may establish a negligence per se claim against the Vehicle owner, or even gross negligence to establish criminal charges. Thus, it does NOT matter if you have a $100 Million insurance policy on your vehicle, you can still be held liable for your failure to regularly inspect your vehicle while renting it out.

Your renter can come after you personally for their accident in your vehicle

What happens if your vehicle is defective and your renter gets into an accident that causes the insurance company to indemnify you and your renter from the other driver’s claim; but not from your renter’s claim against you? What if that defect caused the death of your renter and the renter’s estate comes after you personally for $10 Million? The following case may shed some light on the situation, which allowed the driver to sue the rental company for their personal injury due to negligent maintenance of the vehicle.

Accident victim’s claim for personal injuries against truck rental company was not barred by Graves Amendment which prohibited negligence claims against car-rental companies based solely on theory of vicarious liability, since victim’s claim was based on allegations that company negligently maintained its rental truck. 49 U.S.C.A. § 30106.”

Collazo v. MTA -New York City Transit
74 A.D.3d 642, 905 N.Y.S.2d 30
N.Y.A.D. 1 Dept.,2010

You could be charged with manslaughter for your renter’s accident

In the worst case, you could come home from work to the arms of the police who place you under arrest and charge you with manslaughter for the accident of your renter due to a defect in your vehicle. Imagine the shock on your face and the faces of your family that are full of tears when they carry you away. How about the pain, suffering and legal costs that follow. For example, if your vehicle had bad brakes due to a prior renter damaging them, which caused your next renter to hit and kill a pedestrian, or themselves. And an inspection thereafter revealed the bad brakes, which you could have uncovered upon a reasonable inspection. You could be charged with manslaughter. Surely, the decedent’s family will want your head on a platter and they will come after you relentlessly.You better be ready to prove that you have been regularly inspecting your vehicle. This evidence alone could head off civil and criminal claims against you. And do not depend on your yearly DMV inspection to save you. It won’t save you because it does not prove that you have been regularly inspecting your vehicle as required by State and Federal rental laws. Thus, anything you do to create evidence that you have been regularly inspecting your vehicle  is an intelligent effort to keep you and your family safe from your renter’s accident. It is easy to say it will never happen to me; but accidents happen every day. And since you will be putting your lives of your family in the hands of a stranger, don’t you think it will be smart to collect this evidence before you ruin your life and your family’s life. It will take only one time to ruin it.

“Guilty Pleas in Vehicular HomicidePublished Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009; Times Herald Staff

We want people in similar situations who are responsible for inspections, if they decide to cut corners and not do their jobs properly, we’re going to hold them criminally responsible,” Zoll said. …The three defendants await sentencing (Owner, driver and mechanic were convicted of vehicular homicide for putting a defective vehicle on the road that caused an accident and killed a person).

The bottom line here is that if you get involved with personal car sharing, which is a great idea, you MUST be a responsible adult and regularly inspect your vehicle and be ready to provide evidence of such inspections. Therefore, enjoy personal car sharing; but do it intelligently to protect yourself and your family.

If you do not heed this advice, I can see the headlines now:  “A Personal car sharing member has been charged with manslaughter“.

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