The Philadelphia area is home to dozens of colleges and universities. From Drexel, La Salle, the University of Pennsylvania and Temple located within the city itself to Bryn Mawr, Villanova, Penn State Abington, Rutgers, West Chester and Widener located in the greater Delaware Valley area. Our city benefits from these universities and their students in myriad ways, but there are also headaches associated with having so many schools in our region — particularly during move-in time.
Every August, traffic is backed up in and around college campuses throughout the area as parents and students move into dorms, apartments and houses. It seems that each year, students are bringing more stuff — in bigger vehicles. This raises an important question for Philadelphia drivers: who is responsible in a U-Haul accident during student move-in time?
As a Philadelphia truck accident attorney can explain, the general rule is that if the U-Haul truck is being driven by the person who rented it, only the driver can be held liable for any damages or injuries that resulted from an accident. However, there are exceptions to this rule. In some circumstances, an injured person may be able to sue U-Haul based on its negligence.
Unfortunately, there have been a number of U-Haul truck accidents in Philadelphia in recent years. This includes a June 2017 accident where a driver who was suspected of being under the influence of alcohol crashed a U-Haul truck into a restaurant in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties section.
One of the questions that often arises in a U-Haul accident is who is responsible for the damages. Because U-Haul rents its vehicles to drivers, it is typically not liable for the accidents caused by them. However, there are some situations in which U-Haul can be held responsible — and a Philadelphia truck accident attorney can help you get justice.
Who Can Be Sued: The Driver or U-Haul?
Picture this scenario: you’re driving home from work, carefully scanning your surroundings as you practice your defensive driving skills. Out of the blue, a moving truck slams into the side of your car, driven by an experienced young driver. While you feel bad for him — a student who was trying to move into his apartment before college classes began — you are in pain and your car is totaled. What are your next steps?
If the moving truck is a U-Haul, the driver is not a U-Haul employee, but a person who rented the truck. As a general rule, U-Haul is not responsible for accidents caused by drivers who rent their vehicles. According to a Philadelphia truck accident attorney, if you are in a U-Haul accident caused by the driver of a U-Haul truck, you will most likely only be able to bring a claim against the driver — and not U-Haul itself.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. If U-Haul was negligent in making the decision to rent to the driver — which then led to your Philadelphia truck accident — then you may be able to hold U-Haul responsible for your damages. Under Pennsylvania law, there are several possible theories under which a lawsuit may be possible.
First, if U-Haul rented the truck to an unlicensed driver, it violated Section 1574 of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Responsibility Law. This law prohibits allowing a person to drive a vehicle under your control if that person is not licensed to drive that type or class of vehicle.
Second, if U-Haul rented the truck to the driver knowing that he was incompetent or unfit, you could potentially sue the company under a theory of negligent entrustment. If U-Haul knew or should have known that the driver could not operate the truck safely due to his age or experience, then you may have a potential claim.
Third, if U-Haul knew or should have known that the driver was drunk or intoxicated at the time of the rental, and the driver was in a drunk driving accident, the company could be held responsible.
Fourth, if U-Haul failed to inspect or maintain the truck, it may be liable for any resulting injuries from an accident. This could include a failure to maintain brakes, to replace tires, or any other maintenance issue.
Fifth, if U-Haul knew that a moving truck had mechanical issues or defects, and rented it out anyway, it could be held liable if that issue or defect led to the accident. A skilled Philadelphia truck accident attorney can help determine if any or all of these situations is applicable to your case.
Insurance Coverage for Philadelphia U-Haul Accidents
If you are in a Philadelphia U-Haul accident, the damages will typically be covered by an insurance company. There are three general possibilities for insurance coverage if the accident was caused by the driver who rented the truck.
First, your Philadelphia truck accident attorney can determine if the driver purchased supplemental liability coverage from U-Haul. This type of insurance is sold by U-Haul and is designed to cover accidents with third parties.
Second, the driver’s personal automobile insurance may cover the damages from the accident. Car insurance covers both your vehicle and you as a driver. A driver who rents a U-Haul truck will have coverage through his or her own car insurance for an accident.
Third, U-Haul may also have insurance that will cover the accident if the driver did not purchase the supplemental liability insurance and he or she does not have their own car insurance.
One final option that may be possible is your own car insurance, through uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UIM). This type of coverage is included on a standard policy and will allow you to recover from your insurance company in the event that you are in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver.
Contact a Philadelphia Truck Accident Attorney Today
Solnick & Associates is dedicated to helping our clients get the compensation that they deserve for their injuries. If you have been hurt in a Philadelphia U-haul accident or any other type of truck, we can help. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.