Q: Can you be taken to court in absence for rental car damage in UK.
Husband took ill while driving car and taken to hospital. Daughter who wasn't on rental agreement was driving car back to hotel and got in accident. Car company say we are liable for cost of car, which is a lot of money. Can they sue us in our absence? And what would happen if we can't pay it?
A: Yes, you can be sued in your absence. The rental car company can take the judgment, bring it to CA and have the CA courts recognize it and enter a new judgment that the British judgment is enforceable, then your bank accounts can be levied, your wages garnished, and liens placed against your property. Not saying that all of that will happen, but it can. Notify your auto insurer and check the credit car benefits for the card you used to pay for the rental car. It may include protection for the auto.
However, since your daughter was driving, your insurer and the credit card benefit may not apply. A defense to the breach of contract claim can be impossibility or impracticability, which would cause an examination of the direness of your husband's illness. If he was just feeling under the weather and didn't require any medical care, that's probably not good enough.
If there is no insurance available, and you don't want to hire an attorney in the UK to defend yourself (including whether or not your daughter is even at fault, the percentage of fault, and the amount of reasonable damages), you (and your daughter) can either work out payments, negotiate a lower settlement, or file for bankruptcy. Don't give anyone any money without a simultaneous exchange of a signed Settlement Agreement and Release.
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