What happens when you have an accident in a rental car?
Who is responsible?
What do you need to know about your insurance situation?
When you are on vacation with family or friends, getting into a car accident should be the least of your worries, but car accidents do happen, and when they occur with rental cars they create the obvious questions as to liability and who will meet the costs stemming from the accident.
The first thing is to establish fault (as with any auto accident or personal injury claim). If you have been at fault they it may be that the rental company will bring a claim against you for any physical injury for the driver or passengers and the insurance company for damage to the vehicle. You can speak with your own insurance company about that matter.
If the other driver has been at fault then you can bring a claim against the other party’s insurers.
Firstly, you need to establish who was at fault, who caused the accident. If it was you then the other driver and possibly the rental company will bring a claim against you (the driver for physical injury and the insurance company for damage to their property) which you can pass to your insurers who will deal with it on your behalf.
If the other driver was at fault then you will bring a claim against the rental companies insurance.
Dealing with an accident in a rental car is a very similar process if you had an accident in your vehicle; however, your car rental agreement may have more information about car accident process and offer additional steps you can take to remedy the situation.
Check on Your Passengers
If you have passengers in your vehicle at the time of the car accident, it’s very critical to make sure everyone else is okay, including yourself.
Afterward, check your immediate surroundings and proceed to safely pull over on the side of the road if possible. If it is a serious accident, dial 911 immediately and report the situation as it unfolded. If there is an ongoing fire or another active hazard, it is highly advised to clear the area.
Document the Accident
Reporting your car accident will benefit you in the long run, especially when dealing with your rental car company and your auto insurance provider.
The more information you gather, the better the chances of proving your case to determine who is at fault. Taking photos of the scene and the vehicles involved is a good start, and if law enforcement gets involved, provide them with your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and other information asked of you.
At the scene of the accident, avoid telling other drivers or the police who you think is at fault (even if you think it was you). Any accusations or statements made by you can be used against you in a court of law. You can display some empathy by asking if other drivers are okay, but if other drivers start to act hostile toward you, it’s better to wait for law enforcement to arrive to avoid a confrontation.
Call Your Rental Car Provider
Calling your rental car company to inform them of your car accident is a step in the right direction; this lets them start the paperwork necessary for an insurance claim. If you are not familiar with the process, don’t hesitate to ask the company how to proceed. Your rental car company will have you fill out their version of an accident report, including information on the accident and other details.
Although it was not the rental companies fault the accident happened it will be their insurance that cover your claim.
Contact Your Own Auto Insurance Provider
If you are entirely relying on your car insurance as your primary source of coverage, inform your auto insurance provider of the accident to establish a claim for the damage.
If you have any questions, you can get in touch with an auto insurance agent and ask them how your policy applies to your accident. If you have collision and liability coverage, there is a high probability that the damages will be covered, including any injuries as a result of the accident. However, not every auto insurance provider has the same policies; it’s also best to find out if you have a deductible that you have to pay out of pocket and what that amount is.
Different Insurance Policies On Offer
Keep in mind that rental companies offer different insurance policies for their vehicles and you should understand in broad terms what they are about.
Among the different insurance options are:
- Collision damage waiver for accidents
- Liability coverage
- Personal accident insurance
- Personal effects coverage for loss or damage to personal items.
It is important to look closely at the insurance policy wording to know exactly what is covered. A car rented as a replacement vehicle will see liability transferred when your own vehicle has been damaged or rendered inoperable. If it was your own vehicle that was replaced, then coverage would go under your own insurance company policy for your existing vehicle.
Similarly, with a car rented for vacation or other purposes then there may be coverage through a policy endorsement, or it may be through a credit card policy (assuming there was no purchase of a policy through the rental agency).
The situation with rental insurances is therefore varied and dependent upon a range of factors, which make it less clear than many rental car owners may have hoped for.
Source: Kirakosian Law, Los Angeles