Imagine, you are on vacation enjoying a beautiful day, when out of nowhere you are struck by another car. The accident was clearly not your fault, but you are driving a rental car; what do you do? The initial steps will not be much different than an accident in your own car; you should make sure everyone is ok and notify authorities if needed, as well as your own insurance company. Although this is the last thing anyone wants to deal with on vacation, knowing what to do with a rental car can help make the process take up less of your vacation time, and hopefully save you money.
After notifying the proper authorities and insurance companies, make sure to take pictures of the accident. It may seem trivial, but these photos can help to prove that you are not at fault if the other person decides to claim the opposite. Make sure to exchange information with the other party and try to avoid stating that you are driving a rental car to that person. On rare occasions, people will try to take advantage of you if they know the car is rented. The police typically will not go to the scene of an accident unless there were serious injuries, or the accident was bad enough to require assistance, but if they do come they may issue a citation. Be sure to ask for a copy of the police report or citation issued to help prove that you were not at fault in the incident.
Dealing with Your Insurance Company
If the police were not called to the scene, there may be a police report that needs to be filed that will prove that it is not your fault. Ask your insurance company whether that is something you need to do or if they will handle it. If you have a comprehensive insurance policy, the car you rented will be covered under your policy.
While you are on the phone, be sure to find out the deductible for your insurance company. This will be the amount you will have to pay out of pocket for the repairs. Say you have a deductible of $400, and you have $8,000 of repairs. You will pay the $400 and the insurance company will pay for the rest. Most rental companies will require that you have a deductible of under $500 to rent from them to begin with or will require that you buy extra insurance from them.
Dealing with the Rental Company
As soon as you can, call your rental company to inform them of the incident. You can typically find the number of the rental company on the inside of the glovebox on the rental car. They will more than likely have instructions on how to proceed with the damaged vehicle. If you did not buy an extra insurance policy from the rental company and you only carry liability insurance, you may have to pay the full amount of damages on the vehicle. Your credit card will also provide an additional layer of protection. Assuming you are not at fault and the other driver has coverage, you should only have minimal financial damages if any at all.
There is a possible additional expense that will be charged as the car is repaired per day if you do not have rental coverage. You may be billed for each day that the car is out of commission for the rental company. It is also possible to purchase a collision damage waiver from the insurance company that will pay for the car in case of an accident, but this can be costly. It is also important to remember to read the fine print of what the insurance company policies are if you decide to not purchase insurance as you may have quite a bit of expense in the event of an accident, even if it was not your fault.
Getting Legal Help
Even if your insurance covers the cost of the car, there may still be medical expenses that need to be covered. If you are not at fault for the accident, the other party is still liable to pay for damages even if it is a rental car. Often, insurance companies fall short in reaching settlements and do not get you as much as you need to pay for expenses. Contacting an attorney can help you recover some of the losses from the accident and can help with medical bills if there are any. If you feel that the insurance or rental company has improperly billed you for damages, having an attorney can also help review the agreements and see if you should be getting money back.