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What Should I Do if I Get into a Car Accident with a Rental Vehicle?

Posted on: September 16, 2020

People often rent vehicles when going on vacation, particularly if they are driving long distances and want to avoid putting the wear and tear on their own car. Rental cars are also used when car owners need to have repairs made to their own vehicles. Whatever the reason for renting a vehicle, there are important factors that people need to consider before signing a rental contract, including the type of insurance coverage they have, and whether additional coverage should be purchased. This will help ensure that motorists are protected from unexpected liability if they are involved in a rental car accident. An experienced car accident lawyer will assist clients with the claims process and secure the compensation they deserve.  

What Steps Do I Take After an Accident?

There are several important steps a motorist should take immediately following a car accident, whether the individual is driving their own car, or if the car is a rental vehicle:

  • Check for injuries. Drivers should check to see if any passengers involved in the accident are injured. Drivers should not try to move someone who appears to have a head or neck injury, as this can aggravate the injury. It is best to wait for help to arrive.
  • Move to a safe spot. If the motorists involved in the accident are physically able to do so, they should move themselves and their vehicles out of harm’s way as soon as possible. Hazard lights should be turned on or emergency flares set up. If there is smoke or flames coming from either vehicle, everyone should move away from the car as far as possible.
  • Call 911. Anytime there is a car accident, including accidents involving rental vehicles, police should be notified. If any motorists were injured, the dispatcher should be informed so he or she can send an ambulance to the scene.
  • Exchange information: Once the motorists have moved to safety, the next step is to exchange information, including contact information, driver’s license and insurance information, and the name of the rental car company that owns the vehicle. The driver of the rental vehicle should provide a copy of the rental paperwork, including the reservation and transaction number, as well as the location where the vehicle was rented.
  • Take pictures: As soon as it is safe to do so, someone should take pictures of the accident scene, including color, make, and model of the vehicles involved; damage to the vehicles; debris on the road; weather conditions; and if there are skid marks on the road. Also, it is important to take pictures of injuries caused by the accident.
  • Contact the insurance company: Motorists should always notify their insurance company if they were involved in a car accident. Their insurance agent will review the policy and determine the type of coverage available. Liability coverage is required by law. Collision and comprehensive coverage provides additional coverage, including rental vehicles.
  • Contact the rental company: The motorist who is driving the rental vehicle will need to contact the rental company as soon as possible after the accident. He or she will need to notify the rental company that the vehicle was involved in an accident. The representative from the rental company will instruct the customer on how to proceed based on the details of the accident, the type of auto insurance in effect, and whether additional insurance was purchased at the time of the rental. 

Do I Need Rental Car Insurance?

When renting a motor vehicle, it is important for motorists to understand that they are responsible for any damage or loss to the vehicle. In other words, renters must return the vehicle in the exact condition it was in when they first rented it. This also applies if the vehicle was damaged as a result of someone else’s negligence. If a motorist’s insurance policy includes collision and comprehensive coverage, it may not be necessary to purchase additional insurance for a rental vehicle. However, if the renter only has liability coverage, they will likely need to purchase rental car insurance.

What Insurance Options are Available if I Rent a Car?

Rental companies will almost always offer customers the option to purchase additional insurance coverage for the vehicle they are renting. The most common types of supplemental insurance coverage include the following:

  • Collision damage waiver: This is also known as a damage waiver or a loss damage waiver. With this type of coverage, the rental car company will waive any repair costs or the cost to replace the vehicle if it is damaged or stolen during the rental. If the rental vehicle was damaged as a result of reckless driving, or if an unauthorized driver was operating the vehicle when it was damaged, the renter is not eligible for this waiver. Although not technically insurance, the collision damage waiver is always an option, even if the renter has collision and comprehensive coverage. The renter will need to contact their insurance company to determine whether their policy will cover the damage to a rental vehicle, if there is a deductible, and whether an accident involving a rental vehicle will impact their personal car insurance premiums when filing a claim.
  • Liability coverage: If a motorist who is driving a rental car causes an accident, which results in injuries and property damage, liability coverage compensates the victim of the accident. In most cases, the liability coverage offered by the rental company will overlap with the renter’s personal car insurance. However, if the renter only has the minimum liability insurance, it is unlikely that this will provide enough protection in the event of a car accident.
  • Personal accident insurance: This type of coverage will pay for the injuries to the driver of a rental vehicle if they are involved in a car accident. It may also cover the ambulance costs and death benefits if the driver suffers fatal injuries. The driver’s insurance company will confirm whether they have this type of insurance and if there are additional costs associated with it, including copays or deductibles.
  • Personal effects coverage: This covers any lost or damaged personal property that was left in the rental vehicle. This type of coverage is usually unnecessary because most renter’s policies provide the same or similar coverage.
  • Credit card company rental insurance: Most people use their credit card when paying for a rental vehicle. In some cases, credit card companies offer car rental insurance. However, this type of insurance rarely provides liability insurance, which is the most important type of coverage.

How Do I File an Injury Claim Involving a Rental Car?

If a motorist gets into a car accident while driving a rental vehicle and they chose not to purchase additional insurance or a collision waiver, their personal accident insurance will compensate the rental company for the damage to the vehicle if the policy provides first-party coverage. The payments will depend on the terms of the policy. Regardless of whether the driver of the rental car was at-fault, they will have to pay the deductible to the rental company so that the company can arrange for the car to be repaired as soon as possible. The customer will be responsible for the rental expenses while the vehicle is being fixed. If the customer was not at-fault for the accident, their insurance company will then proceed with holding the responsible party liable for the accident.

If the motorist purchased additional insurance or a collision damage waiver from the rental company, the claim will be handled differently. In some cases, if the customer pays the premium, the rental company will provide complete coverage in an accident, including the damage to the rental car and the vehicle that was hit. The motorist may still need to meet a deductible for their own insurance policy if the rental car policy limits are low. If a collision damage waiver was purchased, the motorist will not be responsible for the costs associated with a rental car accident. However, if the driver of the rental car suffered injuries, they must file a personal injury claim for any medical expenses.

Freehold Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Seek Compensation for Victims of Rental Car Accidents

If you were injured in a car accident involving a rental car, you are urged to contact the Freehold car accident lawyers at Ellis Law at your earliest convenience. We will closely review the terms of your insurance policy and secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve for any property damage and injuries caused by the accident. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 732-308-0200 or contact us online. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.

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