What Happens If You’re In A Rental Car Accident
The repercussions of a rental car accident can be stressful for all those involved. Not only are you likely away from home, but the added complexities of dealing with the rental car or credit card companies can add on another layer of burden to the situation.
Revenue from U.S. car rentals is expected to grow to $18,223 million in 2021—a year over year growth of 68.9%. With steady demand in the rental car market, incidents of rental car accidents are inevitable.
In this article, we’ll explore what to do if you damage a rental car. We’ll also go through various at-fault and not-at-fault accident rental car scenarios and what that means for your insurance.
What to Do If You Get into a Rental Car Accident
The steps to take after getting into a rental car accident are similar to a car accident in your own car. However, there are additional considerations you’ll need to take, including contacting your car rental company and understanding what insurance options you have.
Step 1: Pull to Safety
Pull over to a safe spot—ideally away from traffic—after an accident. First, check to see if you’ve sustained any injuries. Then check the rest of the passengers in the vehicle for injuries.
Step 2: Call 911
Whether it’s a major or minor accident, call 911 to notify authorities of the accident. Depending on the situation, the police will come to the scene and fill out an accident report. In some states, it is a legal requirement to call the police.
Step 3: Exchange Information
When safe to do so, exchange information with the other driver. Write down their name, contact details, insurance, and registration information. Keep your conversations brief and never admit fault.
Step 4: Document the Accident
Take plenty of photos of the accident. This includes any damages to the car or nearby property. Make note of the time, location, and current weather conditions.
Step 5: Notify Car Rental Company
Contact your rental car company to find out what happens if you crash a rental car. The rental car company will typically require you to file a report detailing the events of the accident.
Step 6: Notify Your Lawyer or Insurance Company
Your insurance company will generally require you to contact them after an accident. It’s recommended to notify your lawyer first so they can handle any interactions with insurance companies. Insurance companies tend not to look out for your best interests. A car accident attorney in Las Vegas can guide you through the appropriate steps after your accident.
Who is Responsible?
What happens next if you damage a rental car? When you rent a vehicle, you are obligated to return the car in the same condition as when you first drive it off the rental car company’s lot. While who is at fault matters, the more important consideration is the type of insurance coverage you have in place at the time of the accident.
Rental Car Accident: At Fault
If you were at fault in the accident, coverage for the damages would depend on the type of insurance coverage you have. Car rental companies will typically offer four coverage options on their vehicles:
- Collision Damage Waiver: Rental companies will waive any repair or vehicle replacement costs of the rental car if you get into an accident. This coverage also covers financial costs if the car gets stolen.
- Liability: Coverage for the other driver’s car damages and personal injury expenses.
- Personal Accident: This option covers your own personal injury costs sustained from the accident. It also covers any medical expenses for the passengers in your vehicle.
- Personal Effects: Any damaged items or goods inside your vehicle at the time of the accident will be covered under personal effects coverage.
Suppose you choose to opt-out of insurance coverage offered by the car rental company. In that case, you can seek coverage from other alternatives, such as your personal car insurance, credit card insurance, or third-party car rental insurance. Each of these options will be discussed in further detail later on in this article.
Rental Car Accident: Not At Fault
Someone hit my rental car: who will cover the damages? If the other driver was at fault in the accident, you might be able to file a claim against the other driver. The other driver’s liability insurance coverage would then cover damages to your car and injury costs you’ve sustained, up to a certain limit.
Even though you may be covered under the other driver’s insurance, it’s important to understand your rental car agreement. Rental car companies may require you to pay for the damages right away, even if you’re still navigating the claims process with the other driver’s insurance.
Should I Purchase Rental Car Insurance?
What happens if you crash a rental car? Worse, what happens if you wreck a rental car? These worst-case scenarios may be playing through your head as the rental car agent presents you with the various insurance options at the front desk.
The choice to purchase rental car insurance will depend largely on what coverage you have in place already. Before renting a car, look into the following channels to understand what coverage you have currently.
Personal Automobile Insurance
Check to see if your personal auto insurance policy extends to your rental car. Then check to see what types of coverage your personal policy offers. For example, your liability insurance may extend to your rental car. However, if you only have the minimum liability coverage, you may choose to buy supplemental coverage.
Likewise, if you have comprehensive or collision damage coverage on your personal auto insurance, it may cover damages to your rental car. Be aware that if you decide to rely on your personal collision damage coverage, you will need to pay for the deductible before the insurance company covers the rest. If you’d rather not pay for the deductible, you may want to consider the collision damage waiver offered by the rental car company.
Understand that if you are in a rental car accident with no insurance, you could be on the hook for much of the costs. While it is possible to rent a car with no personal auto insurance (since rental cars are typically already insured by the rental company), you are still responsible for any damages to the car. In this case, purchasing rental car insurance would be a good idea.
Credit Card Coverage
Credit cards may also provide coverage in the case of a rented car accident. However, make sure you read the fine details to see the extent of coverage for your rental car. Many credit cards offer only secondary insurance. This means the credit card coverage will only go into effect after you’ve made a claim with your personal automobile insurance.
Moreover, credit card companies rarely offer liability insurance. In this case, damages or injuries sustained by the other driver will not be covered. Certain vehicles may also be exempt from coverage, including:
- Recreation Vehicles (RV)
- Luxury cars
- Specialty cars
It’s important to call your credit card company ahead of time to see what coverage it offers before purchasing additional car rental insurance.
Alternatives to Rental Car Insurance
Besides your personal automobile and credit card insurance, you could also explore third-party companies that sell rental car insurance policies. These companies offer stand-alone policies that may provide you with price savings compared to insurance offered at the rental car company’s front desk.
Certain travel agencies, such as Expedia or Priceline, give you the option to include collision coverage as part of your vacation package. These agencies typically use independent insurance companies to offer coverage to their customers.
Again, ensure you are aware of the types of coverage you are getting with third-party companies. Like credit card insurance, some may only provide coverage once your personal auto insurance has paid you out. Additionally, the rental car company may require you to pay the damages upfront. Charges will go on your credit card while you seek reimbursement from the third-party insurance company.
Other avenues of insurance coverage to check include your:
- Health insurance policy: If you’ve sustained injuries, your current health insurance policy may cover medical expenses incurred due to the accident. If not, you’d need personal accident insurance coverage.
- Homeowner’s insurance: Homeowners may benefit from their existing homeowner’s insurance that would pay for any lost or damaged items resulting from a car crash.
- Travel insurance: Travel insurance may also include car rental collision coverage. Read the fine print to ensure you understand what you are specifically covered for.
What Happens Now?
Accidents can happen to anyone. The key is to be prepared before you rent a vehicle.
The first step is to understand what types of coverage you have. Knowing what kind of coverage you currently have will help inform you on whether you should be pursuing supplementary insurance from other avenues.
While car rental insurance can be expensive, inadequate coverage can be even more costly. Paying for car repairs, medical bills, and lost items out of your own pocket can be a huge burden to carry for most people.
If you do end up in an accident, contact a car accident attorney. An experienced attorney will provide you with expert counsel, so you have the best chance to recover any damages.
Valiente Mott Can Help
Dealing with insurance, car rental, and credit card companies can be demanding and time-consuming. And, finding who’s at fault in the accident is not always cut and dry.
If you need professional advice on how to handle a rental car accident, we can help. Valiente Mott is a legal firm dedicated to assisting victims in all matters relating to personal injury. We have a team of professional car accident attorneys in Las Vegas, NV, who represent clients seeking to achieve the best possible outcome.
Contact us today for a free consultation!