You are about to be on the road trip of a lifetime, cruising along the highway with your friends, and can’t wait to see America as it was meant to be experienced – on the open road. Even better, you have an amazing rental car and all your favorite road trip songs on your playlist.
You queue it up, high-five your buddies, and start your engine. Little do you know that soon you'll be in a car accident with a pickup truck and now all you can think about is, “Did I decline a car insurance policy at the rental counter?”
While you may be wondering a million different things, the most important question on your mind is probably who pays for a rental car after an accident? The question will turn on two separate inquires: who is at the at fault driver and the level of rental coverage from the driver's insurance company.
Having a car accident in a rental car isn’t that much different than if it was your own vehicle. Your first step after an accident is to make sure everyone is safe at the scene, swap contact information and call 911 if necessary. Call your rental car company right away after an accident. Ask the company how to proceed, including whether or not you need to file a police report, even for minor damages.
In deciding who pays for the rental car after an accident, the most important inquiry here is who caused the accident. If the other driver did, their auto insurance company is on the hook for rental car repair charges. The best case scenario is that the other driver is at fault for the accident and they have insurance coverage.
Almost every state requires drivers to carry a minimum type of liability coverage that will offset property damage to the other vehicle i.e., your rental car. If the other driver was operating without insurance, that becomes a more difficult situation. You may have to pay out-of-pocket if your own insurance doesn’t cover it. You can then attempt to sue the other driver for compensation, but if the driver didn’t have insurance in the first place, collecting from them might not be feasible if they don’t have any assets to begin with.
If you are at fault, then you are responsible for the damages to the rental car and the other driver’s vehicle. That’s where your car insurance coverage will (hopefully) kick in assuming you have the proper coverage.
If the other party is at fault but uninsured, you will need to make a claim with your own insurance company under your uninsured motorist benefits. The good news is that the percentage of uninsured motorists declined nationally from 13.8 percent in 2009 to 12.6 percent in 2012, according to the Insurance Research Council.
Rental car agents around the country ask drivers numerous times a day, “which insurance coverage would you like?” While many people decline coverage, it may be worth revisiting if you aren’t sure what your current policy covers or if it has significant exclusions such as long term rentals or business use if it’s rented under your company’s name.
The types of insurance that rental car companies offer includes collision damage, liability insurance, personal accident insurance, and more. While this coverage may initially cost you out-of-pocket, it will likely help you in case your own insurance won’t cover damage or if the other driver is uninsured.
Still, your credit card company may provide you with some layer of rental car insurance protection, but each policy is different and you will need to check with your individual carrier to learn more. If you aren’t sure what type of insurance coverage you have either through your own policy, a credit card company or from the rental company itself, seek out the advice of an experienced lawyer.
Being in an auto accident while in a rental car can create several unique problems regarding who should pay for what damages. While the law can be confusing, it doesn’t have to be. If you have had an accident, your best first step is to speak with a personal injury attorney in your area today to learn who bears what responsibility for costs and damages.
Contact a qualified auto accident attorney to make sure your rights are protected.