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car accidents in rental cars

If you’re renting a car, you’re likely on vacation, a business trip, or are having troubles with your own vehicle. The last thing you need in these circumstances is to be involved in an accident. Should a collision occur, though, it’s important to understand how to protect yourself from liability. Like with most car accidents, what insurance you hold at the time of the crash has a big impact on liability. Following proper protocol after the incident is critical if you want to avoid confusion.

First Steps

Like in any car accident, you should always move your vehicle out of the way of traffic to avoid further collisions. Check to see if anyone involved in the wreck has been injured and try to get them immediate medical attention. If there is a danger of fire or explosion from a vehicle, clear the area. Put out emergency flares if you have them and call the police. Their official record of the collision will prove instrumental in getting compensation for the car accident.

Once you’ve determined that you’re out of immediate danger, take a moment to exchange contact information with the other driver. Be sure to share your driver’s license information, your phone number and address. Also, take time to snap photos of the damage done and talk to any witnesses who are willing to go on record about what they saw. They may provide valuable insight that could help determine which driver was at fault for the incident.

Contacting the Rental Company

Next, you’ll want to reach out to the rental company to alert them of the accident. In many cases, a sticker with an emergency phone number can be found on the inside of the car’s glove compartment. Inform the company of the incident and ask about what steps to take next. Be sure to have your rental agreement and any car insurance policies handy to reference during the call.

During the call, ask what the company needs from you to handle the fallout from the accident. Ask if they need photos, videos or copies of the incident report. They can also help get you into another car, if necessary. Work with the customer service agent to get a tow and replacement vehicle. Finally, be sure to ask about what charges you may be liable for following the crash.

Contacting Your Insurance Company

After speaking with the rental company, you’ll also want to reach out to your own insurance company. Inform them of the incident and check to make sure you have comprehensive and collision coverage in addition to the liability insurance coverage that is legally required of all drivers. Collision and comprehensive coverage are what protects the cars you rent in case of an accident.

It’s also a good time to ask about your deductible. This is the portion of the repair bill that you’ll need to pay out of pocket. If you caused $1,000 worth of damage and your deductible is $200, for example, you’ll need to pay $200 out of pocket for repairs. The insurance company will cover the remaining balance.

Handling Your Claim

Unless you purchased additional insurance or signed a collision waiver when you first rented the car, your insurance company will be responsible for paying the rental company if your policy provides first-party coverage. Regardless of fault, you’ll be required to pay your deductible to the rental company, since they are entitled to have the car repairs taken care of as soon as possible. If you were not at fault, your insurance company can seek out compensation from the other driver.

If rental coverage is not included in your car insurance policy, you’ll still need to pay rental expenses as though you still had possession of the car. If it takes a week to make repairs to the vehicle, for example, you’ll owe a week’s worth of rental payments. If you carry loss of use coverage in your car insurance policy, you’ll still owe the difference to the car rental company if the limit is less than what the vehicle typically rents for.

If you bought extra car insurance, the handling of your claim will depend on the fine print found in the paperwork you received at the time you rented the car. In some cases, extra insurance covers any and all expenses related to the accident. If your car insurance is serving as a form of secondary insurance, though, you may still be responsible for a deductible. Check both of your car insurance policies to determine which is responsible for paying first and which will pay second.

When you rent a car, you agree to pay for damages in case of an accident. A collision waiver, however, can release you from liability. Even if you signed such a waiver, you’ll still need to file a claim for medical bills if you were injured and for the car you struck if you were the at-fault driver.

The Protection You Need

When you’re renting a car, you take on extra responsibility. Even with insurance, getting into an accident in a rental car can mean an even bigger headache than after a typical wreck. Do your research before you rent a car to ensure that you are protected in case of an emergency.

Confused about your insurance coverage and not sure where to turn for help? Lawsuit Info Center has the tools you need to ensure the best outcome possible after a crash. Check out our car accident settlement calculator for additional insight into how much your settlement could be worth.