The last thing people want to worry about when renting a car is getting in an accident, but it does happen. So it pays to be prepared if it happens to you. If you have been involved in a car accident while driving or riding in a rental car, such as while on vacation or on a business trip, this is what you should do to protect your rights.
First, you should make sure everyone involved in the accident is ok. If anyone is hurt, call 911 right away. 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.
Second, exchange contact details with parties involved in the accident. Take pictures of the damage to the vehicles involved, as well as their position. Do not mention that you are driving a rental car as some people will try to take advantage of that.
Third, contact your car rental company and tell them about the accident. You can probably find an emergency number in the glove compartment or on the rental agreement paperwork you got when you picked up the vehicle. Ask the rental company how they want you to proceed. But read the fine print of your auto insurance policy and any insurance that the rental company provides.
Fourth, contact your auto insurance provider. Tell them about the accident and if they will file an accident report with the police or whether you should do it. Ask your insurance company if you have comprehensive and collision coverage that protects the car you rent.
Also, find out what your deductible is in this situation. Most rental companies mandate that you have a $500 or less deductible or they will require you to buy extra insurance.
Fifth, find out who is responsible for what in the claim. If you did not buy extra insurance when you rented the car, your auto insurance company is liable for paying the rental company for the care only if your policy provides first-party coverage. No matter if you were at fault or not, you need to pay the deductible to the rental company because it is entitled to have the car repaired promptly. Your insurance company is responsible for going after the responsible driver at that point.
If your auto insurance does not have rental coverage, you owe rental expenses to the car rental company as if you still are renting the car. This means if it takes three days to fix the car, you owe three days of rental. Even if you do have loss of use coverage on your auto insurance policy, you will owe the difference to the rental car company if the limit is under what the car would usually rent for.
If you bought extra insurance coverage from the rental car company, it is important to read the policy to know what it covers. Some rental car companies give complete coverage in any accident as long as you have paid the premium. This means the car rental company would pay for damages for the accident even if you caused it. But you might still have to pay a deductible from your own auto insurance policy. This serves as a backup form of coverage if the rental car insurance policy has low limits.