What If I Get Into A Car Accident In A Rental Car?

Crashing a rental car is every driver’s nightmare. Car accidents are complex enough without the issue of damaging a vehicle you don’t own or lease. It’s important to understand how and when different insurance policies kick in after an accident in a rental car, whether you were at fault for the accident or not. Otherwise, you could end up footing the bill for property damage, your injuries, and the losses of others involved in the collision.

What to Do After Crashing a Rental Car:

Read Your Rental Agreement

The rental agency will have given you an agreement, typically on paper, upon signing off on the rental car. Your rental agreement is a legal document stating your rights and responsibilities as the driver. Most rental agreements state that the company will not be liable in the event that you violate the terms of the contract. This means that if you were reckless or negligent in causing the crash, such as driving under the influence, the rental agency does not have to honor the agreement. If you find yourself in a situation where this is the case, talk to an attorney about the contract right away.

Rental Car Insurance

Every time you rent a vehicle, you will have the option to purchase rental car insurance. This is an additional type of insurance coverage on top of your own vehicle insurance policy. What rental insurance covers depend on the agency, the agreement, and your policy. To find out what this insurance covers, ask the agency.

In general, purchasing rental insurance will supplement what your vehicle insurance might not pay for in the event of an accident. It could pay for the damages you inflict on others in an at-fault crash, medical costs for you and your passengers, and more depending on the contract. Denying rental insurance at the counter can mean your own insurance company takes the heat from your accident.

Not buying rental insurance can be a problem depending on the terms of your policy. If, for example, you pay for only the bare minimum coverage, this might not be enough to cover all of your medical bills and the costs of repairs to the rental car in an at-fault accident. You could end up paying the difference out-of-pocket – an amount that could reach into the thousands. There are, however, other possibilities for coverage even without rental insurance.

Check with Your Credit Card Company

Many credit card companies offer some type of rental car crash protection. You typically have to meet the terms of qualification, such as putting the entire cost of the rental car on the credit card. In general, this type of insurance will not cover your personal injuries, but it will cover collision-related or theft-related damages. Credit card coverage is often secondary, meaning it will kick in only after your own vehicle insurance and/or rental car insurance covers damages. If there are any costs remaining, your credit card might offer coverage.

Check and Make Sure Everyone Is Okay

Just like any other car accident, the safety of all drivers and passengers should be your top priority. Inquire about the well-being of your passengers, as well as the other parties involved in the accident. If it’s possible to do so, move your vehicles over to the side of the road in order to let traffic pass. Call emergency medical services for anyone who needs it and call the police to report the crash if it caused injuries, deaths, or more than $1,000 in property damage.

Again, it’s important to be polite and courteous to the other driver. Don’t, however, do or say anything that could be the same as admitting fault. In this case, even something as simple as an apology could go against you. Limit your interaction with the other driver to an inquiry about his or her well-being and the exchange of insurance information.

Gather Evidence

Gather as much information as you can about the accident scene. Take pictures of the damage to both vehicles, focusing on your rental vehicle first. If possible, gather contact information from any eyewitnesses, including names, telephone numbers, and email addresses. Next, gather any pertinent insurance information from the other driver: policy number, license plate number, and the make, model, and year of his or her vehicle.

When the police arrive (If they were needed), be prepared to provide a statement of your version of events. When relaying information to a responding officer, remember to keep a clear head. Stick to the facts surrounding the accident and don’t editorialize. Embellishments, if discovered, could undermine the veracity of your car insurance claim.

Call Your Insurance Company

Texas is a fault insurance state. This means that if the other driver was at fault for the accident, you will file your claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer. Your own insurance company might pick up the rest of the costs if the other driver doesn’t have enough coverage. If you were at fault for the accident, you will need to turn to your rental insurance policy (if you purchased one), your vehicle insurer, or your credit card company for damage recovery. When in doubt, call a car accident attorney and request assistance.