If you are involved in an auto accident with a rental car, either as the driver of the rental vehicle or having been struck by someone driving a rental car, understanding your legal rights can be complicated. What you may be able to recover to compensate for your losses is usually determined by liability and by the insurance coverage you have when the accident occurred.
Here are the first things you should do after a car accident with a rental car:
1. Contact the Police or Local Law Enforcement
The police officer will complete an official police report, which identifies the parties involved, the location of the accident, the relevant details about the scene, people involved, witnesses, and the vehicles involved. The police report will be needed for any insurance claim or lawsuit.
2: Get Medical Attention
Get care for your injuries as soon as possible. Many victims involved in an accident may initially feel fine, experience little to no pain, and have no visible injuries. However, once the adrenaline from the accident wears off, the pain can come on quickly. It is always wise to be examined by a doctor as soon as possible. Nothing is more important than your health.
3. Collect Evidence from the Scene
It is always a good idea to collect as much evidence as you can after a car accident. Photographs are relied on heavily by insurance adjusters, judges, and juries to determine liability. Be sure to take clear pictures of the accident scene, including the vehicles involved, the surrounding area, crosswalks, and traffic signals and signs. Take pictures from several locations so that you capture different angles of the collision.
4. Contact the Rental Car Company
If you are driving the rental car, it is important that you notify the rental company as soon as possible as well as your insurance provider. Car accident cases involving rental cars can become more complex. Talk with a personal injury attorney who will protect your rights and understand what insurance policies are applicable to your particular situation.
Here are the insurance coverage options that may be available.
Insurance Coverage Options
If you rented a vehicle that suffered property damage, you are contractually obligated to return the vehicle in the same condition it was in when you took possession. This means you are responsible for any loss or damage to the rental car, even if the damage was caused by another person’s negligence. If you get into an accident, or otherwise damage the vehicle at any point during the rental period, there are three primary sources of insurance coverage that may be applicable to your situation:
Insurance Coverage Options
Did you carefully read the car rental agreement before signing? If so, then you are aware that as a car renter, you are contractually obligated to return the vehicle in the same condition it was in when you took possession. This means you are responsible for any loss or damage to the rental car, even if the damage was caused by another person’s negligence.
If you get into an accident, or otherwise damage the vehicle at any point during the rental period, there are three primary sources of insurance coverage that may be applicable to your situation:
- Personal Car Insurance Coverage
- Rental Car Company Insurance
- Credit Card Company Rental Car Insurance
Personal Car Insurance Coverage
If you drive a vehicle in Florida, you must maintain the minimum insurance coverage required under Florida law. The minimum requirement for automobile insurance is $10,000 personal injury protection and $10,000 property damage liability.
Personal injury protection insurance provides coverage for any medical expenses and lost wages for you and any passenger in your vehicle.
Property damage liability insurance provides coverage to pay for damages to someone else’s property if you are liable for those damages. Property damage liability covers damage to the other party’s vehicle; however, it does not provide coverage for damages to your vehicle.
Rental Car Company Insurance
When renting a vehicle, whether online, in-person or over the phone, you will certainly spend some time completing the rental agreement paperwork. You should always review your insurance options made available through the rental car company, and compare to your personal car insurance policy, if you have one. In many cases, your personal car insurance will be very similar to the coverage offered by the rental car company’s liability policy.
It is worthwhile to check with your personal car insurance company in advance of booking to know for sure what coverage they provide when you rent a car. They may even offer to cover a portion of the rental car insurance if you book the rental car through them using a preferred car rental company. If you decide not to purchase the liability insurance from the rental car company, you may be asked to provide evidence that you have valid personal car insurance.
The rental car company will usually offer four types of coverage:
· Collision Damage Waiver
· Liability Coverage
· Personal Accident Insurance
· Personal Effects Coverage
Collision Damage Waiver
Rental car companies will offer collision damage waiver, which is technically not insurance, but does provide additional protection to an individual renting an automobile. The collision damage waiver relieves the renter from the responsibility to pay for theft or damage to the rental car, as well as any fees that may be incurred for the loss of use of the vehicle while it is being repaired. You should be aware, however, that there are exceptions to what the collision damage waiver will cover, such as any loss resulting from illegal activities, including reckless driving, driving under the influence, speeding, or when the vehicle is driven by someone other than the authorized driver(s).
The collision damage waiver is optional and must be purchased; usually added to the price as an additional daily fee. The cost is based on several factors, such as the year, make, and model of the vehicle, and the location where the renter will be driving.
Liability coverage from the rental car company pays for property damage and medical expenses incurred by other individuals in a car accident you cause while driving the rental vehicle. This coverage will most certainly overlap with the property damage liability insurance you have for your personal car and may not be necessary. You should check to see if the coverage amount under your personal policy is sufficient to fully protect you in the event of a serious car accident.
Personal Accident Insurance
Personal accident insurance provides coverage for any injuries sustained by the rental car driver and their passengers. This coverage will overlap with any medical insurance or “personal injury protection” coverage you have with your personal car insurance policy and may not be necessary.
Personal Effects Coverage
Personal effects coverage pays for any personal property that is stolen from the vehicle or damaged. If you have a homeowner’s insurance policy or a renter’s insurance policy, it is likely that you already have this coverage, and purchasing this coverage from the rental car company is not necessary.
Credit Card Company Rental Car Insurance
If you rent a vehicle and provide a major credit card for payment, you may automatically have rental insurance from the credit card company. Most major credit card companies now include rental car insurance coverage as a standard practice. Credit card agreements vary but coverage from the credit card company may pay for theft or any damage that occurs during the duration of your rental agreement. You should check your credit card agreement for specific terms. If your credit card company does cover rental car damages, keep in mind that they will rarely provide any liability coverage.
Here are some additional highlights regarding coverage from your credit card company’s rental car policy:
- Collision protection from the credit card company is usually secondary to other forms of insurance. Once all other forms of insurance have been used, then this collision protection can be applied. If there are no other forms of insurance, collision protection insurance is the primary source for coverage.
- If you accept the damage waiver offered by the rental car company, your credit card company’s insurance may be canceled. Check your credit card agreement before accepting the damage waiver to ensure you will not lose beneficial (and free) insurance coverage from the credit card company.
- There are some common exclusions to credit card coverage. The rental period usually must be short-term (e.g., 15 days). And certain vehicles may not be covered, such as trucks and vans. Or if using the rental car for business purposes.
Accidents that involve a rental car can be complex and confusing. Understanding how to leverage the right insurance policies is a critical component in making sure you get the compensation you deserve.
CONTACT A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY TODAY
If you have been involved in a rental car accident, please do not wait to get the straightforward legal advice you need. Contact us now to speak with a respected Riverview and St. Petersburg personal injury attorney who will fight for the full and fair compensation you deserve. We have handled countless cases and are skilled at dealing with rental car companies, and multiple insurance providers. We have the knowledge, resources, and experience that is needed to help you.