Getting into an accident involving a rental car can be extremely confusing. There are multiple layers of insurance coverage that can frustrate even the most savvy of people. Because of the complexity of rental car accidents, you really should speak to a rental car accident lawyer immediately. Trying to handle these claims on your own will inevitably lead to problems with your claim down the road.
At St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas, we specialize in handling accidents involving rental cars. We are located in Pinellas County and close to the beaches; therefore, we are constantly getting calls and cases from accidents involving rental cars. Most of these accidents involve visitors, tourists, or snowbirds who are driving a rental car and cause the accident. But, regardless of whether you were in the rental car or injured by someone in a rental car, we can help. The following article was written to serve as a resource for those who may have questions about how rental car accident claims work.
Steps to Take After a Rental Car Accident
These steps should be taken regardless whether you were in the rental car or struck by the driver of a rental car.
Report the Accident to Law Enforcement
This step should be taken regardless of whether a rental car is involved. In every accident, the police need to be contacted in order to investigate the crash. I cannot stress how important it is to not rely on the other person to accept fault once you leave the scene. Almost weekly, I am contacted by someone involved in an accident caused by the other driver and police were not called. Inevitably, the following morning, they wake up in pain, realize that they are injured, and then report the claim to the insurance company. In almost every situation, the other driver no longer accepts responsibility and the claim is over. So, do not put yourself in that situation, just call the police and wait the extra few minutes it takes for them to come investigate.
Seek Medical Treatment
Many of my clients get confused and think they have 14 days to get treatment. They do not understand that the 14 day rule only applies to whether they can unlock their full PIP benefits. If you wait days or 14 days to get medical treatment after a car accident, your claim will be greatly devalued. So, do not allow the insurance company any excuse not to pay you. If you have any questions regarding an injury, go to the hospital or to an Urgent Care immediately. Then, make sure you follow-up within a few days with a specialist. Delays or gaps in treatment are one of the most common ways to lose money, so try to avoid them.
Report the claim to Insurance
Since a rental car was involved, there may be an additional company that needs to be contacted. But, if you have the information for the rental car company, you should report it. As far as your own insurance company, you have a contractual obligation to report the accident within a reasonable time and to cooperate with the investigation of the claim. To the contrary, you have no obligation to cooperate with the other insurance company. But, it is always good policy to at least report the claim and get it assigned to an adjuster. We do not recommend that you discuss the extent of your injuries with the insurance adjuster without the permission of your car accident lawyer.
Speak to a Car Accident Lawyer
Getting an injury claim set up and getting you protected in the days after the accident is extremely important. Many people are not comfortable dealing with the influx of calls from insurance companies and have no idea what to do. A car accident lawyer can take over all of the communication from the insurance companies and control the flow of information. Also important is to get you set up with medical treatment as soon as possible. Many of my clients waste time trying to get an appointment with their primary care doctor only to learn that he or she does not treat auto accident injuries. By then, vital time is lost that will affect the value of the claim. A local car accident lawyer can guide you to reputable medical professionals who specialize in the treatment and care of injuries like yours. Setting all of this up in the days after the accident is vital to increasing the value of your case and to getting your injuries the appropriate treatment.
How Does Insurance Work for a Rental Car?
Example 1- You caused the accident and bought rental car insurance
If you bought rental car insurance and were at-fault, then you have additional protections. But, it truly depends on what you actually bought. Most rental car insurance only covers the damage to the vehicle. If this was the case, then the car is covered, but the PIP insurance to cover any injury treatment comes out of your own underlying insurance policy. If you bought additional protections to cover injuries, it is likely those protections will only apply to the other driver’s injuries. Additionally, you may be liable to the other driver for damages. If you did not buy those protections from the rental car company, then your own car insurance would kick in. There is one caveat, however. I have not seen a major company deny a claim while one of its drivers was in a rental car, but there may be exclusions for some companies. You will need to call your insurance company to find out the details.
Example 2 – You caused the accident and did not buy rental car insurance
In this situation, your own auto insurance should kick in to cover the losses. Again, I cannot guarantee what type of policy you have, but most cover accidents in rental cars. If you did not buy rental car insurance or for some reason were allowed to drive without any insurance, you will be held personally liable for the damages to the rental car, the other vehicles and any injury damages.
Example 3 – You did not cause the accident and bought rental car insurance
In this situation, the at-fault driver’s insurance company should cover all of the losses. However, if the other driver was not insured, or did not have enough insurance, you will first look to the insurance you bought from the rental company, then to your own personal motor vehicle insurance policy. Your PIP benefits or med-pay insurance should also be covered by either the rental insurance or your own policy.
Example 4 – You did not cause the accident and did not buy rental car insurance
In this situation, the at-fault driver’s insurance should cover all of the losses. This includes the damage to your rental car and your permanent injuries. You will still have to get PIP insurance through your own vehicle insurance company. If the at-fault driver did not have any insurance or enough insurance to cover the losses, then you must look solely to your vehicle insurance policy.
Example 5 – You caused an accident and the other vehicle was a rental car
If you caused the accident whether the other car was a rental or not, you are on the hook. Your own insurance will have to cover the damage and injuries to the rental car and its driver. The good news is that your medical treatment up to $10,000 will be covered through your own PIP insurance.
Example 6 – A rental car caused an accident with you
In this situation, your own PIP benefits will provide coverage for up to $10,000 of medical treatment. The damage to your vehicle will be covered by either the rental car company or the driver’s personal insurance. For any injury claims that you may have, most rental companies offer some type of injury coverage. Most are only about $10,000, however. So, you will likely need to make a claim against the at-fault driver’s personal insurance policy.
Example 7 – You were the passenger in a rental car that caused an accident
In this situation, you will have a claim against the driver for negligence. Some rental car companies will provide some money for your injuries, but you cannot count on that. If the driver and the rental car company do not provide coverage for your injuries, or there wasn’t enough coverage, then you must look to your own insurance policy in the uninsured/underinsured category. If you carry this UM coverage, you can make a demand for your losses on it.
Example 8 – You were the passenger in a rental car and the accident was caused by another vehicle
In this situation, you have many options to pursue compensation for your losses. Your first claim for damages will be against the insurance for the at-fault driver. If they do not carry insurance, you have several additional options to look for coverage. You may qualify for uninsured/underinsured (UM) motorist coverage from the rental car company, from the driver of the rental car’s personal UM coverage, or from your own personal vehicle UM insurance.