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What Should You Do After A Rental Car Accident?

Updated: May 2020

Being involved in rental car collision can be unnerving, since it is not your vehicle. However, you should handle it much like you would an accident in your own car. From making sure everyone is safe to calling the insurance and rental car companies, here's what to do after a rental car accident.

Rental car collides with another vehicle.

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Immediate Steps To Take At The Accident

If you wreck a rental car, address the basics at the accident scene just as you would if you were in your own vehicle. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), you should:

  • Check yourself for injuries and ask passengers if they are injured.
  • Move to a safe, nearby location, if possible.
  • Contact law enforcement. Call 911 if you think life-threatening injuries.
    may be involved. Otherwise, contact the state highway patrol, sheriff or municipal law enforcement.
  • Exchange contact and insurance information with any other involved drivers. This information should include:
    • Full name and contact information
    • Insurance company and policy number
    • Driver's license and license plate number
    • Type, color and model of vehicle
    • Location of accident
  • Document the accident.
    • Take photos of all damage to your vehicle and others
    • Record the names and badge numbers of the assisting officers
    • Get a copy of the police report, if possible
    • Talk to witnesses
  • Contact your insurance agent.

Contact The Rental Car Company

Those steps are the same for any auto accident. But if you are in an accident while driving a rental car, your next action should be to contact the rental car company. The company may ask you to complete an accident reporting form, but expectations will vary by rental company.

Will My Insurance Cover This?

Once the initial surprise of the accident has settled, you will need to address repairs to the rental car and associated damage. Your personal auto insurance policy may cover the costs through two primary components:

  • Collision insurance coverage helps pay for damage to your vehicle if you are in an accident with another vehicle or an object, once you pay your deductible. The deductible is what you pay out of your own pocket before insurance picks up costs. Most collision coverages apply to rental cars and the same deductible applies.
  • Liability coverage, which helps pay for damage to other people's property and medical bills, also applies to rental car accidents in most situations.

Two other optional insurance coverages might apply to your situation in a rental car accident:

  • Medical payments coverage may help reimburse your expenses related to doctor or hospital visits, ambulance transportation and surgery, among other things, for you and your passengers.
  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP), also known as no-fault insurance, is required in some states and not available in others. PIP also may cover medical expenses for you and your passengers.

To better understand whether your insurance policy will be sufficient, talk with your local insurance agent before signing a rental agreement. Your agent can explain the limits of your coverage and help you consider whether you should use any of the additional insurance offerings.

What About Rental Car Insurance?

If you do elect rental car insurance coverages, know that they generally mirror the main elements of your own auto insurance policy:

  • Loss damage waiver (LDW), sometimes called collision damage waiver (CDW), can waive the cost of repairing the car. It is not exactly insurance but functions similarly to your auto policy's collision insurance.
  • Liability coverage on a rental car's insurance offering is similar to what you have on a personal auto policy, helping to cover costs associated with damage to other people's property and their medical bills.
  • Personal accident insurance is not unlike medical payments coverage or PIP. This helps pay medical bills for you and your passengers.

You may also have one final coverage option from your credit card company. Depending on the credit-card issuer, and your cardmember standing, you might have limited collision coverage. Call the toll-free number on the back of your credit card to ask about your options before you rent a car.

What If The Rental Car Accident Isn't My Fault?

When exchanging information with the other driver in an accident, it's recommended that you don't discuss responsibility for the accident. Insurance companies will review pictures and reports to determine which driver is at fault. If the investigation determines the other driver is at fault, their insurance coverage will be responsible for the cost of damages.

If you are driving in a no-fault state when the accident occurs but you don't have no-fault insurance, you'll need to talk directly with your insurance agent to understand the laws specific to that state and how you should handle the claim.

However, if the other driver is uninsured or underinsured you could be left to pay for the damages yourself. Check with your insurance agent about uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage before you travel. These may be able to help cover the costs in this situation.

What If I Wasn’t Driving The Rental Car?

When you sign a rental car agreement, the rental company will ask if multiple people will be driving the car. In some states, you can add a spouse for free. Certain rental car companies also let you add a spouse for free. All other people typically pay a per-day fee for the right to drive the car you are renting. You'll be expected to confirm any authorizations when you sign the rental car contract.

Should you allow a non-authorized person to drive your rental car, the liability for any accident they cause might fall to you and not your insurance provider. In most cases, only those with permission of a car's owner to drive a car are covered. The rental car company owns the car, and when you signed the contract without authorizing this person to drive, you have likely absolved both the rental car company and your own insurance company of any responsibility for the damages.

Any accident in a rental car can disrupt a vacation or business trip. But you can limit the disruptions by taking the right steps before you travel to help make sure you are protected in the event of a collision.

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This content is for informational purposes only and may not be applicable to all situations.

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