Whether you’re on vacation or renting a car locally, damaging a vehicle that is not yours seems like a nightmare. As the renter, you could be liable for damages, especially if the auto accident is your fault.
Since having an accident in a rental car is a real possibility, you should know what to do in case of one.
In this article, we will review everything you need to know about accidents in rental cars, including the steps to take if you are in one. Plus, we'll share tips to help you protect yourself from liability the next time you rent a car.
What to Do After an Accident in a Rental Car
The way you handle a car accident in a rental is similar to how you would in your own vehicle. The main differences are the rental agreement, car rental insurance coverage, and rental car company's policies for handling incidents.
Before you worry about those details, you'll need to take care of the accident's immediate aftermath.
Check On All Involved
First, check on everyone involved and ensure they are unharmed. If the accident was minor, pull over to the side of the road and call 911. In the event of an emergency situation, dial 911 immediately and request an ambulance for the injured.
Report the Accident
Once you and the other parties are safe, exchange contact and insurance information. Don't forget to obtain the following details from all other drivers involved in the accident:
Insurance provider and policy number
Driver's license number
Vehicle registration and license plate
Phone, email, and address
If possible, try to get the contact information of any witnesses to the accident since their testimony can help insurance companies clear you of fault.
Avoid mentioning that you are driving a rental car since the other parties may try to take advantage of the situation and place all the blame on you.
Although you should be empathetic to the other drivers, what you say at the time of the accident can later be used against you when determining who is at fault. So, try not to apologize or allude that you are to blame for the collision. Doing so could influence the insurance company's decision about who is responsible for the accident.
Furthermore, you should never promise to pay for their property damage. And if other parties promise to pay for damages if you keep the accident off the record, insist on calling the police and making a statement.
In cases where other parties are hostile, wait for the police to engage with them. Doing so will avoid arguments and violent situations.
While waiting for the police, collect as much information as possible about the accident. Use your phone to record the details, such as:
Photos and videos from different angles of the crash scene
Make, model, and other information of all the cars involved in the accident
Location of collision (street names, the lane where the accident happened)
Explanation of how the accident occurred
You'll also need to file a police report. Even if other parties have told the officers what happened, be sure to tell your version, so it gets on the official record.
Contact Your Rental Company
Until this point, the steps after a rental car accident are nearly identical to those you would take when driving your own car. Now it's time to contact the rental company and let them know what happened. Usually, there's an emergency number to call in the car or your rental agreement.
No matter which company you rented from, ask them for instructions on how to proceed. They will likely have you fill out a separate incident report, which is why it's so helpful to have good records of the details of the accident.
If you have an AVR rental, you can locate the accident report on our website and call the phone number on your rental agreement for more instructions.
Call Your Insurance Agent
Next, you'll want to contact your car insurance provider to inform them of the accident. Telling them from the get-go is essential since this opens a claim and increases the chances that your own insurance provider will cover damages for which you are liable.
Ask your own insurance company what steps to take and whether your collision, comprehensive, and liability coverage extends to your rental. If you don't know your deductible, ask the representative now to see what you may need to pay the rental company out of pocket.
Also, let them know of any additional rental coverage you purchased.
Understand Claim Payment
Rental car accidents are tricky, so after you've contacted the rental car agency and your insurance company, make sure you understand:
What your rental insurance covers
What your own car insurance policy covers
The claims you are responsible for
Remember that your credit card company may offer coverage if you used them to book your rental car, which may help you pay for damages not covered by your insurance.
Typically, if your insurance policy includes comprehensive and collision coverage, it extends to your rental car. If you don't have these types of insurance, it'll likely be up to you to pay for damage to the rental vehicle or medical expenses unless you purchased additional insurance when renting the car.
Thankfully, your liability insurance should cover damage to other vehicles, and if it doesn't, any additional rental car insurance you bought should. On the other hand, credit cards usually don't cover liability insurance.
Another cost to consider is the extra days you'll owe the car rental company if it needs to be repaired. The longer it's in the shop, the more you'll have to pay since you must pay the rental fee to make up for the loss of use. However, you may not be liable if you got the extra insurance or signed a loss damage waiver.
Even if you weren't at fault in the accident, you will likely need to pay your deductible to the rental company so they can repair the car as soon as possible. When your insurance company goes after the responsible party, they'll likely give you a reimbursement for your out-of-pocket expenses.
Tips for Protecting Your Rental Vehicle
If you're reading this article before renting a car, the good news is that there is a lot you can do to protect yourself from additional expenses. In the event of an accident, you'll be glad you planned ahead, and the experience will be much less stressful. So, let's consider what you should do before renting a car to avoid liability.
Know How the Rental Company Handles Incidents
First, you should check the rental company's policy and ask about accident procedures. Choose another rental agency if you aren't comfortable with how a company handles accidents in their rental cars.
Review Your Insurance Coverage
No matter your rental company, having the right coverage is up to you. Before you think about renting a vehicle, check your auto insurance policy.
Ideally, you should have at least liability insurance. If you don't, add this to your personal car insurance before renting a car, or you could end up paying for the other parties' medical bills and vehicle damage. It's also a good idea to have collision insurance that covers damage to your rental car.
If your current policy doesn't cover rental cars, you should consider getting a separate policy. Most rental car companies offer this option, but you can also use a third-party insurance company. Doing so is a great idea when using a long-term rental, such as a six-month car rental.
Plan for Extra Costs
Paying extra for a rental car with exceptional safety features is usually a good call, especially when driving in an area you aren't familiar with. Here is some tech you should consider when choosing a car to rent:
Lane detection warning systems
Forward collision warnings
Adaptive cruise control and headlights
A dash cam is also a good idea since it will record any accidents and clear you from fault.
Of course, all this advice applies to regular rental cars. If you plan to get a larger vehicle, such as a cargo van for rent, policies may be slightly different.
Protect Your Rental Car with AVR
After reading this article, you can protect yourself from an accident in a rental car and the liability that may come from one. So, follow these tips and ensure you have the right coverage before getting behind the wheel of any vehicle.
At AVR, we do our best to keep you safe! And, whether you're interested in a standard SUV rental or rental minivans, we offer coverage that will prevent you from having to pay hefty fees in an accident.