An auto accident can have an impact on your health, property, finances, and even insurance premiums. To resolve these issues requires a different approach for each one. One way to better manage this process may be to hire a personal injury lawyer. A lawyer can assist you in determining whether you have a legal claim to recover any potential damages resulting from an accident.
One of the leading causes of car accidents is negligence. In some cases, only one of the drivers involved in the accident is at fault. In others, multiple drivers may be responsible for the actions that caused the accident. A negligence claim may be found in various situations, such as when a driver does not stop to look both ways at a stop sign before proceeding. One of the most common, current examples is texting while driving as opposed to paying attention to the road.
Other examples include:
- Unsafe weather conditions;
- Defects in a car or mechanical issues;
- Poor visibility relating to factors other than weather, such as trees blocking the view of the road for drivers;
- Driving under the influence (“DUI”);
- Issues with road signs or stop lights;
- Roadwork; and
- Various other unpredictable factors.
When a rental car is involved in an automobile accident, the potential exists for more parties to become involved in a lawsuit in order to collect damages. When a driver rents a car, the rental car agent will generally ask if the driver would like to purchase insurance on the vehicle being rented. Rental companies commonly offer different types of such coverage, including coverage that assures that you will walk away from an accident without owing anything in terms of damages.
When getting into an auto accident with a rental car, the coverage of who pays for the accident will entirely depend on the state in which the accident occurred. In California, your insurance would be the primary, and the rental car company insurance would be the secondary. This remains true even if you would have purchased the rental car insurance.
Who Are the Potential Additional Parties Involved?
As was just mentioned, a rental car being involved in an auto accident creates the potential for more parties to become involved in a resulting lawsuit. Other than insurance companies, the following parties may also enter into the negotiations:
- The rental car company, or the owner of the car, and its insurers;
- Credit card issuer and its insurers, if the rental car operator elected for credit card coverage; and/or
- Supplemental insurance companies, if the rental car operator chose additional coverage at the time of rental.
What is Supplemental Insurance? How Can I Get Coverage to Cover Rental Car Accidents?
Each car rental company may offer their customers different types of insurance, or insurance-like coverage. Most states do not require the customer to accept such supplemental insurance, because many renters already have some sort of similar coverage built into their personal insurance policies. The three most common examples of supplement insurance are:
- Collision Damage Waiver (“CDW”): This is a waiver of all or part of the cost if the rental car is damaged or stolen;
- Supplemental Liability Protection (“SLP”): SLP is used to protect the driver from lawsuits by victims of accidents involving the rental car; and
- Personal Accident Insurance (“PAI”): Personal accident insurance is what provides medical, ambulance, and death benefits for the renter and passengers of the rental car.
There are several ways in which a renter may be protected, and not be liable for a rental car accident. The three primary ways in which to cover damage to a rental car include:
- Transfer your own insurance coverage. If you have full coverage insurance on your current vehicle, you can automatically transfer that coverage to the car that you are renting. This can save you money on both supplemental insurance and any damages resulting from an accident;
- Buy coverage from the rental company. As previously mentioned, all car rental agencies offer different types of rental coverage. This supplemental coverage can protect you from being liable for a rental car accident. Although this adds to the overall cost of renting a vehicle, supplemental insurance provides additional coverage and can cover what personal insurance may fail to; and
- Purchase credit card insurance. If you are using a credit card to purchase a rental car, your credit card company may offer rental car coverage to protect you from liability. Such an arrangement should be thoroughly researched and considered prior to purchasing, and prior to renting the vehicle.
What If I Get Into an Automobile Accident While Driving a Rental Car?
First, it is important to understand what information you need after an accident has occurred regardless of whether the vehicle involved was a rental. This information is important on its own, and any attorney you consult with after the accident will most likely be interested in it as well.
Generally speaking, most states have their own car accident form available at the police station or the local DMV. The purpose of this form is to help gather all the necessary information needed for the car accident. The following information is generally what is needed in order to file a proper insurance claim:
- Information about what happened, such as how the accident happened;
- Information regarding the driver, such as their name, address, and contact information; and
- Information regarding insurance for all parties involved in the accident.
Specific information that needs to be collected after a car accident includes:
- Date and time of the accident;
- Address of the accident;
- Road on which the car accident occurred;
- The direction in which your car was traveling in, as well as the direction of all other vehicles involved;
- Pictures and/or video of the accident scene, for record purposes;
- A detailed, written description of what exactly happened with the car collision, in order to record all possible details to ensure accurate information;
- A note of the driving visibility, as well as the weather and road conditions;
- Any witnesses names and contact information; and
- The contact information of the police officer that is dispatched to the accident scene.
There will likely be additional required information if you were involved in an accident while driving a rental vehicle. Some steps that you should take in such cases include:
- Notifying the rental company for further instructions;
- If you declined the rental company’s collision damage waiver, you will need to notify your insurance company and/or your credit card company that a claim will need to be made; and
- Be aware of the fact that depending on the rental company’s policy, as well as the circumstances of the accident, the rental company may deny you a replacement vehicle.
When you return to the car rental office, it is important that you obtain the following:
- A copy of the accident report, claim documents, and repair estimate;
- A copy of the rental agreement; and
- Photos of the damaged vehicle.
Should I Consult a Lawyer about My Rental Car Accident?
Car accident claims often involve complex legal action, especially when rental cars are involved. Additionally, negotiating with insurance companies can be very difficult. You should consult with a local car accident lawyer, as they can protect your rights and assist you in recovering any potential damages.
An experienced car accident lawyer can help you reach a settlement with your insurance company, as well as all other parties involved. Finally, an attorney can also represent you in a court of law, as needed.