When a rental car is involved in an automobile accident, the potential exists for more parties to become involved in a lawsuit to collect damages. When a driver rents a car, the rental car agent will usually ask if the driver wants to purchase insurance on the vehicle being rented. Rental companies usually offer different types of coverage including coverage that assures that you will walk away from an accident owing nothing in damages.

When getting into an accident with a rental car, the coverage of who pays for the accident all depends on the state where the accident occurred. In California, even if you would have purchased the rental car insurance, your insurance would be the primary, and the rental car company insurance would be the secondary.

Who Are the Potential Additional Parties Involved?

Besides insurance companies, when a rental car is involved the following parties may also enter into the negotiations: 

  • Rental car company, as the owner of the car, and its insurers
  • Credit card issuer and its insurers (if operator elected for credit card coverage)
  • Supplemental insurance companies (if operator chose additional coverage at time of rental)

How Can I Get Coverage to Cover Rental Car Accidents?

There are several ways to be protected and not be liable for a rental car accident. There are three primary ways to cover damage to a rental car:

  • Transfer your own insurance coverage: If you have full coverage on your current vehicle, you can automatically transfer that coverage to the car that you are renting.
  • Buy coverage from the rental company: All rental agencies have different types of rental coverage that can protect you from being liable for a rental car accident
  • Credit Card Insurance: If you are using a credit card to purchase a rental car, some credit card companies offer rental car coverage to protect you from liability.

What is Supplemental Insurance?

Car rental companies offer their customers different types of insurance or insurance-like coverage.  Most states do not require customer acceptance of supplemental insurance because many renters already have the coverage in their personal policies.  The three most common are: 

  • Collision Damage Waiver (CDW): Waiver of all or part of the cost if the rental car is damaged or stolen
  • Supplemental Liability Protection (SLP): Used to protect the driver from lawsuits by victims of accidents involving the rental car
  • Personal Accident Insurance (PAI): Provides medical, ambulance and death benefits for the renter and passengers of the rental car

What If I Get Into an Accident Driving a Rental Car?

If you get into an accident while driving a rental car you should: 

  • Notify the rental company for further instructions
  • If you declined the rental company’s CDW, you’ll need to notify your insurance company and/or your credit card company that a claim will need to be made
  • Depending on the rental company’s policy and the circumstances of the accident, the company may deny you a replacement vehicle

When you return to the car rental office, be sure to get: 

  • A copy of the accident report, claim documents, and repair estimate
  • A copy of the rental agreement
  • Photos of the damaged vehicle

Should I Consult a Lawyer about My Rental Car Accident?

Negotiating with insurance companies can be very difficult.  An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you reach a settlement with your insurance company and all other parties involved.  A personal injury lawyer can also represent you in court if necessary.