What to Do If You Are In a Rental Car Accident

Accidents are the last thing anyone wants to deal with, especially when driving a rental car. Whether on a business trip or enjoying a vacation, a car accident can quickly turn your experience sour. Knowing what to do if you find yourself in such an unfortunate situation can help relieve some of the stress and make the post-accident process smoother.  

Immediate Steps Following the Accident

Ensure Safety

The first thing you should do after an accident is ensure everyone’s safety. If possible, move the vehicle out of traffic to a safe location. Turn on the hazard lights; if you have them, set up flares or warning triangles.

Call the Authorities

Even for minor accidents, it’s crucial to call the police. A police report can serve as valuable evidence if you need to file an insurance claim or if there are disputes about who was at fault. 

Check for Injuries

Examine yourself and all passengers for any injuries. If anyone is hurt, seek immediate medical attention. Remember, some injuries may not show symptoms immediately, so it’s wise to get checked out by medical professionals as soon as possible.

Document the Scene

Use your smartphone to take pictures of the accident scene. Capture various angles showing the damage to both vehicles, the road conditions, and any traffic signs. These photos can be important later for insurance purposes or even legal action.

Collect Information

Be sure to exchange names, contact details, and insurance information with the other driver. Note down the vehicles’ make, model, and license plate numbers. If there are witnesses, get their contact details as well. 

Notify Relevant Parties

Rental Car Company

After taking care of the immediate concerns, the next step is to notify the rental car company. Look for the emergency contact number in your rental agreement or on a sticker inside the car. Follow their instructions carefully, as failing to do so might affect your insurance coverage.

Insurance Providers

Contact your own insurance company as soon as possible to inform them about the accident. Depending on your policy, your personal car insurance may cover you for rental cars as well. If you purchased additional coverage from the rental company or another provider, notify them too.

Credit Card Company

Some credit cards offer rental car insurance as a perk. Call your credit card company to find out if you’re eligible and what steps you need to take to avail yourself of this benefit.

Understand the Insurance Aspects

The financial implications after a rental car accident largely depend on the kind of insurance coverage you have:

  • Collision Damage Waiver (CDW): Most rental companies offer this coverage to cover car repairs.
  • Liability Insurance: This covers damages to other vehicles and medical costs for injuries to others.
  • Personal Accident Insurance: This covers medical costs for you and your passengers.
  • Personal Effects Coverage: This insures your personal belongings against theft or damage.

If you declined all additional insurance options from the rental company, you might be responsible for all costs, unless your personal auto or credit card insurance kicks in.

What Are My Insurance Coverage Options If I Crash in a Rental Car?

Getting into an accident in a rental car can be a daunting experience. You might be unsure of who is going to cover the expenses for the damage, especially if you’re far from home and driving a vehicle that’s not your own. Understanding your insurance coverage options in the event of a rental car crash can provide peace of mind and assist you in making informed decisions. 

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) / Loss Damage Waiver (LDW)

This is not technically insurance, but almost all rental companies offer it. It covers the cost of repairs to the rental car in case of an accident, often minus a deductible. Additionally, the rental company may charge “loss of use” fees for the time it takes to repair the car.

Liability Insurance

Rental agencies offer liability coverage that covers third-party injury and property damage claims up to a certain limit. This is often minimal and may not be sufficient in a serious accident.

Personal Accident Insurance (PAI)

This provides medical coverage for you and your passengers in the event of an accident.

Personal Effects Coverage (PEC)

This optional coverage protects your personal items from theft or damage while in the rental car.

Personal Auto Insurance Policy

Your personal auto insurance policy often extends to rental cars, but it’s essential to check with your insurance provider to confirm. Here’s what might be covered:

Comprehensive and Collision

If you have these on your personal policy, they often extend to your rental car. You would be responsible for the deductible.


Your personal policy should extend your liability coverage to the rental car, providing the same protections to you when driving the rental as when driving your own vehicle.

Medical Payments / Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

These could extend to cover medical expenses for you and your passengers in the rental car if you’re involved in an accident.

Credit Card Insurance

Many credit cards offer rental car insurance as a perk. This often serves as secondary insurance, stepping in to cover costs not covered by other insurance. You usually need to decline the rental company’s CDW and pay for the rental with the credit card that provides the benefit. Coverage varies widely by the card issuer, so call and ask for specifics, including any limitations or exclusions.

Travel Insurance

Some travel insurance packages include rental car insurance. This can be an economical way to protect yourself if you’re renting a car as part of a trip. Again, you’d need to read the policy to understand what’s covered.

Other Options

The rental company may be unable to cover all costs if you don’t have a personal automobile insurance policy and reject all coverage options. If you crash in a rental car, your coverage options can come from multiple sources, and it’s crucial to know how they overlap or what gaps might exist. 

You should consult your auto insurance and credit card companies before renting a car to determine if you need additional coverage. Always read the fine print and ask questions if you’re unsure. Being well-informed can save you a lot of stress and financial trouble in the unfortunate event of a rental car accident.

Legal and Financial Responsibilities

You may be responsible for paying the rental company for “loss of use” of the vehicle during repairs. You may also have to pay an “administrative fee,” “towing fee,” or “impound fee.” Know what your insurance or credit card covers to avoid unexpected charges.

Post-Accident Follow-Up

Keep all your records, including the rental agreement, photographs, police report, and all correspondence with insurance companies. If your case goes to court or if there are disputes with the insurance providers, this documentation will be invaluable.

Who is Responsible for the Damages in My Rental Car Accident?

In a rental car accident, determining fault, insurance policies, and contractual obligations with the rental company can all affect who is responsible for damages. Here are some more specific scenarios to consider:

Scenario 1: You’re Not At Fault 

If another driver is clearly at fault for the accident, their insurance should be responsible for all damages, including those to the rental car. However, you may initially have to go through your own or rental company’s insurance to expedite repairs and then seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurance.

Scenario 2: You’re At Fault, and You Have Personal Car Insurance

If you are at fault and have personal car insurance, your policy may include coverage for rental cars. Usually, whatever coverage you have on your personal vehicle extends to your rental vehicle. 

Scenario 3: You’re At Fault, and You Bought Rental Insurance

If you purchased insurance through the rental company and are at fault, the coverage you bought will specify what damages are covered. Common coverages include the Collision Damage Waiver for the rental car and supplemental liability for other vehicles or property damages.

Scenario 4: You’re At Fault and Have No Insurance

If you’re at fault and didn’t purchase any insurance, then you would typically be responsible for all damages out-of-pocket unless you can prove that the rental car company was negligent in some way (for instance, they rented you a car with faulty brakes).

Scenario 5: Rental Car Defect or Malfunction

If a defect in the rental car caused the accident, the company may be held responsible for damages. However, proving this might require a thorough investigation.

Scenario 6: Accident While Someone Else is Driving

If someone else was driving your rental car with your permission at the time of the accident, you may still be held liable for damages, depending on the agreement you signed when you rented the car. Always read the rental agreement carefully to know who is authorized to drive the car and what you’re liable for.

Each case can have unique factors that influence who is responsible for what damages. That’s why it’s often crucial to consult legal and insurance professionals to help you navigate the complexities of your situation.

Victim of a Rental Car Accident? We Can Help

Accidents are stressful, and being in a rental car can complicate matters further. However, knowing what to do can help you navigate this difficult situation with less stress. Doing so protects you and aids in a smoother resolution of any insurance or legal matters that may arise. If you are a victim of a rental car accident, call Baratta Law, LLC, at 215-914-8132. 

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