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What Should I Do After An Accident in My Rental Car?

| Jon Montagna |

Virginia Beach’s flourishing culinary scene, unique tourist attractions, and picturesque beaches attract nearly 7.1 million overnight visitors each year. More drivers may mean more cars on the road, which means more accidents. If you are visiting the city or renting a car due to a recent accident and find yourself colliding with another vehicle, Montagna Klein Camden may be able to help. Call our experienced lawyers at 757-622-8100 or go online to set up a free consultation. You do not have to pay a dime unless we win!

Important Steps to Follow After a Rental Car Accident in Virginia

The last thing a Virginia visitor or resident wants to deal with is the aftermath of a rental car accident. Yet, these accidents happen, and knowing what to do will be highly beneficial for all involved. Start by treating the rental car accident the same as you would a regular car accident, and take these important steps.

Move to Safety

If you are able, move your vehicle with its passengers to safety. This moving can be as simple as pulling further over on the side of the road and will depend on where you are and if you are in the path of traffic. If the rental car is badly damaged, do your best to move away from it and into a safe location nearby.

Gather Evidence

Once you feel safe, you will need to begin gathering evidence. Exchange information with the other driver, including contact information (phone number, address, email), license plate number, and auto insurance policy information. Determine if witnesses are present and obtain their contact information as well. Take photos or videos of the crash scene, vehicle damage, and location. These will serve as evidence and help you establish your insurance claim.

Notify First Responders

Contact first responders for anyone injured in the accident. Also, contact the police so they can file an accident report. This police report will be an important part of your evidence going forward. If the other driver hesitates to provide contact and insurance information to you or seems hostile, wait for the police and obtain the information then.

Contact Your Rental Company

You will need to contact your car rental company and let them know about the accident. The signed rental agreement may have a special number to call in an emergency or to report an accident, or you can find it somewhere in the vehicle. If the car is still drivable, the company may want you to take it to a certain repair shop location. If towing is the only option, they will provide an address for where to take it as well.

Call Your Insurance Provider

Contact your insurance agent or provider as soon as possible if you plan to use your policy as the primary source of coverage. Make a claim and discuss your responsibilities, such as your deductible. Also, let your provider know whether you purchased additional insurance through the rental company.

Who is Responsible for Damages to a Rental Car?

How much damage you are responsible for depends on the insurance that you purchase with your rental car. Most companies offer supplemental insurance, which you may or may not agree to, depending on the insurance you already carry.

Begin by reviewing your rental agreement, which includes at least one clause stating that renters are responsible for damage and total loss of the vehicle. In other words, you are legally bound to return the rental car in the same shape as you found it, regardless of damage resulting from the negligence of another.

Because of this requirement, you will need to determine who is responsible to pay out for the cost of your rental car damages. The potential sources for paying those damages include:

  • Your personal vehicle insurance company
  • Supplemental car insurance purchased with the car rental
  • The credit card company of the card you used to pay for the rental car

If your current car insurance policy covers rentals, that insurance company should pay out for damages once you meet your deductible. Such insurance payouts will include amounts up to your selected insurance limits. When this occurs, however, it can affect your premiums, which may rise due to the filing of an accident claim.

If you purchased supplemental rental car insurance through the rental company, it might overlap with your personal policy coverage. Navigating who pays what may be complicated and seeking legal advice will be beneficial.

In rare instances, you may not have the type of insurance to cover damages and rely on the liability coverage of the car rental company. You will still be responsible for paying damages beyond the rental company’s insurance, so understanding your rights and obligations is imperative.

Overall, who is responsible for damages after a rental car accident can quickly become confusing, and you will benefit by working with an experienced auto accident attorney. Your attorney can evaluate your personal and rental supplemental policies as well as the terms of your credit card agreement.

What Types of Insurance Can I Buy for My Rental Car?

Different rental car companies offer different types of insurance for renters. Supplemental coverage options may include the following.

Liability Coverage

Liability coverage provides protection for the driver if, while driving, an event occurs that injures another person. Any medical expenses incurred due to the accident receive coverage up to the policy limits.

This liability insurance coverage under the rental car company will be second to your personal auto policy. It can be beneficial in helping to cover any damages that exceed the limits of your own policy, particularly if the other involved driver carries only the state minimums.

Collision Coverage

Collision insurance coverage is meant to assist with expenses relating to car repairs or replacement costs of the rental vehicle. By purchasing this additional coverage from the rental company, your collision damage waiver covers damages to the car due to a collision.

If damages are the result of reckless driving on your part or that of an unauthorized operator, however, the rental car company will not waive such costs, and you will be responsible.

Also, the rental company may charge you for any loss of rental income for the time the car is out of commission and being repaired. It may also charge you with other fees as allowable by the rental agreement.

Personal Accident Coverage

Personal accident insurance coverage includes costs associated with medical treatment, helping to pay medical bills that arise due to the injuries you sustained in the accident. This coverage may include ambulance transportation and services, medical treatment, and death benefits.

Coverage may overlap with your own insurance policies (car, health, or life), so it may be unnecessary to purchase. Check on your personal policy prior to agreeing to purchase this supplemental coverage.

Credit Card Coverage for Rental Cars

Your credit card company may provide auto rental insurance automatically whenever you use its card to rent a vehicle. This coverage, however, may only apply to the damage to the car itself and not liability. In addition, the credit card coverage will most likely kick in only after you meet your primary insurance coverage limits.

Does Regular Car Insurance Cover a Rental Car Accident?

When it comes to whether regular car insurance will cover a rental car accident, it depends on the coverage you have. Some insurance policies cover damage to rental cars; others may not.

Check whether your policy includes rental car coverage (or rental reimbursement coverage) in addition to your personal vehicle. If so, your insurance will most likely provide you with coverage up to the policy limits.

Can I Sue the Other Driver for Damages to the Rental Car in Virginia?

Virginia follows the at-fault system when it comes to motor vehicle accidents. As such, drivers involved in an accident can sue the other driver for compensation if that driver is found to be at fault.

Reckless driving or negligence on behalf of the other driver can result in liability for any damages occurring in an accident. If you or your passengers suffer injuries in the accident, you do not have to rely solely on compensation from your own insurance company. Instead, you can file a personal injury case against the other driver and seek damages for the following:

  • Reimbursement for medical bills
  • Future medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment

What Happens If the At-Fault Driver Does Not Have Insurance?

In some accidents, the other driver does not have insurance to pay for your injuries and damage. In these cases, they are still financially liable for damages and must pay out-of-pocket. Yet, the other driver may not have the means to pay for all damages, which can put your own finances at risk.

One way to avoid this is to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, which will provide protection in such circumstances when at-fault driver’s insurance is non-existent.

Reasons to Hire an Attorney After a Rental Car Accident

Involvement in a rental car accident involves a lot of different factors when it comes to claiming compensation. If you can prove that another driver is at fault, pursuing a claim will be beneficial to recover both economic and non-economic damages, which can be significant. To do so, however, you will need to take legal action with the assistance of an experienced Virginia car accident lawyer.

Your lawyer will identify the liable party or parties and file a personal injury case against them. You will also need to identify liable parties if the accident resulted in a wrongful death. In addition, the legal team will gather evidence to show proof of what you are entitled to as a result of the accident, including any reimbursement, and also file court documents before important deadlines. Such legal deadlines include a set number of days to file a claim following an accident.

Since most people settle in accident claims, eliminating the need to go to court, you may be at the mercy of the insurance company adjuster. Having an attorney speak on your behalf will help you obtain the highest compensation possible for your claim. Discussions may be with your personal insurance company, the other driver’s insurance company, or possibly both.

If you can not reach a satisfactory settlement, your case may need to proceed to court, where the decision lies with a judge or jury.

Why Should You Have to Pay for a Rental Car Accident?

Virginia’s legal system protects drivers who are not at fault for an accident from paying damages. An astute lawyer can help you get out of paying out-of-pocket for a rental car accident resulting from another driver’s recklessness or negligence.

If you are in the aftermath of one of these rental car accidents and currently dealing with an insurance company, reach out to our dedicated Hampton Roads car accident lawyers at Montagna Law. We are here to serve accident victims in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, so give us a call today at 757-622-8100 or go online to schedule a free consultation with our legal team.

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