What Do I Do If I Get in a Collision with a Rental Car?

Rental cars make your life a lot simpler when you’re trying to get around unfamiliar territory. You’re not tied down by bus schedules or taxi fares, and you can go anywhere there’s a clear road.

But the freedom that comes with your rental vehicle may be cut short when you get in an accident. Few of us know what to do when we have an accident with our own vehicle, never mind when we’re driving a rental car.

If you travel often by road, as the majority of Americans do, you might find yourself facing this situation at some point. Here’s what you need to do.

Before the Accident

What you do before you take the car on the road will carry some weight following a collision. Here are some things you should know about taking a rental on the road.

  • Read the Fine Print

Most people don’t read the full rental agreement before they sign the papers and drive away, but if they did, they would see that the contract typically states that you are fully liable for any damage to the vehicle. It doesn’t matter if the accident is caused by someone else or a tree falls on your rental car while it’s parked in the hotel parking lot … because you’ll be charged for the damage.

This doesn’t stop most people from taking the vehicle and enjoying their vacation, but it’s worthwhile to be aware of what you’re getting into before you take off.

  • Insurance Options

It can sound fairly intimidating to realize you’re responsible for whatever damage happens to the vehicle, but it’s not that bad, because you have insurance options. When you rent the car, you’ll be asked if you want to take out a temporary insurance policy on the vehicle.

Most companies will have something like a motor trade policy with a firm similar to one sure insurance, so their policy will likely cover the cost of any damage to the car completely, even if you total the vehicle. Some people like to take out the policy just for the peace of mind.

But it’s usually not necessary to take out an insurance policy because your credit card often includes free rental car insurance coverage. You may call your credit card firm for details about this kind of coverage, but usually, it covers most or all of the damage without extra cost to you.

If neither of these insurance options is available, your personal automobile insurance may kick in and help cover the damage. You should treat this as a last resort, because it will probably raise your insurance premiums and might not fully cover the cost of repairs to the vehicle.

Still, it’s nice to know you’re protected, even when you’re not driving your own car.

At the Scene of the Accident

When the crash happens, try to think clearly and take care of the situation in an effective manner. Here’s what you need to do right after a car collision happens.

  • Check for Injuries

Although the financial aspects of the accident will certainly be of concern, the very first step should always be to make sure everyone is all right. If the incident is serious, an ambulance will usually be deployed to the scene, and everyone will be checked out and released or taken to a hospital.

Remember that injuries don’t always manifest themselves right away. If you’ve experienced whiplash or internal bleeding, you might not know about the problem until several minutes or hours after the accident is over. That’s why it’s vital to get checked out.

  • Call the Police

It’s always a good move to call the police to the scene of an accident for your safety. Law enforcement officials can block off the accident scene so you can get out of your vehicle safely and/or receive proper medical attention.

The police will also take statements from everyone and try to determine who’s at fault, which will be essential for a personal injury case down the road. It can be used as evidence against the at-fault party, or protect you if someone else tries to sue you when it might not have been you who was at fault.

  • Exchange Contact and Insurance Information

If another party is involved, you should follow the standard practice of exchanging contact and insurance information so the parties can resolve any payment concerns later. It’s best not to mention you were driving a rental car if you can help it, because some people might try to take advantage of the situation.

  • Call the Rental Car Company

Finally, call the rental car company to inform them of the accident. They will instruct you on how to proceed. Unfortunately, there will be additional paperwork to fill out when you’ve been involved in an accident with a rental car.

If your injuries aren’t severe and you feel prepared to get back on the road, your rental car company will usually issue you a new car the same day so you can get back on your way.