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Avrek Law Explains: What Happens if You Wreck a Rental Car?

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From potential injuries, to the cost of repairs, getting into a traffic collision while driving your own car is stressful enough on its own. On top of that, being involved in an accident while driving a rental car can add many new unwelcome and unexpected complications. If you’ve been injured in such an incident, contacting an experienced law firm as soon as possible can help you successfully navigate complex legal waters in order to recover the compensation you deserve.

What happens if you wreck a rental car with insurance?

Many of the steps you need to take after getting into an accident with a rental car are the same as when you get into an accident with your own car. Your first step should be to make sure everyone in the vehicle is okay, then check the scene for hazards and locate the other car and driver involved.

Once it’s safe, here is the list of information you need to exchange with the other driver:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Insurance company and policy number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Vehicle registration
  • License plate number

As the driver of a rental vehicle, you should also give the other driver the name of the company through which you rented the car, and any pertinent information you can about the rental agreement (and/or any additional insurance you purchased through the rental company).

Man in suit with clipboard examining car damage - what happens if you wreck a rental car?

Inspect the vehicles involved and document the damage to both. The easiest way to do this is to take photos with your smartphone. Also be sure to take down the other driver’s information as soon as you can, including the year, make, model and color of their vehicle. Next, write down any other pertinent details about the accident including: the location of the collision, road, and weather conditions at the time, as well as your recollection of how the accident happened.

As soon as you can, contact the rental car company and let them know what happened. Often there will be a sticker with an emergency number in the glove compartment, or an emergency number listed in your rental agreement. Ask the rental company how they would like you to proceed. They may ask for most of the information you’ve already collected in order to compile their own incident report.

If the damages are over $1,000, California law requires that the collision be reported to police within 10 days. Drivers may also contact their own auto insurance company to start a claim, as collision coverage may extend to rental cars, and some insurers will take care of filing the accident report on their end. However, it may be in your best interest to speak with a personal injury lawyer and consider the merits of pursuing compensation through a lawyer vs. insurance company before proceeding with a basic insurance claim.

If the rental car is drivable, you should return it to the rental office as soon as you can. If it’s not drivable, arrange for it to be towed. The towing fee should be covered through the rental company, AAA, or can even be offered as a credit card benefit.

What happens if you wreck a rental car without insurance?

Most states require a minimum amount of liability coverage for all vehicles on the road. With rentals, that could be through the driver’s own policy, or through insurance offered by the rental company. In California, however, rental companies aren’t required to check if a driver has liability insurance, nor can they mandate a driver buy insurance through them. That means a driver could rent a car in California and take it out on the road with zero insurance coverage.

Driving a rental car without any insurance could leave the driver personally on the hook for any claims that might result from a collision for which they are at fault. It could also lead to criminal consequences such as fines, demerit points and license suspensions. Be sure to read your rental agreement carefully and ensure that you have some kind of coverage before you hit the road.

If you’re in a collision in a rental car without insurance, follow the steps outlined above with regard to exchanging information, documenting damage, and contacting your rental company. If you’re not at fault, your rental company will deal directly with the other driver’s insurance company. However, the rental company may charge you before a settlement is reached, and you will have to contact the other driver’s insurance company to be reimbursed.

I totaled a rental car. What now?

If the collision is bad enough that the rental car you had been driving is a total write-off, what happens next will depend on your own auto insurance policy. If you have comprehensive collision coverage, it may extend to the rental car damages — but that doesn’t happen 100% of the time. If your own insurance company covers the collision damage, you will have to pay the deductible set out in your policy, and you can expect to see your premiums increase when it’s time to renew.

What should I do if I got into an accident with a rental car?

Sometimes, the shoe ends up on the other foot — you may be driving your own car, and get into an accident with someone driving a rental car. In that case, as with other collisions, the first step is to stay calm and collect the information you need from the other driver. Also be sure to get the name of the company from which the other party rented the car.

As with other car accidents, California law requires the accident be reported to police within 10 days if the damages exceed $1,000. Having a properly filed accident report may be key to protecting your legal rights should you need to file a personal injury or property damage lawsuit later on.

If possible, get a copy of the agreement between the renter and the rental company. The agreement (as well as the company and the coverage the driver has through their own auto policy) could dictate the outcome of any litigation.

The rental car insurance company may cover your damages if the renter purchased a collision damage waiver (CDW), either through the company itself or through a credit card company. If the driver did not buy a CDW and doesn’t have their own auto insurance, you may have to file a claim through your own insurance company in order to pursue damages from the rental car insurance company.

When to Hire a Rental Car Accident Lawyer

When dealing with a rental car accident, there are many complex factors involved, and the process can seem overwhelming. If you’ve been injured in an accident involving a rental car, working with a proven personal injury law firm is the best way to secure compensation for your case.

Avrek Law is here to help you understand your legal options when it comes to dealing with a rental car accident. The consultation is free, and you’ll receive expert advice from a law firm with $1 Billion recovered in more than 10,000 cases across the states of California, Arizona, and Nevada. Contact us today for your free consultation – we want to hear more about your case!

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