Getting involved in a rental car accident may seem much worse than getting into a car accident involving your own vehicle. Taking responsibility for damages to your own car is one thing, but what happens when you’ve damaged someone else’s property? Before panic starts to set in, calm down and consider your situation.
Make sure everyone in your car and surrounding vehicles are safe. Call 911 immediately if anyone requires medical attention. If the cars are in an awkward position and putting other drivers at risk of danger, move the vehicles out of the way or call the police to help redirect traffic. Once the scene is safe, exchange information with the other driver(s) and take pictures of all vehicles that are involved.
What happens next depends on what kind of auto insurance you have. In some cases, individuals may only have car insurance through the rental company if they do not own a vehicle. On the other hand, others may be covered not only by rental coverage but also by their auto insurance and credit card companies.
How to Handle Damages in a Rental Car Accident
- If you paid for your rental car with a credit card, figure out what kind of coverage you have. Many credit cards will cover damages to the rental car under the Collision Damage Waiver. However, this does not include damages or injuries that have been inflicted on other cars or individuals.
- Before you take a trip, it is worth calling your credit card and asking whether the company offers primary coverage. This coverage means that you won’t have to deal with your auto insurer for coverage of rental car damages. It also helps avoid the chance of your insurance premiums increasing. Some credit cards may only provide secondary insurance, meaning you’ll have to go through your car insurance company first and the credit card company will pick up the costs of what’s left.
- Other details to double-check with your credit card company include exclusions on specific types of vehicles and trips. For example, expensive luxury cars are usually excluded, but sometimes vans and SUVs fall under the same category. Likewise, if you booked the rental car on a business credit card, you may need to prove that your travels were indeed business related.
- If your credit card does not cover rental car accidents, contact your auto insurance company to verify the extent of rental car coverage. Comprehensive and collision damage for your personal car typically pays for damages to a rental car. In the case where another car is involved in the accident, you’ll need to rely on your personal car insurance’s liability coverage as credit cards do not cover liability.
- Rental car companies also offer supplemental insurance. While you may consider this daily cost a waste of money, it can be helpful to exempt you from paying the deductible that your own insurance company and some credit cards will require. It’s also useful to sign up for this insurance when your credit card and personal insurance do not provide enough coverage for your comfort.
Whatever combination of coverage you may decide on, just make sure you have safeguarded yourself enough to avoid having to pay for damages and injuries out-of-pocket.