Whether you’re taking a solo trip to explore new places or embarking on a family vacation with your loved ones, the last thing you want to be thinking about is the possibility of a car accident. However, between traveling in an unfamiliar location and driving a car that may handle differently than your personal vehicle, there is an ever-present risk of a collision. Before you drive away from the rental car lot, you should make sure that you and your loved ones are covered in the event of a crash.
Rental car crashes are caused by many of the same factors that lead to other forms of auto accidents. Some of the leading causes of collisions include:
- Distracted or impaired driving
- Dangerous or unfamiliar weather conditions
- Poorly designed or maintained roads
- Speeding, tailgating, or reckless driving
- Improper turns
- Failure to obey traffic laws or directions
- Unsafe lane changes
- Failure to yield to another vehicle
- Improper evasive action to avoid a collision
A rental car collision may also be caused or influenced by a driver’s unfamiliarity with their vehicle, the area they are traveling through, or local traffic laws. For example, a driver who typically drives a sedan may not properly compensate for the larger turn radius of a rented full-size SUV or pickup truck.
To reduce the chances of experiencing a crash, it is always advisable to read up on your travel destination’s rules of the road. By starting your trip with a firm understanding of average highway speed limits, applicable laws on lane splitting, and difficult-to-navigate roadways at your destination, you reduce your chances of getting into a wreck.
In some cases, everyone involved in a collision may be able to walk away with minor injuries or no harm suffered at all. However, car crashes can cause injuries of various severities. Some of the most common wounds inflicted in rental car crashes include:
- Back injuries
- Head, neck, or spinal injuries
- Brain injuries
- Broken bones or fractures
- Amputation injuries
- Cuts and scrapes
It can be challenging to determine who is liable for covering the costs of any damages that occur in a rental car accident. In most cases, the type of insurance coverage the involved drivers have and who was deemed legally negligent during the collision are important factors in determining liability. In general, most claims will go through your insurance company, the other driver’s insurance company, your credit card issuer, or the rental agency’s insurance company. Of course, seeking legal assistance after a collision is a good strategy, as an experienced attorney will be able to guide you through the claims process.
If you get into a crash in a rental car, it’s important to contact your own insurance provider promptly. Even if you don’t believe that the collision was your fault, many insurance companies require policyholders to notify the business of any accidents. If your rental car was damaged, you may also need to file a claim through your insurer. When a crash damages another person’s car or property, they may need to work through your insurer to recover compensation.
Should you be found liable for the crash, it is likely that your liability coverage will cover damages caused. You may even be able to replace or repair the rental car through your policy’s collision coverage.
When an accident occurs due to the careless or negligent actions of another motorist, you may be able to file a claim through their car insurance company to cover the cost of repairs. You will be able to receive compensation for injuries sustained and damage to the rented vehicle, up to the liable driver’s policy limits. Since the accident did not occur due to your actions, you should not be required to pay a deductible to have the damage to your rental car repaired.
Some specific credit cards offer incentives to use the card to make certain types of purchases. In some cases, a card may offer some level of rental car coverage when you use it to pay for the vehicle. Typically this type of additional coverage amounts to a form of loss damage or collision waiver.
Rental coverage offered by a credit card company may amount to secondary coverage. If you make a claim through your own insurance company and find that it does not cover the damages in the crash, your secondary coverage fills the gaps. It’s always worth researching your credit card company’s options for rental car insurance in whichever state you intend to travel through.
Depending on which type(s) of insurance coverage you purchased, you may be protected against damages to your rental vehicle or the other car(s) involved in the wreck. There are four common types of coverage that can be added to a rental:
- Personal effects storage: If your valuables are damaged or stolen while in your rental car, personal effects coverage will protect you from taking a financial loss. In some cases your renters or homeowners insurance may cover stolen items even when you are traveling, so be sure to review your policy before purchasing additional coverage.
- Supplemental liability protection (SLP): When you take out a rental car, the agency that owns the car will have a minimal liability converge policy on the vehicle. Purchasing SLP adds to the existing liability coverage, thus covering more substantial damages or injuries. Drivers that already have an existing car insurance policy may not require this coverage enhancement.
- Personal accident insurance: This type of coverage activates if you or a passenger suffers injuries in a rental car crash. If you have a strong health insurance plan or personal injury protection, you may not need to purchase this additional coverage.
- Loss damage waiver (LDW): Although this coverage increases your rental’s daily price, it may be worth acquiring as it covers any dents, scratches, or other damages that occur while the car is in your possession. Some policies may even cover maintenance and towing fees.
We hope this article helps you protect yourself physically and financially on your next roadtrip. If you do find yourself dealing with a rental car accident on your vacation, try to stay calm and follow these steps:
- Check yourself and your passengers for visible injuries
- Document the scene of the accident
- Exchange contact information with the other driver(s) involved in the crash
- Call the company you rented the vehicle for
- Contact your insurance company to report the accident
- Call your credit card company, if you possess secondary coverage through them
- Visit a doctor to get yourself and your passengers checked for any serious injuries
- Call a local attorney with experience handling rental car accidents to discuss your case