Handling an Accident While Traveling in a Rental Car
It’s not fun to end up in an accident when you’re driving your car, let alone when you’re traveling in a rental vehicle. You might not know much about the insurance coverage and how much you’ll be expected to pay, even if the accident isn’t your fault.
It’s unrealistic to believe that you’ll never experience car accident in a rental car. Every year, there are more than 5.25 million car crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration. That’s one crash every 60 seconds.
These statistics aren’t meant to scare you, but rather to stress the importance of being prepared when driving any vehicle, rental cars included.
Here are some tips for mitigating that risk:
Handling the Accident Step-by-Step
There’s a certain protocol that you should follow at the scene of the accident. Use this step-by-step guide to handle the details.
- Check for Injuries: First and foremost, make sure everyone in the car is okay. If there are injuries, call 911 immediately. Take note of any injuries in the moment as well. You might qualify for personal injury compensation to cover the medical bills, so it’s always wise to have a full account of how an injury was caused.
- Assess the Damage: Minor damage can be handled without the help of a police officer, but if the damage is significant, the police should be there to fill out an accident report. They’ll submit the report to the insurance company and keep it on record in the event of a lawsuit or claim discrepancy. You might not want to get the police involved, but remember that some insurance companies will not file a claim unless they have a police report to verify the accident.
- Document the Damage: Take notes and pictures. This evidence can be used to protect you in case the other party tries to claim false damage. It will also be valuable in case of a trial.
- Exchange Insurance Information: This is especially important if the other person was at fault. Get the name and phone number of both the other party driver and their insurance company.
- Don’t Admit Fault: Not admitting fault isn’t about trying to cover up what really happened. Sometimes things aren’t totally clear right after an accident, and you don’t want to take the blame for something that wasn’t necessarily your fault. You might remember incorrectly or the other driver might be equally at fault.
- Fill Out a Report with the Agency: The car rental agency will have a damage report ready for you, and they might also have a replacement vehicle so you can get back on your way.
- Call Your Insurance Company: Notify your personal auto insurance holder of the accident. You should also call your credit card company or your third party insurance provider. It’s important to get your claim started as soon as possible.
- Wait for Your Claim: Most claims will be paid within 90 days of the incident. It’s a good idea to check in every 30 days or so to make sure things are running smoothly.
- Enjoy the Rest of Your Vacation: Unless you or your passengers were injured, you shouldn’t let this little setback ruin your vacation. Trust that your insurance will handle things, and try to enjoy yourself.
Take Preventative Action with Insurance
Of course, prevention is the best route when it comes to an accident. The first step is making sure you’re truly covered. Insurance can be a complicated business, but it’s important to check into total coverage before renting a vehicle.
There are a few options for insuring your rental vehicle, starting with the insurance offered by the rental agency. It usually costs between $15 and $50 a day, depending on the type of vehicle you’re renting. In most cases, any accident on your part or otherwise will be covered, risk-free.
If you’re like most people, you’ll deny the insurance offered at the rental agency in favor of the insurance on your credit card. But do you know what the insurance on your credit card covers? Before booking your car, give your credit card company a call and ask for information on this coverage. If it’s not adequate, consider other options.
You can also get insurance through third-party insurance providers. You can often get insurance that will cover your rental car for as little as $5 per day. It’s not worth it if your credit card has you covered, but it’s a good option if that coverage isn’t adequate.
Finally, talk to your personal car insurance company. Sometimes the insurance on your credit card will cover you and your rental car, but it won’t cover people in the other car. In that case, your personal car insurance may make up the difference.
Other Preventative Measures
Beyond insurance coverage, there are a few things you can do to minimize the risk of an accident.
- Get to know the vehicle. The better you know the car you drive, the less likely it will be that you’ll cause an accident.
- Know the area you’ll be driving in. Everyone has Google Maps on their phone, but navigating in an unfamiliar city is just a recipe for disaster. Take a look at the roads before you start driving.
- Drive safely. Always use your blinker, and don’t follow other cars too closely.
You can’t always prevent accidents from finding you, but you can make your vacation a little easier by knowing the proper steps to take.