People rent cars for all kinds of reasons: sometimes they don’t own a car and need to take a trip, and sometimes they do own a car and need to take a trip, and don’t want the extra miles on their personal car. Many people need to rent cars to get around if their personal car is in the shop being repaired.

But whatever the reason, you are no less likely to get into a car accident in a rental car than you are in a car you own. You might even find yourself more likely to get in a collision, because you are unfamiliar with the size of the vehicle and the controls.

Unfortunately, sorting out insurance and who’s liable in a crash in a rental car is more complicated than in a collision in a car you own.

5 Steps to Take After a Crash in a Rental Car

The initial actions to take after a car crash in a rental car are the same as the ones you’d take in another other crash, although there is one more important step:

  1. Call 911 to summon police and medical personnel to the scene.
  2. Exchange information with the other driver.
  3. Take pictures of the damage to the vehicles and of any injuries.
  4. Call your insurer.
  5. Call your rental car company.

 What Insurance Do I Use?

 If you are renting a car because you do not own one, you probably don’t have your own insurance. If that’s the case, you would have been required to purchase insurance from the rental car company at the time you rented the car. There are four main types of coverage you usually have the option to purchase:

  • Collision Damage Coverage –  Covers the rental car, but not the other car
  • Liability Coverage – Covers the other driver’s damages (vehicle damage and medical expenses), if the renter is at fault
  • Personal Accident Coverage – Covers the renter’s medical expenses
  • Personal Effects Coverage – Covers the renter’s personal property damaged in a crash or stolen out of the rental vehicle

If you do own a car and have your own insurance, you can usually apply that insurance to the rental car while you are using it without having to purchase insurance from the rental company. Make sure to check with your insurance policy beforehand, however, to make sure rental vehicles are covered.

You may also be able to get rental car insurance through your credit card, if you use your card to pay for the rental. This is a perk offered by some, but not all, credit card companies. However, it usually only covers collision damage and not injuries.

In a Rental Car, You Are Liable Even When You’re Not at Fault

Unfortunately, when you sign a rental car agreement, you agree to accept liability for any damage to the vehicle during the time period that you are renting it. This means that even if the other driver was 100% at fault for the crash, you still need to pay for the damage to the rental vehicle yourself.

If the other driver was at fault, you can usually get reimbursed by their insurance, but the rental car company will come to you before they go to insurance. Be prepared to pay at least your insurance deductible directly to the rental car company. Furthermore, you should be aware that you may also be charged “loss of use” fees by the rental car company, which is the amount of money they lost because they couldn’t rent out the vehicle while it was being repaired.

Can I Sue the Rental Car Company if Someone in a Rental Car Hit Me?

Unfortunately for victims of collisions with rental cars, federal law protects rental car companies from liability in accidents caused by the people who rent their cars. You will need to pursue compensation for your injuries from the driver of the rental car.

The only exception to this law is if you can prove that the rental car company was negligent in allowing the car to be rented. For example, if they knew the car was under a recall and dangerous to drive, or if they rented to someone that they knew was drunk.

After a Crash, Call Joye Law Firm

Our team of experienced South Carolina auto accident attorneys has helped victims of all kinds of crashes, including crashes involving rental cars. Although it may be more difficult to get compensation, that doesn’t mean you are stuck fending for yourself. Contact our firm today to see how we can help you get the money you’re owed after a crash that wasn’t your fault.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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