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Who’s Responsible in a Rental Car Accident?

There are many reasons why someone might need to rent a car. They may not own a car but need one for the weekend, or they might temporarily need a car with more space or different features than their own car. Others rent cars to get around on business trips and vacations. And just as you can’t predict the behavior of negligent drivers, you can’t always avoid a traffic accident in a rental car.

Unfortunately, getting compensation after an accident in a rental car can be a long and confusing process—especially without an experienced law firm on your side.

Why Rental Car Accidents Are Different

When you sign a rental car contract, you become responsible for any damage that occurs to the car while in your care, regardless of whether it was your fault or not. That could be a dent from someone opening a door into the car in a parking lot, or serious damage caused in a collision.

After an accident in a rental car, you will first need to pay your insurance deductible directly to the rental company. If you are determined not to be fault, only after that will your insurance company go after the at-fault party for the remainder of the cost of the damages.

Furthermore, you may be charged immediately for the total cost of the damage and need to speak with your insurance to get reimbursed. This charge may also include “loss of use” fees. Just like injury victims can go after the at-fault party’s insurance to recover lost wages after an accident, the rental company can also go after the driver of the rental car to recover lost profit while the rental car is being repaired.

What Steps to Take After an Accident in a Rental Car

Many of the initial steps you will need to take after an accident in a rental car are the same as those you would take immediately after a car accident in your own car, with one added step:

  1. Call the police and file a report.
  2. Get medical attention at the scene, or as soon as possible after the accident.
  3. Exchange information with the other driver.
  4. Take pictures of the scene of the accident and all vehicles involved.
  5. Contact your insurance provider.
  6. Finally, contact the rental car company.

Because there are likely numerous potential sources of insurance involved, you may also want to consider contacting an experienced car accident lawyer if you’ve been injured.

Who Is Your Rental Car Insurance Provider?

There are three likely sources of insurance for rental car accident claims, depending on what actions you took at the time you rented the vehicle.

  1. Your Personal Insurance: Nearly every state in the U.S. requires drivers to carry auto insurance in order to legally operate a vehicle. Oklahoma requires bodily injury liability coverage, property damage liability coverage, and uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage. In the majority of cases your own insurance should cover rental accidents as well as accidents in your own vehicle.
  2. Insurance Provided by Your Credit Card: If you made the entire payment for the rental car on a credit card, you may have rental car insurance through your credit card company. However, this is usually secondary insurance, which means it pays only after you’ve reached your policy limit on your primary, personal insurance. It may also only cover collision damage and not medical expenses. Contact your credit card company for more information on its rental car insurance terms.
  3. Supplementary Insurance Provided by the Rental Company: Rental car companies offer supplementary insurance for purchase at the counter that can help pay for your expenses if you get in an accident during your rental period.

Supplementary Coverage Available From the Rental Company

There are typically four major types of insurance available for purchase from the rental car company:

  1. Collision Damage Waiver: This policy waives the renter’s responsibility for paying the cost of damage to the vehicle in the event of an accident. It also protects the renter in case of vehicle theft.
  2. Liability Coverage: This covers property damage and injury expenses of the other party is the renter is found to be at fault.
  3. Personal Accident Insurance: This covers medical expenses of the renter and any of the renter’s passengers in an accident.
  4. Personal Effects Coverage: This covers the cost of damaged or stolen personal property kept in the rental vehicle.

When the Other Car in a Crash is a Rental

Per federal law, the rental company cannot be held liable if a car they rented is involved in an accident, so you will not be able to sue the rental company for your expenses. Depending on what type of coverage the other driver has, you may need to file a claim against your own uninsured motorist bodily injury policy to get compensation for your injuries. Hiring a lawyer to negotiate with the insurance companies involved on your behalf can be helpful.

Contact a Car Accident Attorney Today

At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, we’ve helped many Oklahomans get the legal help they need when the insurance company denies or reduces their claim after sustaining injuries in a crash. We want to help you, too. There is no cost to speak to our lawyers, and if you hire our firm, you pay us nothing unless you win. Contact us today.