The car rental counter is one of the first places you visit when you go on vacation or when your car is in the shop. You may not put much thought into the contract when you rent a car, but once you sign your name you agree to return the rental vehicle in the same condition in which you received it.
This involves more than just topping off the gas before you bring it back. A lot can happen out on the road, including car accidents. So how do you determine who is responsible for damages involving a rental car? While insurance coverage is a significant factor, our Mississippi personal injury attorneys can help provide further insight into your particular case.
What Should I Do After a Rental Car Accident?
Like with any accident, your first step should be to make sure that everyone involved is okay. If necessary, call 911 for any serious injuries. After that, complete the following steps:
- Gather Necessary Information – Trade contact information with the other driver, passengers, and any eyewitnesses. Write down the license plate numbers and the make and model of both cars.
- Take Pictures – Use your phone to snap a few photos of the scene of the accident. Pay close attention to any damages on your rental car.
- Talk to the Rental Company – Be sure to contact the rental car company promptly. They should tell you what steps to take to safely return the car.
- Contact Your Insurance Company – Be prepared to file a claim with your own insurance provider.
Remember, your life is more valuable than a car. Do not risk your own health to gather information at the scene of your rental car accident. If you need immediate medical care, this information can wait.
Rental Car Insurance Options
There is a common misconception that you do not need liability insurance coverage when renting a vehicle. Liability coverage is what pays for things like property damage and injuries after an accident. Not only is this belief incorrect, but you might even be covered by more than one type of insurance coverage when renting a car.
- Personal Car Insurance – Your own auto insurance coverage should also extend to your rental car.
- Credit Card Company Rental Insurance – Renting a car on your credit card? Be sure to check the terms on your credit card agreement to see if it automatically provides coverage for damage involving a rental car.
- Rental Car Company Insurance – Most rental car companies will offer optional insurance protection.
Both credit card company and rental car company insurance may overlap with your existing liability coverage through your personal auto insurance.
Your personal car insurance is considered your primary insurance and will kick in first when you file a claim. Secondary coverage like that through the credit card or rental car company is intended to address any costs that your primary insurance does not cover.
The secondary coverage is especially helpful if you only carry the minimum coverage required by Mississippi state law, as it might not be enough to cover the full breadth of damages.
The Cost of Rental Car Damages and Injuries
There are different types of damages involving a rental car. Perhaps the most obvious is any damage or harm to the vehicle itself. This may include:
- Broken windows
- Bumper damage
Depending on the extent of the damages, repairs can be costly. There are also other damages to consider, including those to personal property inside the vehicle. You might need help replacing costly items like your laptop or expensive luggage.
Unfortunately, injuries often go hand-in-hand with wrecks. Medical bills associated with car accident injuries can be steep and paying for them out-of-pocket is usually not an option. Liability coverage is not just for property damage and can also help you and others manage your medical bills after an accident.
Who Pays for Damages Involving a Rental Car?
Although we’ve already covered the different types of insurance coverage that can pay for damages involving a rental, there is another important factor to consider—whether you were at fault. If another driver caused your accident, his or her insurance coverage can also help cover any costs associated with property damage or injuries.
Insurance companies are known to prioritize their own bottom lines over helping car accident victims. The last thing you need when dealing with rental car damages is a drawn-out fight with the insurance company. You do not have to manage this all on your own, though. You can contact Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC for a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable and compassionate personal injury lawyers.