Being involved in a car accident is always stressful - and sometimes traumatic. However, when you're driving a rental car, a crash is even more distressing. On top of the usual concerns, you have to worry about how the rental company will respond. You don't own the vehicle, so are you on the hook for repairs? Will the company pursue action against you? Should you call them first or not?
Here are a few questions and answers to help set your mind at ease:
What steps should I take after the accident?
Health and safety always come first, so the very first thing you should do is to call 911 for any injuries you or the other party sustained. After that, you'll want to exchange information (insurance company details, name, address, phone number) with the other driver. If you're able to take pictures of the accident scene and the resulting damage, do so.
If you were injured, it's wise to call a personal injury attorney who can protect your rights and help you seek financial compensation. You will also want to call your own insurance company and the rental car company to report the accident. (Note: Do NOT give any statement to the other driver's insurance company until you talk with a lawyer.)
How do I contact the rental company?
Often, you can find an emergency number for the rental company printed on a sticker inside the glove compartment. If you don't see it, check the paperwork you received when you rented the vehicle. You should find the company's phone number there.
What is "loss of use" coverage on my insurance policy?
Loss of use coverage is important when it comes to rentals. If this provision is not included in your policy, you may have to pay for every day that it takes to repair the rental car. Essentially, the company will keep charging you to rent the car, even though it's in the repair shop.
What does a collision damage waiver do for me?
A collision damage waiver can be particularly helpful. It releases you from the obligation to pay for the damage to the rental car - which can potentially save you many thousands of dollars.
What if I have other questions?
Remember, an insurance policy is nearly always a complex maze of exclusions, loopholes and legal jargon, so if you have any questions about your rights, don't hesitate to contact a legal professional.