You might wonder what happens if you get into an accident with a rental car. In your personal vehicle, insurance covers the cost if you are fully or partially responsible for the accident, and the at-fault party’s insurer pays for damages if they are liable.
Some insurers offer coverage if you have an accident with a rental car, but it could depend on your policy. Your level of fault in the accident, the condition of the rental car, and other factors can impact the outcome of the incident.
While the steps of what to do if you get into an accident with a rental car are similar to those you’d take if driving a personal vehicle, the case will be more complicated. You will have to account for the rental car company and the other parties involved. A car accident attorney can help you understand the law and manage the different aspects of the case as you pursue a positive outcome.
Understanding Insurance Coverage for a Rental Car
California law requires liability insurance for all drivers. This rule extends to rental cars, commercial vehicles, and any other autos on the road in the state. The absolute minimum requirement for liability coverage is $15,000 for death or injury to one person, $30,000 for death or injury to multiple people, and $5,000 for property damage.
There are several ways to get insurance for a rental car:
- Your primary auto insurance policy
- A policy from the rental agency
- The credit card used to rent the vehicle
If you are visiting the state, you might get coverage through a travel insurance policy. The only way to define the protections is to read the fine print and verify whether or not any insurance you have meets legal requirements and offers the coverage limits you need.
Primary auto insurance policies may extend to rental cars. This insurance can be useful if it includes liability and property damage. With this comprehensive coverage, the policy will pay for damages you are liable for and any uncovered damages to your rental car. Not all vehicle policies extend to rentals. You need to read the fine print or call your insurer to verify coverage before you get behind the wheel.
Rental car agencies provide coverage if you do not have it through your regular auto insurance. You must have the state’s minimum liability insurance. However, agencies may offer additional insurance to protect against any damage to the vehicle that you cause during the rental period. You could have to pay for repair costs out of your pocket in some cases, such as a single-car accident.
Finally, premium credit cards may offer insurance coverage for rental cars. You can check with the card issuer to see if it offers this perk. If it does, you may not need to purchase additional insurance. You should read the fine print to find out the coverage details, limits, and requirements. You need to pay for the rental with a credit card to get the insurance coverage.
Defining Liability in California
California is an at-fault state for auto accidents. If you want to know what happens when you get into an auto accident with a rental car, the answer depends on how much responsibility to bear for the incident.
In at-fault states like California, the party responsible for the accident has to pay for the damages out of pocket or through their insurance. For this reason, it’s vital to establish liability and be able to prove fault after an accident. An auto accident lawyer can help you collect evidence to prove fault if the case goes to mediation or court.
Proof of liability usually involves showing that the other party acted recklessly or did not take obvious steps to protect other drivers on the road.
Another driver could be liable for your accident with a rental car if they did one of the following:
- Drove while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Drove above the speed limit
- Ignored road signs or traffic signals
- Didn’t pay attention to the road (distracted driving)
- Operated a vehicle that wasn’t safe for use on the road
- Took other actions not consistent with safe driving practices
If you establish liability, the other party’s insurance will pay for the damage to your rental car. In some situations, the fault may be obvious. However, in other instances, you may need legal assistance to collect evidence and build a case to prove the other party was at fault.
Comparative Negligence in California
California has a comparative negligence law for vehicle accidents. This regulation says that you can establish degrees of liability. Awards for auto accident settlements can depend on how much responsibility to bear for the rental car accident. Insurance companies and other drivers may seek to limit damages by attempting to prove you were partly responsible for the accident.
For instance, the other party may say you did not have your lights on even though it was raining. Even though the other driver was speeding, they contend you bear partial responsibility for the accident for not following that rule of the road. Because of comparative negligence, a judge or jury in a civil case might find you partly liable for the accident. If you are 25% liable and were to receive a $10,000 settlement, the court will reduce it by 25% and give you $7,500.
The other party’s lawyers may use this strategy if you are driving a rental car. They might argue that you were unfamiliar with the vehicle and made mistakes or didn’t take proper precautions as a result. A good car accident lawyer can help you build a case to refute these claims.
There is one aspect of comparative negligence related to rental cars. You may argue that the agency did not maintain the rental vehicle. A faulty safety system or other issues, such as bald tires, a broken anti-lock braking system, or other issues caused by improper maintenance, could be partly to blame for the accident. You might be able to argue that these problems made safe vehicle operation impossible.
What to Do if You Get into an Accident with a Rental Car
If you get into an accident with a rental car, you need to take specific steps to ensure your safety and the safety of the others involved and begin building your case.
The first step in all accidents is to check everyone involved, seek emergency medical care if needed, and move to a safe place. You should always contact law enforcement after an accident.
You should then collect identifying information from every driver or party involved. This could include license plates, driver’s license information, insurance policy numbers, vehicle ID numbers, and contact information for drivers. You can also collect the phone numbers of witnesses. Your attorney can contact them later if they need additional evidence for the case.
If it is safe to do so, you can take photographs of the scene. These pictures could detail road conditions, vehicle damage to your rental car and other vehicles, road signs, markings on the pavement, and other evidence. Law enforcement will create an accident report in most cases. However, your evidence can provide more details for your attorney to use in the case.
You should inform your insurance provider of the accident. If you make a statement to them or law enforcement, you should stick to the facts of the incident. Do not admit fault or say you made mistakes. You should also contact the rental car company and notify them of the accident.
You should seek medical attention if needed. Even if you feel fine, a doctor can provide a checkup to see if there are injuries. Some injuries won’t be evident right away. Soft tissue problems or some brain injuries may take time to cause symptoms, and the adrenaline your body produces during the accident may mask symptoms for several hours. A personal injury lawyer in Bakersfield can use the information from your doctor’s medical report as they build a case or pursue a settlement.
In California, you must notify the state DMV of accidents with injuries or more than $750 in vehicle damage within 10 days.
How a Lawyer Helps after an Accident with a Rental Car
A rental car accident can be stressful. The insurance coverage rules, liability, and comparative negligence can be confusing, especially if you are recovering from injuries due to the accident.
A car accident lawyer can help you understand these different factors and ensure you take the right steps to avoid issues or mistakes that could harm your case or settlement prospects.
A lawyer can help with several aspects of the case:
- The attorney can negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf to pursue a fair settlement.
- They can collect evidence to prove liability for the accident.
- They can pursue a settlement with the other parties in the case.
- They will represent you during mediation and a civil court case if needed.
- A good lawyer will communicate with the car rental company to limit any out-of-pocket expenses you have to pay.
- The lawyer can focus on the details of the case, giving you time to recover from injuries or return to your daily duties.
Most importantly, an attorney can provide legal guidance and advice so that you aren’t confused or stressed about the situation.
When Should I Contact a Lawyer?
Some rental car accident cases are resolved quickly. The rental company, insurers, and other parties may seek a quick settlement to avoid the expenses and distractions of legal negotiations and lawsuits. However, if there are complications, you should seek legal advice.
Here are the situations when you should work with a lawyer after a rental car accident:
- The rental agency demands payment from you for damages.
- Your insurance refuses to pay for damages.
- The other parties involved claim you are at fault.
- You were injured as a result of the accident.
- The amount of damages exceeds your insurance coverage limits.
- The insurer won’t pay for all damages or medical fees.
Remember that no-fault and comparative negligence rules in California can complicate auto accident cases. You should connect with a lawyer as soon as possible after the accident. They can represent you and communicate with the other parties involved on your behalf to avoid statements or interactions that could harm your case.
What to Expect from a Lawyer in a Rental Car Case
A good car accident lawyer will provide a free consultation and offer an honest assessment of your case. During this initial meeting, the lawyer will listen to the details of your case and ask questions to get the information necessary to decide how to proceed.
You shouldn’t have to commit to working with the lawyer until they outline the steps they will take to assist you and resolve the case.
The lawyer should take over communications with the other parties. They may ask you to make statements, provide documents, or hand over any evidence you collected. They may inspect vehicles, speak with witnesses or other drivers, or ask you to fill out certain documents related to the case.
Regardless of the details and tasks you need to complete, you should always have a clear understanding of how the case will proceed.
Working with Kuzyk Law on Your Rental Car Accident Case
Kuzyk Law provides legal services for auto accidents and personal injury cases in Lancaster and other areas throughout Southern California. We have built a reputation in the region over the past four decades by serving more than 100,000 clients. We build relationships with each of our clients, regardless of the size of their case. Over 80% of our business comes from in-person referrals, so many of our clients appreciate this personal approach.
If you were involved in an accident with a rental car, connect with the team at Kuzyk Law as soon as possible.You can reach us 24/7 at (661) 465-6241. You can also use our online contact form or visit our office at 1700 W. Ave. K, Suite 101 in Lancaster, CA.