When you rent a car, the decisions you make during the rental process can become extremely important later. The agent asks you questions about who will drive the car, whether you want to purchase additional insurance, and so forth.
Your answers and choices impact what happens if you’re in a car accident. For example, if you decline to pay for a certain level of insurance, you could be held responsible for expensive repairs after a collision.
Let’s take a look at what happens when you’re in an accident with a rental car and how you can make the best choices before and after a crash happens.
Prevent a Worst-Case Scenario by Reading the Contract
It might sound obvious, but the best way to protect yourself is to drive carefully and read the rental car contract thoroughly. Before you take the keys and hop into the car, make sure you understand the contract terms. Ask questions about anything that isn’t clear.
Most car rental contracts include clauses like, “If you waive insurance protection, you are responsible for any theft or damage,” or “You agree to hold X rental company harmless for all third-party injuries.” Read these clauses closely!
By waiving certain options, you may be opting out of vital coverage in the event of an accident. Simply by signing the contract, you may be agreeing not to sue the rental company – even if you or your passenger ended up with severe injuries in an auto accident that wasn’t your fault.
Of course, these rental contracts don’t always hold up to legal scrutiny. It depends on the exact language of the contract and the choices you made. Unfortunately, these issues don’t usually come to light until the worst happens and you’re in a rental car accident.
Insurance Plays a Big Role in Rental Car Accidents
In the state of California, the law requires a minimum level of liability coverage for rental cars. However, this liability protection is probably not as helpful as you’re thinking. It’s definitely minimum coverage.
The standard coverage includes:
$15,000 coverage for the injury or death of one person
$30,000 coverage for the injury or death of two or more people
$5,000 for property damage
This basic level of coverage often doesn’t come close to covering the cost of an injury, and can’t possibly compensate for the loss of life. In fact, the average cost of an auto liability claim for a person’s bodily injury surpassed $15,000 years ago.
Basic coverage might not even cover the car’s damage. According to the car experts at Autos.com, a front-end collision can cost as little as a few hundred dollars or as much as $10,000, which is more than double the $5,000 property damage minimum coverage.
You might not be completely protected unless you already read the fine print in the car rental contract and purchased extra coverage. Often called something like a “platinum plan” or “gold coverage,” this is typically third-party liability insurance coverage with terms and exclusions that vary from company to company.
Protect Yourself With Extra Insurance and a Car Accident Lawyer
Don’t despair if you’re injured in a car accident. There are several routes you can take to cover the costs of the crash. A California traffic accident lawyer can help you sort through these options and decide what to do next in the personal injury claims process.
Minimum rental coverage
If you accepted the minimum rental insurance coverage, you may or may not be covered for the entire amount of the accident.
Extended rental coverage
With a higher level of rental insurance coverage, you’re much more likely to be fully covered in the event of an accident.
Health insurance coverage
Your health insurance may cover your own medical costs, in part or in full.
Personal auto insurance
It’s possible that your own car insurance policy will cover the accident, but it’s never guaranteed. If you have personal injury protection or MedPay on your personal policy, you probably won’t need to use personal accident insurance from the rental company. Your car accident lawyer can help you understand the limits of your policy and decide whether to pursue this path.
Travel insurance may or may not cover a rental car accident, depending on the circumstances. If the car rental was essential to your trip and was included in a travel package, you may have some coverage in the event of an accident.
As you can see, there are numerous factors that come into play when you’re in a rental car accident. That’s why it’s essential to have a car accident lawyer on your side, helping you understand the laws and your options as you move forward to maximize your settlement.
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