Have you ever rented a car and wondered what would happen if you got in an accident? Or what would happen if you were hit by a rental car while driving? The truth is, these kinds of accidents do happen. Rental cars are rented out to all kinds of drivers, and most rental car companies don’t always do very thorough background checks. So, you never know who you’re sharing the road with.
But, who is at fault? Can a car rental company ever be held responsible for your accident? And, is it possible for you to claim damages from the rental company, the driver, or both?
The truth is, it’s rare for a car rental company to be held responsible for an accident – but it’s not impossible. There are a number of different circumstances we need to look at here:
- Car insurance. When someone rents a car, they’re normally offered additional insurance by the rental company. If this was approved, then the rental company has coverage.
- Visiting driver. If the driver was new to the area, they might not be very confident on the local roads, or they could be distracted by their GPS, for example.
- Suspicions about the driver. Did the rental company suspect the driver was incapable of driving safely? For example, was the driver suspected to be under the influence of alcohol, or was their license suspended? If this was the case, then “negative entrustment” may apply.
- Suspicions about why the car was being rented. Sometimes cars are rented under suspicious circumstances – a car might not be fit for a particular purpose, such as towing a trailer. In some extreme cases, cars are even rented for criminal activity.
So, there are a lot of different scenarios that need to be investigated if you’re involved in an accident with a rental car. A good Indianapolis car accident attorney will conduct a thorough investigation, establish the facts, and fight for you to get the compensation you’re owed.
What Is a ‘Substitute Vehicle’ Clause?
If you look at your own car insurance policy, you’ll likely find it has a “substitute vehicle” clause. This covers you for the use of a temporary vehicle, such as a rental car, if your own vehicle is not in use or has been withdrawn from use.
A vehicle is normally considered as “withdrawn from use” in any of these circumstances:
If any of these apply and you get a rental car as a substitute, then you should have the same level of insurance coverage on your rental car as you do on your regular vehicle as long as the rental car meets all the required standards
However, if you’re involved in an accident in a rental car, there may be questions about whether you were insured or had a sufficient level of coverage. For example, if you were worried your car was unsafe before you took it for a service but you have no proof that it actually was unsafe, this wouldn’t be enough to qualify you for coverage through your Substitute Vehicle Clause.
There may also be an issue with you having insurance coverage from two different sources: your own personal insurers and the rental car company’s insurers. In these cases, the court will have to decide which policy is the primary policy.
Understanding Your Insurance Coverage Options for Rental Cars
If you’re driving a rental car, it’s essential to have the right insurance, just in case you’re involved in an accident – even if the accident isn’t your fault. You have a few options when it comes to rental car insurance coverage, so it’s important to understand what each option means and what it covers:
1. Your own car insurance – Before you can rent a car, most car rental companies make it a condition that you have your own auto insurance. However, not all policies cover car rentals, so it’s important to check your policy.
2. Rental car company insurance – If your own insurance policy doesn’t cover rental cars, you should take out the rental car company’s insurance when offered. This can cover a variety of different scenarios, including:
- Loss damage waiver (LDW) – This covers you if your rental vehicle is stolen or damaged, so the rental car company will pay for replacement or repairs.
- Personal accident insurance – This covers any injuries to you or your passengers if you’re involved in an accident while using the rental car.
- Supplemental liability coverage – This covers your medical costs and property damage if you’re in an accident that’s the fault of another driver.
- Personal effects coverage – This covers damage or loss of any personal property you have in the car. You may not need this, as it could be covered by your homeowners insurance.
3. Credit card rental car insurance – Many credit card companies provide rental car insurance as an extra perk for taking out the card. However, this doesn’t usually include liability coverage, so you may need to take this out separately just so you’re covered in case of an accident.
Who Pays for Damages in a Rental Car Accident?
If you’re involved in an accident in a rental car and the vehicle is damaged, you could be responsible for damages. However, this will depend on your insurance coverage.
Many car insurance policies don’t automatically cover rental vehicles, so it’s important to check your policy before you rent a car. You should also check the terms of your credit card to see if car rental insurance is included.
However, if you don’t have rental car insurance from either your regular car insurer or your credit card provider, you’ll need to take out the insurance provided by the rental car company. This will increase the cost of your rental, but it’s essential for two reasons:
- Car insurance is a legal requirement – if you’re uninsured while driving, you’re breaking the law.
- If you purchase insurance from the rental car company, you’ll sign a “collision damage waiver,” which will limit the amount of damages you’re responsible for if you’re involved in an accident.
What Happens If the At-Fault Driver Is Uninsured or Underinsured?
One of the biggest problems for rental car drivers is if you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. Rental car companies are not legally required to cover their customers for this occurrence, so your rental car insurance might not be enough. If you didn’t also have your own personal car insurance at the time of the accident, you may not have the right to compensation. It’s vital to ensure you have the correct insurance coverage before you rent a car.
If you’re involved in an accident in a rental car, it’s essential to treat it the same as an accident in any other vehicle:
- Stop at the scene and make sure everyone is safe.
- Call the police (and medical assistance if needed).
- Get the other driver’s license plate and insurance details.
- Take pictures of the scene, including any damage to vehicles.
- Get contact details from any eyewitnesses.
Then, contact a reputable car accident lawyer in Indianapolis, who will get to work on your case right away.
What Happens If There Are Still Rental Days Remaining?
If you still have days remaining on your car rental at the time of your accident, you may be liable for a “loss of use” charge. This covers the car rental company for lost earnings while the vehicle is out of use.
Your standard car insurance policy probably won’t cover this. However, your credit card might, so it’s important to check with them at the time of renting the car. Or, if you’ve purchased additional insurance from the rental car company, this usually covers loss of use.
Tips for Dealing With an Accident in a Rental Car in Indiana
Being involved in a car accident is always traumatic. But, there are a few essential steps you can take that will make the process a little easier for you:
- Purchase additional car rental coverage if your own insurance policy doesn’t cover you for car rentals.
- Follow the correct procedures at the scene of the accident, including calling the police, taking photographs, and getting the other driver’s insurance details.
- See a doctor for a medical report as quickly as possible after the accident – don’t go home first.
- Notify the car rental company and your car insurance provider to make sure you don’t end up having to pay any damages from your own pocket.
What If I’m From Out of State and Have an Accident in a Rental Car?
Things can be a little more complicated if you’re involved in an out-of-state accident in a rental car. For a start, laws can vary depending on which state the accident happened in. Additionally, it’s possible that your car insurance may not cover you for an accident that happens out of state.
If you’re involved in an out-of-state accident, the first thing you need to do is get medical attention, even if you only seem to have minor injuries. Then, call the local police and ask for a copy of the accident report.
After this, you should contact your insurance company to inform them of the accident, but stick to the basic facts – don’t give specifics about your injuries or who you think was at fault.
Another thing you’ll need to contend with is out-of-state accident jurisdiction. This is what determines which state your case will be heard in. If you’re from another state and you have a car rental accident in Indiana, it’s likely your case will be heard in Indiana, subject to Indiana law, even if you have out-of-state insurance.
This is where the experience of a car accident attorney in Indianapolis will be very valuable. They know the state laws inside out and can present the best case for you to get the compensation you deserve.
Experienced Indianapolis Car Accident Lawyer
If you’re asking the question “What happens if I get in an accident in a rental car?” we hope this has provided you with some answers. But, if this happens to you, it’s essential that you get the right legal representation. SLG Accident Lawyers are here for you every step of the way.
Our specialist legal team has dealt with all kinds of car accident scenarios in Indianapolis and throughout Indiana. We’re experts at compiling evidence, dealing with insurance companies, and presenting cases to get you the best possible outcome, from a better settlement to a favorable judgment in court. We can’t take away the trauma of your accident – but we can help you get justice and some extra peace of mind.
So, if you’re in a rental car accident in Indiana, don’t hesitate – call our expert team of Indianapolis car accident attorneys today at 317-939-4079. We’re here to help.
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