When you rent a car during a vacation or business trip, getting in an accident isn’t usually something you’re worried about. But if it happens, knowing how to navigate the aftermath is a must. All accidents are potentially complex to work through, but the situation is trickier when you’re dealing with a rental vehicle. Fortunately, by knowing the steps you need to take, it’s far simpler. Here’s what you need to know to deal with a rental car accident.
Assess Everyone for Injuries
Immediately after an accident, the first step you need to take is to make sure that everyone is okay. Check yourself for any potential injuries, then find out if any passengers in your vehicle or people in the other involved cars or around the scene are hurt. If anyone has serious injuries that require medical treatment, call 911.
If everyone is in suitable condition and the involved vehicles are still drivable, move the cars to the side of the road. For cars that aren’t drivable, contact law enforcement. Additionally, if there is a fire or risk of an explosion, clear the area and call 911.
It’s critical to note that you always have the option of calling law enforcement after an accident, even if all of the involved vehicles are safe enough to operate. Often, doing so is wise even if the accident is relatively minor, as having a formal police report can simplify the insurance claims process and other steps you may need to take later.
Gather Contact and Insurance Information
Once everyone is safe, you need to exchange contact information with all involved parties, as well as any witnesses. Share your name, address, phone number, and email address, and request the same information from other vehicle operators or people involved in the accident. Also, you’ll need to provide your driver’s license number, license plate, insurance company name, and insurance policy number, gathering those details from other involved drivers and vehicles, too.
If law enforcement arrives at the accident, be ready to share your contact, insurance, and vehicle information with them, as well. They may also request a statement about what occurred.
Avoid Admitting Fault
When you engage with other parties at the scene, avoid admitting fault. Don’t apologize for what occurred, as saying, “I’m sorry,” could be viewed as an admission of guilt, regardless of why you said it. Similarly, don’t discuss any driving errors you may or may not have made.
It’s usually also best to avoid stating that you’re driving a rental car. While that may seem irrelevant to you, others may try to leverage that fact, so it’s better to keep it out of the conversation, aside from during discussions with law enforcement.
Additionally, don’t sign any statement that outlines fault or includes a promise to pay for any damages. Similarly, avoid signing anything even if the other person is offering to pay for damage to your rental car, cover your deductible, or anything else.
Take Photos and Notes
During the aftermath of a rental car accident, things can get hectic. Take the time to collect as much detailed information as you need. Write down the make, model, year, and color of all involved vehicles, and note which person was driving which car. Mention any notable features of the vehicles, as well as what you remember about how the accident happened. If other people discuss the accident, try to write down what they state or claim, as well.
You also want to record the exact location of the accident, including the street names, driving directions, and used lanes. If it’s helpful, draw a sketch.
In some cases, making video recordings of the scene and discussions with other involved people is wise. Generally, video is allowed if all parties are in a public space. Whether you can later use audio may depend on consent laws in your area, so it’s wise to record a person giving consent if they’re willing to do so.
Call Your Insurance Company
Even if you opted for additional coverage through the rental car company, it’s wise to immediately inform your insurance company of the accident. They may be able to assist with certain filings, coordinate with law enforcement and the rental car company, and offer guidance about how to navigate the situation. Plus, it gives you a chance to get additional details about your deductible or coverage in case you need a refresher.
Contact the Rental Car Company
After speaking with your insurance company, call the rental car agency. Usually, you’ll find an accident reporting or emergency line in your rental agreement, though it may also be in other documentation found in the car, and it’s usually available online.
Let the rental car company know that you’ve spoken to law enforcement and provide any other details they request. Just make sure you avoid admitting fault during these conversations, as it’s better to leave the determination of responsibility to those investigating the accident.
Call Your Credit Card Company
If you used a credit card to pay for the rental car, you may have some coverage through that company as well. Contact the lender, let them know about the accident, and ask about rental car coverage. Find out if there is anything you need to file to use that benefit and follow their process to get the ball rolling.
Wait for the Investigations to Complete
Generally, once you’ve taken the steps above, various investigations into the accident begin. The goal of these actions is to determine liability, as that will ultimately decide which person is responsible for the accident and which policies or coverage apply to the situation.
Once the investigations wrap up, you can coordinate with your car insurance company, the rental car company, and your credit card company to move forward. Precisely how that unfolds may vary depending on whether you were deemed at fault and the exact coverage or policies that apply to the situation.
Do you have any tips that can help others deal with a rental car accident? Have you ever experienced an accident while driving a rental car and want to tell others about your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Tamila McDonald has worked as a Financial Advisor for the military for past 13 years. She has taught Personal Financial classes on every subject from credit, to life insurance, as well as all other aspects of financial management. Mrs. McDonald is a former AFCPE Accredited Financial Counselor and has helped her clients to meet their short-term and long-term financial goals.