Were you involved in a rental car accident? Rental car insurance claims and personal injury settlements can be complicated. We highly recommend that you retain legal counsel if you crash a rental vehicle; our automobile accident lawyers are standing by to take your call if you need help. Learn more about what you should know before filing a rental accident claim.

With almost 2.2 million rental cars on the road in the United States according to Auto Rental News, you’ve likely been behind the wheel of a rental car at some point. However, you may not have stopped to think about the implications of getting in a accident while in a rented vehicle. If you do get into an accident in a rental car, your options for filing a claim depend heavily on the type of insurance protection you have in place–and that’s where the process gets tricky for many Florida drivers.

Hire a Rental Car Claim Attorney with Experience

We strongly recommend hiring an attorney experienced with accident claims. Here are the steps you need to take to maximize the success of your claim following an accident in a rental car. We have locations in Tampa, Lakeland, and Fort Lauderdale.

Determine What Insurance Policy Covers Your Accident Damage

The first step in filing a claim for an accident in a rented vehicle is determining what insurance coverage you have in place. Generally speaking, three potential types of insurance coverage exist for rental cars:

  1. Coverage under your own car or home insurance policy: In some cases, your existing motor vehicle insurance policy may provide complimentary coverage for rental cars; a limited number of homeowners’ insurance policy also offer such coverage. Take a close look at your insurance policy’s terms and conditions to see if this complimentary protection is in place for this particular rental car. (Note that certain types of vehicles such as passenger vans and large trucks are frequently excluded from such coverage.)
  2. Coverage offered by your credit card company: A number of credit card companies now provide rental vehicle insurance coverage when you use their card to rent a car. This coverage is usually provided automatically, so you may not have been notified that your rental car fell under the credit card’s insurance protection. Because the amount and limitations of such credit card-based coverage can vary widely, you’ll need to do your research to see the exact parameters of the coverage applicable to you. Keep in mind also that reserving the rental car with your credit card is not enough to qualify for this protection; you must also pay for the rental car with your credit card.
  3. Supplement coverage purchased directly from the rental car company: Almost every rental car company offers its customers the option of purchasing supplement coverage directly from them when renting a car, and rental companies are required by Florida law to meet the state’s minimum coverage requirements. Of course, you must opt to pay for this coverage at the time that you rent the vehicle; you won’t be able to retroactively purchase supplement coverage after getting into an accident.

Ideally, you’ll already have considered the possibility of getting into an accident in your rental car and will have taken the necessary steps before getting behind the wheel to ensure that one of these three types of insurance coverage is in place.

If you aren’t certain that you have coverage in place, immediately check with your own motor vehicle insurance company, your homeowners’ insurance company and your credit card company to determine if their policies cover your rental car; because you must actively waive the rental car company’s offered supplemental insurance policy, you should know if that coverage is in place.

Understand the Limitations of Your Coverage

Unfortunately, even if you do have insurance coverage in place for your rental car, there are often limits to what this insurance will cover following an accident.

  • Loss of use
  • No coverage for damage to other vehicles
  • Reduced coverage if at fault
  • Liability for other driver’s vehicle damage and medical expenses
  • Minimum coverage might leave you underinsured

For example, even if your personal auto insurance policy covers rental cars, it may not cover loss of use. That means that if you rent a car for a week and it gets totaled on the first day, you’ll still be required to pay the remaining six days of rental expenses.

Likewise, the automatic and complimentary coverage offered by many credit card companies only applies to the damage to the rental car; any damages to the other vehicle in the accident (if you were at fault) and any medical bills that arise from injuries are often not be covered. Credit cards also frequently offer only secondary coverage, meaning that they’ll only cover damages that exceed your primary insurance policy’s limits.

The supplemental insurance offered directly by rental car companies has restrictions as well. As previously noted, Florida requires rental car companies to meet the state’s minimum insurance requirements. However, Florida’s minimum requirements are fairly low: $10,000 in property damage liability and $10,000 in personal injury protection with no bodily injury liability or uninsured driver coverage required.

If the supplement policy you purchased only covers what’s legally required, you may find yourself underinsured and liable for the medical expenses of the other driver (if you were at fault for the accident) or if you get into an accident caused by an uninsured driver.

SEE ALSO: Difference Between Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist

In addition, many rental car companies offer customers the opportunity to purchase a collision damage waiver. While this waiver means that you won’t be held responsible for any damage to the rental car, you’ll still be liable for your own medical bills and the damage to the other car (if you were at fault for the accident).

File an Insurance Claim

If you do have an insurance policy in place that covers your rental car, the next step is filing a claim. As with any other accident, you should report the accident to the applicable insurance company promptly, whether that’s your personal motor vehicle insurer, your credit card company or the rental car company. Have any records related to the accident–including any police reports and medical records–available.

You may have coverage in place through multiple sources; if this is the case, you may not want to file a claim with every source. For example, if you have supplemental coverage and your personal car insurance policy covers rental cars, choosing to file a claim just under the supplemental coverage can prevent your car insurance premiums from going up.

It’s also important to note that even if you declined the supplemental insurance offered by your rental car company, you still need to inform them of the accident. Your rental documents likely contain the instructions you need to follow to properly report the accident and get roadside assistance; failing to do so can make filing a claim more difficult.

What Happens if You Don’t Have Coverage in Place for Your Rented Vehicle?

If it turns out that neither your personal insurance policies or your credit card covers rental cars and you chose to waive the supplemental insurance offered by the rental car company, you may end up being held liable for the damages to your rental car (and any other damages resulting from the accident).

Without coverage, you’ll be responsible for any damage to the rental car, any damage to the other vehicles involved and all medical expenses if you’re found to be at fault for the accident. If another driver is found to be at fault, their insurance company will be responsible for paying for your rental car’s damage up to their policy’s limits. You’ll still need to report the accident to your rental car company. The rental car company may decide to seek reimbursement from the other driver’s insurance directly. However, the rental car company can charge you directly for any damage to the rental vehicle, forcing you to pay for the damage upfront and seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurance company yourself.

If you’ve been found at-fault for an accident in a rental vehicle and you lack insurance coverage–or your insurance company is fighting your claim or refusing to cover all of your damages–speaking with an attorney who specializes in motor vehicle accidents is your best option for minimizing the costs you’ll incur from your accident.

Hiring a Lawyer for Rental Car Insurance Negotiations

An attorney experienced with rental car accident insurance negotiations can maximize your compensation, claim or potential settlement; find all available policy payouts; make sure you are not leaving any money on the table; and make sure the insurance companies to take advantage of you.

We have offices in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, Florida and serve clients all across the sunshine state. Call our office to schedule a free legal consultation for your rental car claim with a Spanish speaking lawyer or legal assistant at our law firm.