Rental Car Accidents
Renting a car is a big business in Florida and throughout the United States. According to a recent report, in 2020 rental car companies earned $23.22 billion in revenues, and each major company had an average fleet size of 1.98 million vehicles.
You may be renting a car for business, pleasure, or a bit of both. In any case, when you get in an accident in a rental car, you may be scared, confused, and have more than a few questions.
The good news is that it is very likely that you have some form of insurance available to cover the accident costs. That insurance coverage could come from your own policy for your own vehicle, it could come from add-on coverage you agreed to when signing the rental document, or it could even come from the credit card used to purchase the rental.
After you have been in an accident in a rental car, remember to remain calm and focus on the most important things: report the accident, seek medical attention for any injuries, and strongly consider calling a Florida rental car accident lawyer before you talk to the rental company or any insurer. Don’t panic, but know you may need to act fast when reporting the accident to the rental company, or you could face complications.
Any time you have been involved in a rental accident, especially when you have gotten hurt, do not hesitate to contact Darrigo & Diaz, Attorneys at Law. You will be provided with a rental car accident attorney in Tampa to help you understand your options, navigate the insurance process, and deal with any possible accusations that you are liable for accident damages. Schedule your free, confidential, no-obligation case evaluation today when you call (813) 437-5523 or contact us online.
What Do I Do After a Rental Car Accident?
There are a few steps you should take after any accident, including one involving a rental car:
- Find out who is hurt, including yourself. Quickly check on the health and safety of anyone involved in the accident, including in other vehicles.
- Call 911 to report the accident. Request an ambulance if anyone is clearly hurt.
- Move to safety. If the vehicles aren’t disabled, move them to the shoulder of the road or to a nearby parking lot. You should take photographs of the accident wreckage before moving any vehicles, when possible.
- Wait on help to arrive in a safe location. If you are seriously hurt, try to lie in as comfortable of a position as possible with the wounded area elevated. Put firm pressure (but not too firm) on any wounds that are openly bleeding. Avoid moving anyone with a possible head or spinal injury. Do not cover or put pressure on wounds with foreign objects embedded in them.
- Provide an accurate report of what happened when the police arrive. Try to stick to the known facts. Avoid admitting fault or providing information that could make you appear at fault, but do not lie or make misleading statements. Do not speculate on fault, but do report if the other drivers involved failed to obey traffic laws or exercise caution.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Do not refuse ambulance transport if paramedics recommend it. If you are noticeably hurt, go to the nearest emergency medical services provider. If you are unsure if you are hurt, still visit an urgent care clinic or primary care physician within the next few days.
- Strongly consider talking to a Tampa rental car accident lawyer before any insurer or rental company. Hiring a lawyer can allow you to protect your rights while determining fault through an extensive investigation. Your attorney can help you determine what compensation is available for your injuries and pursue a claim against all liable parties.
- Report the accident to your insurance company and the rental company. You likely have a limited window to report the accident to the rental company, according to your contract. You should also notify your own insurance company and any other companies covering you. You can also notify the insurance carrier covering any other drivers if you have a possible claim.
What Should I Do With the Rental Car After a Crash?
When you sign a vehicle rental agreement, you are agreeing to take care of the vehicle you have rented. As such, you are expected to keep track of what happens to the vehicle after the accident and to deliver it to either the rental company or an approved repair center.
If the vehicle is safe to drive, you will likely bring it to the closest location of the rental company you used. The location may be an affiliate company with a different brand name but the same ownership group. Reach out to your rental company to ask them where the vehicle should be brought.
If the vehicle is disabled or unsafe to drive then you will need to have it towed. Towing may be paid for by the insurance coverage you have available. In most cases, you are expected to handle the logistics of calling a tow truck and having the vehicle towed somewhere. Rarely, the rental company will handle this task for you, especially if they consider you a premium customer or if you sustained major injuries and are being hospitalized. Again, reach out to the rental company (preferably after speaking to a lawyer) to determine what towing company they recommend and what location the vehicle should be towed to.
How Do I Know If I Have Insurance Coverage for My Rental?
“Do I have insurance coverage if I get in a wreck in my rental car?” is the million-dollar question — sometimes literally!
The good news is that it is very likely that you have some form of coverage available in most instances. See below for the most common types of insurance policies that cover rental car accidents.
Rental Car Insurance Provided by the Rental Company
When you rent a car, you will often be asked a barrage of questions about what kind of coverage you want. The company may pressure you into signing up for various add-on policies that increase the per-day cost of the rental but supposedly provide you with peace of mind.
In truth, some of these policies are useful whereas others may not be.
For every state, the rental car provider is legally obligated to make sure you are covered by the minimum insurance coverage for that state. In Florida, this only includes a $10,000 Property Damage Liability (PDL) policy. Florida drivers are also expected to carry $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance (more on that later).
However, just because the rental company has PDL doesn’t mean that they won’t try to hold you as the renter liable for damages caused to other vehicles. Read the rental agreement closely to determine what coverage is available as part of the standard agreement.
As for add ons, a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) is the most common type of extra coverage available. It protects you as the renter from having to personally pay for the costs of repairs to the rental car itself in the event of a crash.
A CDW does not cover medical expenses for you or others involved in the accident, so additional supplemental coverage may be needed. You can often purchase separate policies for bodily injury to others or bodily injury to yourself and your passengers.
The worst part about rental car insurance add-ons is that it is not always clear what is and isn’t covered, and there may be ridiculously specific exceptions to your particular situation. Thankfully, you are likely to have additional coverage of your own to overlap into the gray areas. Also, the agreements you signed may not be enforceable if they violate insurance law and go against rulings established in previous cases. Talk to an attorney who can review the rental agreement you signed and determine what coverage is available and who/what it should cover.
Your Own Insurance May Cover You During a Rental
In many cases, the insurance coverage you have for your own vehicle can apply to you when you drive a rental car. This is especially true if you have comprehensive and collision insurance on your vehicle, but it may also apply to Bodily Injury Liability (BIL) and PDL coverage.
Read your own insurance policy statement of benefits and policy contract to determine what aspects of your rental trip should be covered.
In Florida, you are required at minimum to have PIP and PDL insurance. PIP almost always covers 80% of emergency medical costs to yourself when you are seriously hurt in an accident, and it may also cover your passengers. This coverage applies regardless of the accident circumstances because Florida is a “no-fault” state.
One drawback to Florida’s no-fault insurance system is that it does not make BIL coverage mandatory. This can mean you are on the hook for the medical expenses of any serious injury you cause in an accident where you are considered at fault. Because of this risk, we and others in the state would strongly recommend adding BIL coverage to your existing policy as well as for any car rental outings.
Uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage is also a great idea. It provides coverage in the event the other driver doesn’t have any insurance or when their insurance isn’t enough to cover applicable damages. UM/UIM may apply to rental car trips, and it may also be available as a supplement to any insurance provided by the rental company.
Credit Card Perks May Provide Rental Car Insurance
Not every credit card offers it, but automatic rental car insurance is a common perk for certain cards. To obtain the insurance coverage, the issuer of the card must specifically offer it, and the card must be used to purchase the rental.
Most rental car insurance coverage provided under a credit card only covers damages to the rental and to other vehicles, not medical bills. Still, having that extra coverage can mean the difference between owing someone serious money for repairs after an accident or having it covered in a claim.
Other Drivers’ Insurance Policies May Provide Coverage for Injuries
If other drivers were involved in your wreck, they may be liable for certain damages. In Florida, they are supposed to have PDL coverage, and all commercial vehicles are expected to carry a large amount of BIL coverage.
When the other driver is considered at fault, the rental company will almost always need to file a claim directly with that driver to cover the costs of vehicle repairs/replacement. You may end up filing a separate claim for your own medical expenses.
Defective Vehicle Claims
If a vehicle defect was involved in the accident or was a primary cause of the accident, the manufacturer could be held liable for damages inflicted to the renter and anyone else involved in the collision.
Speak to a Tampa Rental Car Accident Attorney to Determine What Coverage is Available
Don’t assume you are or are not covered by something when you get in an accident. Fault matters a great deal in the situation, and fault can only be determined after a thorough investigation.
Rental car agreements are notoriously confusing, and employees of the rental company may sometimes be misinformed about how things are supposed to work. Before you assume that you are or are not covered during an accident, talk to a Tampa rental car accident lawyer who can examine the documents you signed and help you figure out who is responsible for paying what.
Other Frequently Asked Questions About Rental Car Accidents IN Florida
Will I Owe the Rental Company Money Even If I Have Insurance?
Rental car companies will often add on extra charges if their vehicle is damaged during a crash, even if you have insurance. Common charges include admin fees, “loss of use”, and “loss of value” damages.
Before agreeing to pay any of these extra costs, have an attorney review your insurance coverage to see if these fees are covered by the policy itself. Also, many times, the fees in these situations are considered unenforceable, or the rental company may be willing to waive the fees for your specific situation.
Who Receives the Insurance Settlement Money After I Am Hurt in a Rental Car Accident?
Any insurance coverage for damage to the vehicle will go directly to the rental car company. Insurance coverage pertaining to your injury treatment costs and other damages will go to you. These are separate claims.
When Should I Contact the Rental Company After My Accident?
Typically within 24-48 hours. Review your rental agreement for details. Be extremely cautious about what you say to the company. Do not admit fault or draw conclusions about why the accident occurred. Strongly consider hiring an attorney and receiving their advice before making this call.
Am I Liable for Crash Damages Caused While Driving the Rental Car?
Yes. Federal laws (49 U.S.C §30106) prevent rental car companies from being held directly responsible for damages caused in an accident involving someone driving a rented vehicle. The only exceptions are if the rental company was negligent or guilty of criminal wrongdoing. In some cases, for example, the rental company may have failed to disclose a known vehicle issue, or they may have allowed someone to drive who shouldn’t have legally been able to do so. In most cases, though, the rental company is shielded from liability, which would then fall primarily to the renter.
How Is Fault Determined After a Rental Car Accident?
Fault is determined as the result of a thorough investigation. However, fault can only truly be legally established at the conclusion of a civil trial. In most cases, a police investigation and private investigation will determine who was likely at fault, and this will influence the final insurance settlement offered.
In cases where two or more parties are at fault, each party will pay for the portion they contributed. Since Florida is a pure comparative negligence state, parties can share any portion of fault from 50/50 to as much as 1/99 or 99/1. Any fault contributed by the person injured (called the tortfeasor, claimant, or plaintiff) will reduce their available damages.
Will the Rental Car Company Try to Sue Me After a Crash?
Possibly. The most typical reason is if the driver did not obtain a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or otherwise failed to obtain insurance coverage that would pay for the costs of vehicle repairs. You have many rights, however, and you can work with an attorney who will help you determine who is truly at fault and whether or not you are actually responsible for the costs they claim you should pay.
Are My Own Injuries Covered After a Rental Car Collision?
If you are a Florida driver and have PIP, you are very likely covered. There may also be coverage from optional insurance policy add-ons offered by the rental company.
What If Someone Else Was Driving the Rental Car at the Time of the Crash?
If the other driver was not on the rental agreement, any language in the agreement may be void. In other words, the coverage provided by the rental car company may not apply. The good news is that you may still have coverage from your own insurance policy, your credit card company, or another driver involved in the accident.
What If I Am out of State and Get in a Rental Car Accident?
You are legally required to carry BIL insurance when taking a trip to any state that requires it, which includes all of the states surrounding Florida. In any event, your own insurance still applies out of state. However, if you are from another state and are hurt in a Florida wreck, know that the other driver may not have BIL coverage. Speak to an attorney to determine what sources of compensation may still be available.
What If I Am on a Business Trip in a Rental Car and Get in a Crash?
Notify your employer, who will be responsible for handling all aspects of the claim. Employees are not directly responsible in this situation, except in certain extreme circumstances. Your employer is considered the signatory and is expected to obtain the needed coverage, and if they did not then they will be responsible for any costs. In most cases, employers renting a car for a business trip will opt to obtain all coverage available.
What If I Am Hit by Someone Driving a Rental Car in Florida and Get Hurt?
The same rules detailed in the sections above apply to other drivers. You will have to determine what policies cover your medical costs and file a claim against the appropriate insurers. If coverage is not available, you may have access to UM/UIM coverage or other sources of possible compensation. Speak to an attorney to learn more.
Hurt in a Rental Car Accident? Talk to Experienced Tampa Personal Injury Attorneys
Rental car accidents can often involve a lot of uncertain factors. What you hear from an insurer or rental company may differ from how the law would typically apply to your situation, as well.
Look out for yourself and your own rights by working with experienced rental car accident lawyers in Tampa. They will help you determine what compensation is available for your medical bills, lost wages, personal pain, and suffering, and other damages.
Speak to a knowledgeable, approachable attorney near you when you call Darrigo & Diaz at (813) 774-3341 or contact us online to schedule your free, no-risk case review today.