Personal Injury

What If I'm Hit By Someone Who is Driving a Rental Car?

By Carol DiBari, Attorney
When the driver who hit you was operating a rental car, it doesn't present as much legal gray area as you might think, but it does raise some unique issues.

If you’ve been involved in a car accident with someone who was driving a rental car, here's a summary of the steps to take after the crash, and a few key questions to make sure you get answered.

After the Accident

After the accident, once it's safe to do so, exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver and anyone else involved in the crash. Be sure to note the name of the rental car company that owns the vehicle, and if the other driver will let you see the rental paperwork, note the location where the vehicle was rented, the reservation/transaction number, and related details.

It's also important to notify your own car insurance company about the accident, whether or not you end up making a claim under your own insurance coverage (more on this later).

If law enforcement comes to the scene, make sure you arrange to get a copy of any police report that was generated in connection with the accident.

Learn more about What to Do After a Car Accident.

Liability and Insurance Coverage for Rental Car Accidents

Liability in rental car accidents works just like it does in other vehicle accidents. So, if you are hit by someone who is driving a rental car, and that person is found to be at fault for the accident, then he or she will be liable for the resulting damages (injuries, vehicle damage, etc.). As with other car accidents, this liability is almost always absorbed by insurance coverage, up to the limits of the applicable policy. So the question then becomes: What insurance policy covers the accident? Let's look at the different coverages that could come into play.

The Other Driver’s Insurance. Personal car insurance follows the driver, not the car, so if the other driver has personal car insurance, you should be able to recover from that insurance (by filing a claim with the insurer directly; this is known as a "third party claim") even though he or she was driving a rental car at the time of the accident. The other driver's existing liability insurance will extend to the rental car and will cover injuries and damages suffered by others, up to the policy limits.

Coverage through the Rental Company. If the rental car driver who hit you does not have personal car insurance, then the rental car company likely sold the driver coverage as part of the rental agreement. The bad news is there may be minimal liability coverage, which will limit your recovery, at least against this particular policy. Additionally, if someone other than the renter or another authorized driver is driving the rental car at the time of the accident, the rental car insurance may not kick in. So do what you can to get the details of the rental agreement and any insurance purchased from the rental car company.

The driver may also have insurance coverage via the credit card used to pay for the rental. Learn more about Rental Car Insurance.

Your Own Car Insurance. If the driver who hit you does not have personal car insurance, did not purchase insurance through the rental car company, and no other policy applies to cover the accident, you may have to resort to using your own insurance (namely, your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage) to recover for your losses resulting from the accident. Learn more: How Does Insurance Affect a Car Accident Case?

If you've been involved in a car accident within the last three years, please consider taking our car accident survey so that we can include your experience in Martindale-Nolo's 2016 Car Accident Survey. Your participation will help inform others about their situation and options before dealing with their car accident.

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