What to Know about Rental Car Accidents

Many people rent cars because they are visiting Winchester or because their vehicle is being repaired and they need a set of wheels to get around. Accidents involving rental cars are in many respects no different than the typical car accident. Fault still matters a great deal, and an innocent motorist who suffers injuries can sue for compensation. But some novel issues arise when a rental vehicle is involved, which our Winchester car accident lawyer reviews in this post.

Car Accidents & Fault: A Refresher

Car accidents in Virginia are analyzed according to fault. A motorist is at fault when they failed to drive with sufficient care and they end up hurting someone, usually by crashing into them. There are many common examples of fault:

  • Tailgating
  • Speeding
  • Illegal lane changes
  • Backing up without use of mirrors
  • Texting and driving
  • Distracted driving

In the typical accident, injured victims will submit a claim on the at-fault driver’s insurance to receive compensation for medical costs, lost income, car damage, and pain and suffering. Virginia requires that most motorists carry minimum insurance for this reason.

How Rental Car Accidents Are Different

In many ways, an accident involving a rental car will be like any other fender bender. Because fault is a key consideration, you should call the police after the collision and take pictures of all vehicles. You want to document the collision to prove the other driver was at fault.

Furthermore, anyone who rents a car should be insured. Their own personal insurance will cover them, even though they were driving a rental car. Virginia requires liability insurance, which kicks in when a person is negligent and hurts someone else.

There are some unique rules that relate to rental cars, however.

1.  The Rental Company Might Require That You Fix Your Rental

If you are driving the rental car when you crash, the rental company will probably require that you pay to fix it.  You accepted this responsibility when you signed the agreement to get the keys.

The rental company can require payment even if you aren’t at fault for the crash. That might sound unfair. Doesn’t fault matter for accidents? It does—but your agreement with the company takes precedence. You agreed to be immediately responsible for fixing the car damage because you rented the vehicle.

Go through your paperwork. You might have paid for a rental damage waiver when you rented the car, called a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or something similar. This waiver usually means you will not need to pay to fix the vehicle.

And what if you didn’t get this waiver? It’s an added expense, so some people decline. Typically, you pay to fix the rental car and then sue the at-fault driver for the cost of the repairs. In that way, you will be reimbursed.

2. The Rental Company Might Say Your Waiver Is No Good

Imagine you paid for the Collision Damage Waiver and are in an accident. Suddenly, the rental company says the waiver isn’t any good. How did this happen?

Usually, a waiver comes with a long list of restrictions, such as limitations on who can drive the vehicle. If you let someone else drive—like your child—then the CDW might not apply. You’ll be on the hook for paying to fix the car. Waivers also typically say you can’t take the car off road.

3.  The Rental Company is Typically not Responsible for the Wreck

Let’s say a person driving a rental car hits you. Do you submit an insurance claim to the rental company? No. Instead, the renter’s liability insurance covers the accident. The rental company doesn’t have liability for the conduct of their renter.

In some narrow situations, the rental company could be liable:

  • Their vehicle is unsafe to drive. A car rental company must keep their cars in good working order, so if a malfunctioning part causes the accident (like failing brakes), the rental company could be on the hook.
  • They rent a car to someone who is drunk. Rental companies must use reasonable care when renting their cars. They can’t negligently rent to someone who is intoxicated.
  • They rent to an unlicensed driver. Rental companies should check that a renter has a license before handing them the keys.

4.  Two Liability Insurance Policies Could Apply

The rental car company should insure every vehicle in its fleet with liability insurance. They own the car, so they should insure it.

Imagine you are driving down the road and someone driving a rental car slams into you. The driver is at fault and has personal car insurance for his car back home. The rental company should also have required minimum insurance. Now there are two policies which could cover your accident. Which one pays?

Typically, the renter signed a rental agreement stating that their personal liability insurance will be primary, and the rental company’s insurance will be secondary.

As an accident victim, haggling with insurers is exhausting. This is one reason to call the Winchester car accident lawyer at Correll Law Firm. Our attorney can try to pick through the facts and insurance policies to determine which one will pay for your losses.

5. You Might Have Insurance Through a Credit Card

Many major credit cards provide insurance for rental car accidents if you use their card when renting. For example, the credit card company might pay to fix the car for you, which is a huge relief if you rented a car and got into a wreck. Remember to tell your lawyer about any credit cards you have, so they can check to see if insurance applies.

Call Our Firm with Questions

Rental cars are convenient, but accidents involving these vehicles are usually a legal nightmare. Correll Law Firm can shine a light and clear up some confusion about who is at fault and which insurance should pay you compensation. Whether you were driving a rental or were struck by one, we can help. Call us today to schedule a free consultation, at 540-535-2005, with our law firm.