Dealing with the fallout of a car accident can be stressful. You need to make sure you get proper medical attention for any injuries, get your car fixed and communicate with any other drivers or property owners who may be involved. Things can get even more complicated when you have a rental car accident. There are added layers to the process since another entity owns the vehicle and covers the insurance. To streamline the situation, follow our Phoenix car accident attorney recommendations for what to do in this situation.
Preparing Before a Rental Car Accident
You can’t predict the future, but you can prepare for reasonable risks. Every time you hit the road, there is a risk that you or another driver could make a mistake that leads to a crash. This is true whether you’re driving your personal vehicle or a rental car.
Check Your Insurance Coverage
For your personal vehicle, you probably have insurance that can help in case of an accident. You need the same for a rental car. When you rent a vehicle, check with your insurance provider to see what coverage you already have. Your personal auto insurance or credit card may offer rental car coverage, so it’s important to know what you’re already covered for.
If not, you can purchase additional insurance from the rental car company. This may come at an extra fee, but it can be useful to prevent you from having to pay for damages in case of a rental car accident. The Arizona Department of Transportation does require rental companies to maintain some coverage, but it may not be enough to cover everything after a bad crash or protect you from liability.
Keep in mind that if you have recently changed your car insurance or expanded your coverage, the changes may not be in effect yet. Some policies take as long as 30 days to update. You should also be clear with the rental car and insurance companies about who may be driving the car. If a wreck happens and an unexpected third party was behind the wheel, it may be more complicated to get everything fixed without a lot of hassle or added cost.
Before driving off the rental car lot, take photos of the car from all angles, including the interior. This will help you document any pre-existing damage and avoid being held responsible for damage you didn’t cause. If you see a problem or damage that is notable, let a worker from the rental car company know about it. Show them the issue and make sure they document it. They may be able to switch you to a different car.
The First Moments After a Rental Car Accident
No matter how much you plan or how carefully you drive, you could still have a car rental accident at any time. Another driver could run a stop sign or a poorly maintained road could cause you to lose control. There are some roads that have seen a lot of crashes in the Phoenix area, so you have to be prepared. Regardless of the nature of the crash, there are a few first steps you need to take.
Assess the Situation
Immediately after a crash, it’s important to stay calm and be safe. If anyone is injured, seek medical attention immediately. If you can safely move the car out of traffic, do so. If the car is not drivable or the accident is more serious, turn on the hazard lights and leave the car where it is.
Contact the Right People
Next, it’s time to start reaching out to the relevant parties. Get law enforcement to come and take a report of the crash. Their documentation will be needed throughout the process of dealing with the rental car accident, so make sure to get a copy of the report or at least a report number so you can follow up.
You also need to call the rental car company. They are the legal owner of the vehicle you are in, so they need to know what has happened as soon as possible. If a company representative gives you any instructions, follow their guidance. You should start documenting the accident scene as well. If you can do so safely, take pictures of the wrecked vehicles as well as any damaged property, street markings and signage that will be relevant in understanding how the crash happened and who may be at fault.
Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver or drivers involved in the accident. Be sure to get their name, phone number, email address, driver’s license number, license plate number and insurance information. You will need this to follow up with them, and the rental car company may also need this information.
Depending on how you have insured the rental car, you may need to call your own insurance company or your credit card company to notify them that there has been a crash in a rental car. They will have their own process that needs to be completed to get a claim started.
As with any type of car accident, remember to stay calm and avoid admitting fault or apologizing, as this could be interpreted as an admission of guilt. Let the police and insurance companies handle the investigation and determination of fault. Focus on making sure you are safe and healthy and collecting the proper information.
Following Up After a Rental Car Accident
Once you have spoken with law enforcement, the other driver, the rental car company and the insurance company, there still may be more follow-up needed. First, you may need to return to the rental company and get another vehicle to use. Check with your company to see what policies are in place for this so you won’t be surprised by extra fees.
Review the Information
Once you are in a calmer situation, review any documentation related to the accident, including the police report, photos of the damage, and any medical bills or repair invoices. Make sure everything is accurate and complete. It’s also a good idea to make copies for yourself and anyone else who may need it.
Get Legal Help
This is also a good time to reach out to a lawyer. A personal injury attorney in Phoenix can help you understand your legal rights and obligations following a car wreck including issues related to fault and liability. The legal team at Sargon Law Group has years of experience handling all types of accidents, including rental car accident incidents. They can help you organize evidence to prove fault, including photos of the damage, witness statements and the police report.
Your lawyer is going to be a big resource when it comes to dealing with other insurance companies as well. When you have a crash, often the insurance company representing other people in the wreck will do everything it can to protect its interests and minimize costs, even at your expense. They have legal teams that work just on this, so you don’t want to try to deal with them without an expert in your corner.
Legal help is also critical if the crash happened in a city where you don’t live and can’t easily travel to. If you crash a rental car while on vacation on the other side of the country, it can be difficult to stay on top of updates in the case. Having an attorney in the area will mean there is someone advocating on your behalf. When you need help in Arizona and Maricopa County, Sargon Law Group will be here to fight for you and your rights.
Stay in Touch With the Insurance Company
After a rental car accident, you will need to communicate a lot with your insurance company and possibly the insurance company of the rental car company as well. Ask for updates often about who is being held liable for damages. You can also ask about any value estimates that have been made for repairs so you can stay in the loop on what’s happening.
When using your own insurance, ask your agent about deductibles or any other out-of-pocket costs that may apply to you. This will prevent you from being blindsided by any sudden expenses related to the accident. Along the same lines, check your credit card statement to make sure you were not charged for any damages that were not your fault. If you find any errors, contact the credit card company to dispute the charges.
Crashes can affect your car insurance costs, so look into this possibility as well. An insurer can raise your rates after an accident, especially if you were at fault. Talk with your representative about whether this will happen and see if you have any type of accident forgiveness.
Check In With the Rental Car Agency
Sometimes the rental car company will not be very communicative, so be proactive. When the car rental accident first happens, do your best to get contact information for a customer service representative or manager from the rental agency. As the investigation into the car accident goes on, reach out to this person to get updates and to make sure that they don’t need any extra information from you.
If they do need more documents or pictures, do your best to send these off in a timely manner. Delays can lead to slowdowns. If you are due compensation after the rental car accident, you could have to wait to receive your money if all of the relevant parties don’t have the documents they need. By taking the initiative and checking in, you can double-check that everything is being done to resolve the situation.
Try to remain understanding if you get conflicting information. You could have an instance where one company representative says they only need a few files but another employee asks for more paperwork at a later date. Things happen and people make mistakes, so try to be cooperative. This is another good time to have a lawyer step in and get clear answers for you while documenting all of the communications that have been happening.
Take Care of Yourself
Remember, whether you have a rental car accident or some other incident on the road, a wreck is a serious incident that can have a lot of long-term consequences for your health. You need to give yourself time to recover from any injuries you suffered in the accident. If they were severe enough, you may even need to find new ways to work and live.
Sometimes people walk away from a crash not realizing they have been badly hurt. A driver who is in shock and has a lot of adrenaline right after an accident may not notice new back pain until hours or days later. Whiplash is a common neck injury that can occur in a car crash and can result in symptoms such as pain, stiffness and headaches. Back injuries can also occur, such as herniated discs or spinal cord injuries. These can impact you for a long time.
In addition, car crashes can be traumatic events that can result in post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychological issues. Symptoms include anxiety, depression, nightmares, and difficulty sleeping. Some people need counseling after a crash to cope. If you find yourself in this position, take the time to find the right resources to help you get back to normal.
Don’t Let a Rental Car Accident Catch You Off Guard
Experiencing a car crash is never a pleasant experience, but having a wreck in a car that you don’t own can feel even more daunting. When a rental car wreck happens, dealing with all the right people becomes a tall task that can take a lot of time and energy.
To protect yourself from long and complicated negotiations, do your best to be prepared and take initiative when you are sorting everything out. Having the right insurance and documentation beforehand can make things more straightforward. Communicating with the rental car company will also be key. To get the right support for all of this and to make sure your rights and interests are protected, contact Sargon Law Group for help navigating your rental car accident.