Being involved in an accident in your own car is complicated, but when you crash while driving a rental car, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out how to handle the aftermath. It is understandable if you have questions about insurance coverage, damage costs, and fault. Car insurance provides coverage for the vehicle, not the person. So, what happens when you drive a vehicle that isn’t your own, like a rental car? The answer is complicated.

Determine Who Was at Fault

Identifying the at-fault party is a major factor in the outcome of this process. Whether or not you will be responsible for the damage is largely dependent on who caused the accident. If the other driver caused the accident through negligence or recklessness, their insurance will generally cover the damages. However, in California, more than one person can be responsible for an accident, and their insurance company may try to place at least some of the blame on you to avoid paying as much in a settlement or lawsuit. If you were at fault or determined to be at fault for an accident in a rental car, you’ll need to determine which insurance policy will cover the damages.

Why is Fault Important in a California Car Accident?

California is an at-fault state, which means that the person who caused the crash is liable for the damages. The responsible driver is required to compensate anyone who was harmed in the accident. When that driver has car insurance, that means filing a claim with the insurer to recover your losses. This element of fault is why identifying the responsible party is so important for the accident claims process in California.

In contrast, no-fault states require parties in an accident to file claims with their own insurance companies with no consideration of who caused the accident. This often means a faster claims process, but it also limits an injured party’s ability to sue for severe injury.

California’s Insurance Requirements and Coverage

It is required for all drivers to carry liability insurance, at a minimum, in California. If you have a vehicle, this means that you probably have insurance coverage for that vehicle. However, that coverage may not extend to rental cars. The question you may be asking is whether your insurance policy or the rental car company’s policy covers a rental car accident.

If you are involved in an accident in a rental car, they may expect you to pay for the damage, but are you required to cover these costs? It depends.

Rental car companies offer insurance coverage for your rental period, and this coverage is often available with many options like liability, total coverage, or loss-damage. Because it is an additional charge to have insurance coverage, many drivers opt to decline rental car insurance. You may still have coverage even if you chose not to include this added expense when you rented the vehicle.

Check Your Insurance Policy

Some car insurance policies include coverage for rental cars. The only way to know is to review your policy. If you are trying to avoid reporting the accident for fear of increased rates, keep in mind that significant damage to the rental vehicle may make reporting the accident worth it. Check your policy documents or call the insurance company to see if rental cars are covered.

Insurance Through Credit Cards

Another option is to look for rental car insurance in your credit card agreements. This is a limited benefit offered by only select credit cards, but you may get lucky and find out you have this card perk. Contact your credit card company to find out what the policy limits are and whether you can use the coverage for your accident.

Coverage Required by State Law

California requires all rental car companies to carry minimum coverage on their vehicles. Keep in mind that the policy limits are low, often up to only $5,000 in damage, but it is still something to be aware of, especially if the accident was minor.

After a Rental Car Accident

You should handle a rental car accident similar to how you would treat an accident in your own vehicle. Report the collision to the proper authorities, get medical attention if needed, and exchange contact information with the other people involved. If you are able to, it is a good idea to speak with witnesses and get their contact information, as well as take photos of the scene and document the details of the crash.

Contacting a car accident attorney is also a good idea after a collision in a rental car. They can help you navigate the additional challenges of this type of accident, fight for a fair settlement if the other driver was at fault, or help you identify coverage options if you were at fault.

Contact the Accident Network

The Accident Network’s team of experienced, compassionate, and dedicated personal injury professionals is here to help you after a rental car accident. Our car accident attorney, Damoun Yazdi, is a fierce advocate for each of his clients, and he will create a personalized approach to your accident case. Contact us today for a free consultation.