Despite everyone’s best efforts, crashes happen. Although you may know what to do if you’re driving your own car, do the same procedures hold true if you’re behind the wheel of a car that belongs to a rental company? Here’s what you should do if you are involved in a crash while driving a rental car.
A crash can be frightening but try to stay calm. It’s especially disconcerting when it’s not even your own car. Jumping out of the car without paying attention to what’s going on around you isn’t safe. Give yourself a second to calm down and think before you do anything.
Any time you’re in an accident, regardless of whether it’s in your car, a friend’s car or a rental, the first thing you need to do is assess the situation for safety. Start by making sure everyone in your vehicle is okay and then check on any pedestrians and people in other vehicles who were involved in the crash. If there are injuries, immediately call 911 for help.
Be cautious exiting your vehicle. A busy intersection or highway will likely have other cars trying to get by, so make sure to look around carefully before you step out of your car. You don’t want to risk your safety in a situation in which you or your vehicle are at risk of being struck by another car. Once outside, make your way to a safe location where you can wait for help.
Make Sure Other Motorists See the Accident
If you’re in a minor accident and the cars are still operable, then pull over to the side of the road as far as possible to get out of the flow of traffic. A car that’s extensively damaged might not be driveable, so it’s okay not to move if it’s not possible.
If you’re not able to move the car out of traffic, it’s especially important to warn other motorists to slow down and be careful. Turn on your hazard lights and use flares or traffic triangles to mark the accident and help keep other drivers safe.
Exchange information with any drivers or other parties involved in the crash. This includes your full name, address and phone number as well as your complete insurance information. It helps to have this information ready when the police arrive because they’ll need it, too. The officer will file a police report and have a case number that you’ll also want for filing any claims.
It’s a good idea to take photos of the damage from the crash. Make sure you get pictures of your own vehicle and any other vehicles or property involved. You can also take a picture of the scene overall, which helps insurance companies understand the flow of traffic at the spot where the crash occurred. The more documentation you have about the crash, the better.
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Call Your Rental Company
Here’s the extra step that needs to happen when you’re driving a rental car rather than your own. Call the emergency phone number for your rental company. It will be on your rental paperwork and is often on the outside of the paperwork folder, too. You should make sure you know where to find this information before you even walk away from the rental counter, just in case.
Once you call the rental company, let them know you’ve been in a crash and ask them what they would like you to do next. They will want to know the extent of the damage including whether the car can still be driven. The company will tell you whether they want you to drive the car somewhere, perhaps to the nearest rental office, of if they want to have the car towed. Follow the rental company’s instructions and be sure to ask questions if you’re not clear on exactly how they want you to proceed.
Call Your Insurance Company
Once you’ve notified the rental company, you also need to notify your personal auto insurance company. They’ll want the same information you already collected for the police and the rental company, so have it ready.
Who covers what depends on your individual policy, the credit card you used to rent the car and any insurance coverage you may have elected to purchase at the time of the rental. Making sure your insurance company and the rental company have the necessary information on a crash will make things move more smoothly.
Don’t wait too long before you call your insurance company. Putting off calling them may cause problems with the claim, so call them sooner rather than later.
Take Care of the Rental Car
Don’t think simply because it’s not your car, it’s not your problem. You are responsible for the car while it’s your rental, so treat it as you would your own car.
Even though it’s been damaged in a crash, you want to be sure it safely gets to wherever the car rental company specifies. See that it’s towed away or drive it directly to the rental office if that’s what the company requests.
File a Report With the Rental Car Company
You need to start by calling the rental company, but there’s more to the process. You also need to fill out an accident report, which is often available for download on the company’s website.
While you don’t need to do this immediately, much like reporting the accident to your own insurance company, this needs to be done promptly. It’s also a good idea to do it as soon as possible so there’s no problem with the claim and while the details are all fresh.
Much of what happens if you crash your rental car is the same as what you do if the same occurred in your personal car. Stay calm, make sure everyone is safe and then properly report the accident to the parties involved.
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