What To Do if You Have an Accident Involving a Rental Car

If you were hurt in a car accident involving a rental car, you probably have a lot of questions about what to do next. Picking up the pieces after a collision is always a stressful and overwhelming experience, and the situation is complicated by the fact that one of the vehicles was not owned by the motorist who was driving it.

Consulting a car accident attorney is the easiest way to determine how best to proceed. In the meantime, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on the subject, so you can confidently go into the consultation.

What Should I Do Immediately Following a Car Accident Involving a Rental Car?

The steps you take after a car crash involving a rental car are similar, to those you would take after getting into any other collision. First, make sure you and any passengers in your vehicle are safe. If possible, pull out of the flow of traffic and then call the local police department, so officers can process the scene.

Then, exchange information with the other driver(s) involved. This includes contact details and insurance information. Be sure to take photos of the damage to both vehicles, as well, and of any visible injuries you or your passengers sustained. Whether you were the one driving the rental vehicle or, you were the one hit by it, you are inevitably going to have delay in determining who the primary liability insurance carrier is.

6 Things To Do if Your Rental Car Is Involved in an Auto Accident

1. Make sure everyone is alright

While it might sound like common sense, make sure everyone in the vehicle is okay before doing anything else. Check the surrounding scene and any other cars involved.

As with any car accident, safely pull over on the side of the road if possible. If the accident is more serious, call 911 immediately if anyone is hurt. And if there is any danger of explosion, clear the area.

2. Exchange contact information

As soon as you have determined that the scene is safe, exchange contact and insurance information with any other parties involved. Information to exchange should include; name, address, phone number and email address, insurance company and policy number, driver’s license number, vehicle registration and license plate for each vehicle. If there are any witnesses, obtain their contact information too.

If law enforcement is involved, be prepared to show them your driver’s license, vehicle registration care, evidence of financial responsibility and current address as well.

When interacting with other parties involved in the auto collision, do not tell the other drivers or the police that the car accident was your fault (even if you think it was). Be polite, but avoid making statements like “I’m sorry” or “I should have paid more attention,” as it can later be used against you, sometimes resulting in no protection from your insurance company. Instead, use phrases like “Are you okay?” to show empathy without admitting fault.

If the other parties are hostile, it might be better to wait for police to arrive before engaging. You do not want to end up in an argument with other drivers and passengers.

Be cautious engaging with other parties. Do not sign any statements regarding fault or promise to pay for the other parties’ damages – and if they offer to pay your damages or deductible, do not sign anything.

Importantly, try not to mention to the other parties that you are driving a rental car, as some people may try to take advantage of the situation and place the blame on you.

3. Take notes and pictures

Take time to collect detailed information about the accident. Write notes (using the notes feature on your phone will do), and take a liberal number of photos. Information to document should include:

  • The year, make, model and color or every car involved in the crash.
  • Any other standout details about the cars involved.
  • The exact location of the collision including details like street names and which lane the auto wreck occurred.
  • How the accident happened.

4. Contact your car rental company if you were the party that rented the vehicle

While the steps listed so far largely mirror the same steps you would take if you were driving your own vehicle, rental car collisions require a bit of additional paperwork.

As soon as possible, call your car rental company and inform them of the auto crash. There is often a sticker with an emergency number located inside the glove box, or an emergency number listed on your car rental agreement.

Ask the company how to proceed. Typically, the car rental company will have you fill out their own version of an incident report, which usually consists of the same information you collected above.

5. Contact your own insurance company about the rental car accident.

If you are relying on your existing car insurance policy to serve as your source of primary coverage, inform them of the accident to establish a claim for damage.

Among the questions you will want to ask your insurance company are:

  • Will they take care of filing an accident report with the local police, or is that your responsibility.
  • Ask your insurance company whether you have collision and comprehensive coverage in your policy in addition to the liability coverage required by law.
  • Find out your deductible (a deductible is the portion of loss that you must pay out of pocket).

For instance, if your deductible is $500, and you incurred $5000 worth of damage, you must pay the first $500 in repairs, and your insurance company will cover the rest. Be sure to inform your insurance company of any additional insurance you purchased with the rental.

6. Find out who is responsible for paying what in a claim

Know what your claim covers, what your insurance company might cover and what the car rental company might cover. If you booked your rental car with a credit card that offers rental car coverage, that may also help pay for some damages to the rental car in the event of an auto crash.

Collision damage: If you have your own insurance policy with collision and comprehensive coverage, that typically extends to your rental car as well. If your regular policy does not cover that, you might consider purchasing a collision damage waiver from your rental car company. Otherwise, you will have to pay for the damages.

Damage to others: If you already have liability insurance, that typically extends to rental cars too. If not, you can usually purchase supplemental liability protection from the rental agency, which will pay for damage you do to other’s vehicles or property.

Do not rely on your credit card for this one. Even though some credit cards offer rental car coverage, they typically do not cover liability insurance. If you do not already have auto insurance, it is typically a good idea to buy this – otherwise you could be on the hook for the medical and car repair expenses of other parties involved in the accident.

Potential extra days of car rental: If you do not have rental coverage on your policy, you may still owe the rental car company for additional days as if you were still renting the car. If the car needs to spend a week being repaired, that could be an additional week you need to pay to “rent” the car. You can usually avoid that expense by purchasing extra insurance or a collision damage waiver from your car rental company.

Understand the difference between primary and secondary coverage.

When driving into car rental insurance, you will commonly see two terms:

Primary insurance is the type of insurance that kicks in first if you file a claim. Some insurance policies provide complete coverage in any accident if you pay the premium, meaning they cover both the cost of the car that you hit (if you were at fault) and the damage to your rental car.

Secondary coverage can pick up fees and charges that your primary insurance policy does not cover, such as reimbursing your deductible. Even if you are using secondary coverage, you will still have to file that initial primary insurance claim, which could result in your insurance rates increasing.

A few credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, offer primary coverage – a generous benefit that can easily justify that card’s annual fee since it generally means you will not have to file a claim with your own insurance company.

If your card offers primary insurance coverage, typically you will have to decline the collision damage waiver or similar coverage offered by your rental car company for the primary coverage to be applicable – otherwise the coverage will be secondary.

Many more travel credit cards offer secondary coverage. That can still be a money-saving benefit if you get into an auto accident, though it is not quite as generous.

Keep in mind that most travel credit card rental coverage does not cover special vehicles like RVs or luxury cars, loss or damage already covered by your own auto insurance, long-term rental, or rentals in foreign countries.

Who Is Liable for Damages Caused by a Rental Car?

The party responsible for the resulting losses depends on the circumstances surrounding the collision. In general, if you were at fault for the car accident, you will have to cover the damage to the rental car and any other vehicles involved. On the other hand, if another driver was at fault, their insurance company may be responsible for paying for the damages. Some credit cards offer some property damage coverage if using that card to rent the vehicle, so check with your credit card company for details.

If you were driving the rental car and purchased insurance through the company, they may also be responsible for covering the damages. This will often depend on what type and the amount of insurance you purchased.

What Should I Do if the Rental Car Company Tries To Charge Me for Damages?

If the rental car company is trying to charge you for damages, it is important to review the rental agreement and any insurance policies (hopefully) purchased with the rental. If you believe the charges are unfair or inaccurate, you can dispute them with the rental car company. If you can not resolve the dispute with the rental car company, you may want to consult a personal injury attorney who can help you understand your legal options.

Can I Sue the Rental Car Company if I Was Injured in an Auto Accident Involving One of Their Cars?

You might be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the rental car company if their negligence contributed to the car wreck. For example, if the rental car company failed to maintain the vehicle properly or rented the vehicle to someone who was clearly intoxicated, they may be held liable for your injuries. However, it is important to note that personal injury cases involving rental cars can be complex, so it is recommended that you consult with an experienced personal injury car collision attorney before taking any legal action.

How Long Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit After a Car Accident Involving a Rental Car?

In Maryland, the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits is typically three years from the car crash date. However, it is important to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you do not miss any other important or alternative deadlines or opportunities to gather evidence to support your case.


Dealing with a rental car accident is one of the last things you want to do when you are on vacation, heading to work, going to a sporting event, whatever your plans are. Yet between driving a car that is not your and navigating unfamiliar roads, do not ignore the possibility that a car crash could happen to you.

In a lot of ways, handling an auto collision in a rental car can is the same as to what you would do if you had a car crash in your own vehicle. But given the added layers of your car rental agreement, rental car insurance has a few extra complexities that you should be prepared for if you are not at fault for the car accident.

At the Law Offices of Larry B. Litt, we understand how overwhelming dealing with the aftermath of any kind of car wreck can be. That is why we are here to help. Call 443-844-1528 or email us at carol@littaccidentlaw.com to schedule a free initial consultation with a car collision lawyer in Maryland. We are available 24/7/365.