Any car accident can be stressful and confusing. You’ve just been through a jarring experience and may be injured. You may have family members with you who are injured, and your vehicle may be seriously damaged. But, if you’re able, there are practical steps you must take. The process is all the more complicated when the responsible driver is driving a rental vehicle.
These differences make it especially important that you seek a consultation from an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Overlooking a possible responsible party could diminish the compensation you receive, or even prevent you from recovering damages.
How Rental Car Crashes Are Different
Rental Car Insurance
One reason rental car collisions are more complicated is that insurance coverage is inconsistent. Most rental car companies allow renters who have full coverage on their own vehicles to use that insurance. But, they also offer the option of purchasing insurance through the rental company. And, if the renter doesn’t have full coverage, purchasing coverage through the rental agent is mandatory.
In short, this means that when you are involved in a collision with someone driving a rental car and the other driver was at fault, the insurance carrier responsible for compensation may be the driver’s insurance company, or it may be the rental car company’s carrier. This means the information you need to gather from the other driver is more extensive than the usual exchange after a motor vehicle crash.
Maintenance Issues Contributing to the Accident
Whether the driver has taken out insurance through the rental car company will determine which carrier pays when the rental car driver was responsible for the collision. But, other factors may have caused or contributed to the accident. One example is poorly maintained equipment on the vehicle. For example, the tires might be dangerously worn and a tire might blow out and cause an accident, or the other driver might skid when braking because of the low tread. Or, poorly maintained brakes might fail, or simply mean it takes longer than expected to stop the vehicle.
If negligent maintenance contributed to the accident, the rental car company itself may be directly responsible for part or all of the damages.
Next Steps after Being Hit by a Rental Car
An experienced Florida car accident lawyer is the best source of information about the possible responsible parties and how best to pursue a claim after an accident with a rental car. Ideally, though, you’ll have taken several steps before you ever meet with your auto accident attorney. These include:
- Exchanging more extensive information with the other driver. You’ll want to get insurance information and contact information for both the driver and the rental car company. If possible, review and take a copy of the rental agreement, including the information about insurance coverage. Taking a picture with your phone will suffice at this stage. If you can’t do that, write down the information. If you collect this information, your car accident attorney can take it from there.
- Contacting local law enforcement to make a police report. In Florida, a driver is required to call the police after any motor vehicle accident that results in death, injury, or more than $500 in property damage. Even a minor crash will typically cause more than $500 in damages, and you may not be able to determine that at the scene, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and make the call. The police report may help you claim, too.
- Getting medical care if needed—even if you’re unsure. Right after a car accident, you may be disoriented, or even in shock. You may not immediately notice injuries, and some may not emerge right away. If you have any doubt, let emergency personnel check you out at the scene, see a doctor or visit an emergency room as needed. Tending to your medical care can help prevent more serious damage if you are injured, and can help protect your claim for damages.
- Gathering any evidence at the scene that you can, such as taking pictures of the scene before any vehicles are moved and collecting contact information from any witnesses.
- Writing down as much as you can remember as soon after the accident as possible. Many people feel like they’ll never forget a single detail in the moment, but it’s rarely true. And, even if you do remember months or even more than a year later when you’re testifying, your story will be more credible if it was documented at the time.
Consult an Experienced Car Crash Lawyer
The best time to talk to a car accident lawyer is as soon as possible after the collision. Whether the accident was with a rental car or any other vehicle, you have good reason to act quickly. For example:
- Soon after the accident, you will likely be contacted by the responsible party’s insurance company. Insurance companies don’t always play fair, and putting a knowledgeable auto accident attorney between you and the insurance carrier can help protect your claim.
- The sooner your attorney gets started, the better opportunity they will have to gather evidence. Some important evidence, such as video from nearby street cams, may be lost forever if your attorney doesn’t secure them soon after the crash.
- Witnesses will generally be easier to locate, be more willing to get involved, and have clearer memories of the crash shortly after the incident. If your attorney is first seeking out and interviewing witnesses months or years after the collision, valuable testimony may be lost.
- Your car accident attorney can offer important advice about preserving your claim while negotiations and trial preparation are underway.
If you’ve been hit by someone driving a rental car, the best time to get professional guidance is now. You can schedule a free consultation with one of the experienced accident attorneys at Harrell & Harrell right now. Just call 904-251-1111 or fill out the contact form on this page.