Understanding Who Pays for Your Rental Car After an Accident
Someone just hit your car; you have significant damage to your vehicle. It is frustrating because you are not sure you know how to get to your work and other locations.
Below we discuss how to get a rental car and the steps to take to make sure the insurance company pays for your temporary vehicle. Finally, we discuss pitfalls to avoid.
DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO A RENTAL CAR AFTER AN ACCIDENT?
Kopischke v. Chicago, St. P., M. & O. Ry. Co., 230 Minn. 23, 40 N.W.2d 834 (1950) established the victims’ right to a rental car. In the case, the defendant’s truck was stuck on the rail crossing during a snowstorm. Fortunately, the defendant was not in the vehicle when it got hit.
Still, the responsibility falls with the train company. They must maintain the railroad tracks including the road crossings. The defendant used his truck for the farm. The court ruled the train company responsible for the new vehicle and the rental while waiting for the insurance payment.
The precedent-setting case established the right to ask for rental fees paid as part of the settlement.
WHAT STEPS SHOULD YOU TAKE TO GET A RENTAL CAR?
#1. Collect information from the defendant
You need to collect the following information:
- Drivers name and address
- Drivers insurance company and policy information
- Witness statements and contact information
- Note: if you own a smartphone take pictures at the accident scene.
#2. Contact your insurance company at once to let them know what happened
A number of insurance companies today have mobile apps for accidents. Check if your insurance company has a mobile app for you to upload the data, police report, and photos you collected at the scene. The mobile app should have a checklist of documents you need to make a claim.
If your insurance company does not have a mobile app, you might have to go old school and call them.
#3. Contact the police
Insurance companies want a police report of the accident when possible. The cops generally determine the at-fault driver on the scene.
If you can move your car or the damages are less than a certain amount they tell you to go to the police station. That said, you probably do not need a rental car if you can move your car.
The caveat is often a police officer thinks an accident is less than $500 and do not file a police report. However, the body shops could charge thousands of dollars for those repairs. In these cases, the court has to decide who was at-fault in the accident.
YOU’RE NOT AT-FAULT, HOW DO YOU PAY FOR THE RENTAL CAR?
Every scenario is different, here are three everyday situations on how to pay for your rental car if the other party is at fault.
#1. Other insurance company pays
In an ideal world, the at-fault drivers’ insurance company pays upfront. In this scenario, you go to the rental car facility and rent a comparable vehicle.
The challenge is some insurance companies won’t pay for your rental vehicle until the court determines who is at-fault.
#2. Rental insurance
Does your insurance policy include rental coverage? If it does, you can use your insurance to pay for the rental vehicle right now.
Your insurance company then goes after the other insurance company to get reimbursed for the money they paid for your rental car.
The one caveat with using your insurance is there’s a cap on the number of days. Often, rental coverage only lasts 30 days.
Check your insurance policy to see how much time you have on your rental car payments.
#3. Pay out-of-pocket
If you don’t have rental car insurance and the other company is not paying for your rental, you might pay out-of-pocket until the case settles.
Be aware this could take time. Insurance companies delay payouts as long as possible. They often wait until the at-fault determination from the court before reimbursing you.
Make sure you document all of your rental costs. An attorney uses these records to get your monies back as soon as possible from the insurance company.
AVOID THESE PITFALLS
You have your new rental car, now be aware of common pitfalls.
#1. Comparable vehicle
If you own a Hyundai sedan, then you cannot rent a BMW i8 or Tesla X on the insurance companies dime.
They only cover the cost of a comparable rental vehicle. If you splurge on a fancy car, then you must pay any amount over the standard payment.
#2. Stop renting when they fix your car
You need to stop renting your automobile once the auto shop repairs your damaged car. Once the shop repairs your vehicle, the insurance company is no longer responsible for rental fees.
At the soonest moment, get your fixed vehicle and return your rental car.
#3. Stop renting when you receive an insurance check
If the insurance company agrees that your car is totaled, they often pay the rental fees before the determination. However, you need to pay for the rental fees once you accept the settlement.