Navigating Rental Car Accidents While On Vacation

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By Marcus Fernandez

A rental car can be a valuable convenience when away from home on vacation. However, renting a car brings uncertainty and stress about what to do in case of a rental car accident. 

What insurance coverage applies in the event of a crash? Who is at fault when you have an accident with a rented car in Florida? For peace of mind before making your way to the rental car center at the airport, the qualified Tampa car accident attorneys at KFB Law have answers to these and other questions about rental car accidents.

Making sense of your insurance options before renting a car in Florida

The last thing on your mind is a car accident, but 394,865 crashes occurred on Florida roadways in 2023. It’s essential to have insurance whether driving a car you own or rent. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to understand how insurance works with rental cars. 

When you rent a car, the rental company offers you insurance options to accept or decline. The typical choices include the following:

  • Collision damage waiver: Your rental agreement obligates you to return the rented vehicle in the same condition it was in when you accepted the keys and drove away from the rental center. Collision damage waiver (CDW) coverage pays the cost of damage to the rented vehicle if stolen, vandalized, or damaged in a collision. CDW coverage can also be offered to you as a loss damage waiver (LDW).
  • Liability coverage: If you are at fault for causing an accident while driving the rented car, liability coverage pays claims made by drivers, passengers, or pedestrians injured in the crash.
  • Personal accident insurance: If you or the occupants of a rented vehicle are injured in an accident, personal accident coverage is a form of insurance that pays your medical expenses. 
  • Personal effects coverage: If someone steals personal property you leave in a rented car, this insurance coverage reimburses you for the loss.

Protecting yourself and the vehicle using the options a rental car company offers significantly adds to the rental cost.

You may have other insurance options that do not involve additional expenses. For example, if you own a car, your auto insurance policy on that vehicle may extend coverage to a rental. The best and easiest way to find out is by calling your auto insurance company and asking.

A credit card may offer another source of insurance coverage to use instead of what is provided by car rental companies. Some credit cards include rental car insurance when you use the card to pay for the rental. Contact your credit card company and ask about its rental car insurance. Make sure you know what it covers and does not cover before using it.

Know what to do after an accident with a rented vehicle

A crash occurs suddenly and without warning, leaving drivers and occupants dazed and confused. If involved in a collision, protect your right to recover compensation from whoever may be at fault by doing the following:

  • Check yourself for injuries, call 911 to report the crash, and remain at the scene. If injured, it’s best to stay still and minimize movement until emergency personnel arrive.
  • Seek medical attention even if you do not immediately display symptoms of an injury. Injuries such as concussions or whiplash may not produce injuries until hours after a crash. Go to the doctor or a medical facility for an examination. 
  • Exchange information with other drivers, including names, contact information, driver’s license number, and insurance company name.
  • Document the accident scene by using the camera on your phone to take photos of the scene and the vehicles.
  • Report the crash to the car rental company to comply with the terms of your rental agreement.

You must remain at the scene and wait for the police to arrive. Florida law requires drivers involved in accidents resulting in an injury or death to contact the police immediately. Accidents causing only property damage, such as a fence or light pole, do not require a call to the police. Still, they must be reported within 10 days after the crash by completing an accident report. You must submit this to the FHSMV department.

Determining liability for an accident with a rented vehicle

If you are injured in an accident caused by someone driving a rented vehicle, you might think the rental car company could be held liable to pay for your losses. Federal law limits the liability of rental car companies. This is $10,000 for each person and $20,000 per accident caused by one of their rental vehicles.

Depending on the circumstances of a crash, other parties that may be potentially liable for causing a car accident include:

  • Drivers of other vehicles for negligence.
  • Municipal agencies for failing to properly maintain a roadway or for unsafe design and construction of the road.
  • Vehicle or parts manufacturer when the cause of a crash is a failure or defective design of a part or system.

Determining the cause of a crash takes a car accident attorney with experience and a thorough knowledge of personal injury laws. 

Contact a Tampa car accident attorney after a rental car accident

If you are involved in a car accident when driving a rental car or caused by someone driving a rented vehicle, getting adequate compensation requires advice and representation from a seasoned Tampa car accident attorney. Learn more by contacting KFB Law for a free consultation.