What to do if you are injured in a rental car accident

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By Marcus Fernandez

Florida set a record a year ago with 116.5 million visitors. The preliminary figures for 2018 are on target to equal or beat last year’s record. One group benefitting from this boom is the car rental industry which was already setting records even before last year. Tampa International Airport was the ninth largest car rental market in the country. That’s even before construction was completed on a new car rental facility to accommodate travelers! The number of rental vehicles in use should make drivers and passengers mindful of the fact that having an accident while driving a rental is different from one involving your car. Here’s what you should know if you are injured in a rental car accident.

Safety first: Take a few minutes before driving out of the rental car lot

You’ve likely seen commercials that show a customer walking from the car rental desk directly to a car and simply driving away. The truth is, this experience can be very different.

First, you’re likely driving a car that you are unfamiliar with and haven’t driven before. So take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the following safety controls:

  • Headlights and interior lights
  • Windshield wipers
  • Directional signals
  • Emergency flasher
  • Heat and air conditioning, including defrosters
  • Check the location of a spare tire 

Check the window controls to ensure they work and adjust your seat to a comfortable position for driving. You will also want to check your rearview and side view mirrors to ensure you can see other vehicles.

Take a minute to program your GPS and check the route familiarize yourself. If you are not using GPS, ask the representative at the car rental agency for directions to where you are going. Keep in mind that you are about to drive on streets that are unfamiliar to you. If you rented the car at an airport, you might also have to deal with heavy traffic and vehicles abruptly changing lanes. While not a problem for most drivers, it can be unnerving for someone who is unfamiliar with the vehicle or local roads. 

Steps to take when an accident occurs while driving a rental car or truck

If you are in a rental car accident, the steps you should take are no different than when driving your own or a rental vehicle. Start with the following:

  • Call 911 to report the rental car accident. If you are injured and unable to make the call, ask someone to make it for you.
  • Stay at the scene and do not move your vehicle until police or emergency personnel arrive.
  • If possible, record the names of witnesses and contact information and take photos of the accident scene.
  • If you are injured, let emergency medical personnel attend to your injuries. Go to a hospital if you require further treatment.
  • Contact the rental car company and your auto insurance company to report the accident as soon as possible.
  • Request a copy of the car accident report from the police.

Negligence law governs accidents involving liability for property damage and physical injuries in Florida. A motorist who fails to exercise reasonable care while operating a motor vehicle could be liable for damages to anyone suffering injuries. This is true whether it was you or the other driver that was driving the rental vehicle.

Unless there is negligence on the part of the car rental agency, you may only be able to file a claim against the party whose negligence caused the collision. Rental agreements generally protect the rental agency from liability for accidents involving their vehicles.

Make sure you have the proper insurance when renting a vehicle in Florida

Stories in the media and even the Florida attorney general’s website warn people against purchasing insurance from car rental companies. As a general rule, most drivers carry enough coverage through their personal vehicle’s policy to satisfy liability and property damage requirements from the state. Florida also requires vehicles registered here to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. If you suffer injuries in a motor vehicle accident, PIP coverage will pay your medical expenses. Minimum PIP coverage in Florida is $10,000, which means your insurance company will pay up to $10,000 toward your medical expenses.

This coverage is not a policy requirement for all states but is required in order to rent a vehicle in the state of Florida. If you do not have PIP on your personal car, you can either purchase it through the car rental agency or inquire about its availability your personal insurance company.

Speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer in Tampa about your rental car accident

If you are injured in a rental car accident, you need sound legal advice from a Florida personal injury attorney. An experienced attorney will conduct a review of the facts and circumstances of the rental car accident. Additionally, your attorney will review your car rental contract and identify any parties against which a claim can be made. Contact us today for your complimentary case evaluation.