Understanding Rental Car Accident Liability and Coverage
Pursuing a car accident claim can be difficult even if liability is clear-cut and your insurance coverage is spectacular. However, dealing with a rental car accident claim—where liability and coverage often aren’t so clear—can be a nightmare. That being said, if you’re injured in a rental car accident and it wasn’t your fault, you still need to proceed as you would with any other accident, at least at the beginning.
Once the formalities have been addressed (police are called, information is exchanged, injuries are treated, etc.), you can then proceed in determining liability, what your rental insurance covers, and how to file a claim for sustained injuries.
Texas is a “fault” state, meaning that liability is based on who is responsible for causing the accident. However, depending on insurance coverage, even if you were the victim you may still wind up having to pay for damages.
- Vehicle damage with at-fault party insurance. If the accident resulted in vehicle damage only, the at-fault driver’s insurance should cover the repair costs of the rental car.
- Vehicle damage without at-fault party insurance. If the driver at fault doesn’t have insurance or has inadequate insurance that will not cover the rental damage costs, then you will be responsible for the repair costs.
- Medical damage with at-fault party insurance. If the accident resulted in significant injuries, the at-fault driver’s insurance should cover all medical costs. In the words of the Texas Department of Insurance, “the system is one that requires drivers to pay for the accidents they cause.” Furthermore, you may still be able to file a first party claim with your own insurance to cover additional costs such as lost work.
- Medical damage without at-fault party insurance. If the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance or has inadequate insurance, he may not be able to cover your medical costs. In these situations, you may file a claim under your own policy’s uninsured or underinsured motorist protection. Of course, this will also depend on the limits of your policy.
It’s important to note that the rental company usually cannot be held liable for your injury-related expenses, unless the accident was caused by a malfunction or maintenance problem on the rental. However, the rental company may be liable if you purchase robust insurance coverage prior to the accident.
Rental Coverage You May Not Want to Turn Down
When you rent a car, you are given the option to purchase coverage provided by the rental company’s insurance carrier.
Personal injury insurance (PII). PII ensures that the cost of any injury-related expenses will be covered by the rental company’s insurance plan, no matter the coverage situation of the at-fault driver.
Liability insurance. Liability insurance ensures that the cost of all damages (property and medical) are covered by the rental company’s insurance.
Before dismissing these offers, it would be wise to check your own auto insurance and personal injury policies (PIP) to verify that your insurance will cover any potential expenses sustained as a result of a rental car accident. Reading the fine print on your policy will ensure you thoroughly understand the details of your plan.
Help to Pursue Your Claim
Although minor injuries generally aren’t worth the time and effort of filing a claim, if you are facing significant medical costs and debt it would be a good idea to find out if your claim is legitimate. An experienced car accident attorney can help you determine if you’re eligible for compensation, help you decipher the details of your policy, and explain how state laws may impact your claim.
Remember, a claim involving a rental car can become complicated and cause you to lose the financial, physical, and emotional compensation you need. Don’t delay in finding out how you can protect your rights. Contact us today at 713-921-4171 to schedule your free consultation.