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What If I ... Get In An Accident in A Rental Car?

By Molly JensenJune 6, 2018

(Photo credit: Axel Antas-Bergkvist via Unsplash.)  

When you rent a car, you need to know the rules of the road at your destination. There are the obvious ones, like driving on the left side in England, Ireland, India, and Australia. Then there are the less-obvious ones. Did you know that in Alabama it’s illegal to drive while blindfolded, or that you’re not allowed to drive through playgrounds in Georgia?

However, some rules are a little more complicated, like listing every driver of the rental car with the car-rental company, or for that matter, the whole issue of rental-car insurance.

Before getting into the long and winding line to rent a car, you really need to find out how much coverage you have with your regular car insurance. If you have collision and comprehensive coverage, it’s quite possible that it will also cover damages to a rental car. Also, your credit card might have rental-car coverage.

Call your insurance company or agent if you have questions about your auto policy, and go online or look at the information that came with your card to find out what types of vehicles are covered, if any countries aren’t covered, and if the coverage is primary or secondary. If your rental car qualifies for coverage under your card, charge the rental fee (all of it – otherwise it’s not covered) to your card.

(Photo credit: Evan Kirby via Unsplash.)

If you pursue either of these tactics and still don’t feel adequately covered in case of an accident, or if you have no auto insurance, it’s smart to invest in rental-car insurance. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you have a magical bubble around you to protect you from accidents. And you want to be sure you’re covered before you’re in an accident; after an accident is (obviously) too late.

Where do you get more insurance for your rental car? The obvious answer is from the rental-car company, and that means saying yes to the persistent counter person. Depending on the type of rental-car insurance you buy from the company, you could be exempt from paying deductibles, and you might even be able to keep your regular car insurance from being involved and your premium raised. So while the knee-jerk option is to say, “Nah; I’m good,” and decline the rental-car company’s insurance, especially if you’re driving abroad it can be a prudent investment.

Another option to consider is travel insurance. If you choose an ExactCare® plan from BHTP, you can add rental-car collision coverage for around $9 a day (subject to state availability). 

When you’re covered and have your keys, and you've made sure your rental car can handle the weather (more tips on that here), take a few pictures of your rental car to establish its condition when you took possession, and then hit the road.

(Photo credit: Autri Taheri via Unsplash.)

Your First Steps

Hopefully you won’t have to use any of the insurance you’ve stockpiled. But if you have an accident in your rental car, here are the first steps you should take – which incidentally are the same steps you’d take in any sort of car accident:

  • If anyone is injured, call 911 immediately.

  • Call the police and file a report no matter what type of accident it is, because insurance providers are going to want a copy of that report. Keep a copy of the report for yourself. If that's not possible, take a picture of it with your mobile phone.

  • Exchange insurance information with anyone else in the accident. Take a picture of that, too, because things get lost when you're traveling.

  • Take lots of pictures – on a mobile device and a camera, if you have both – and make notes about the accident. Take pictures of the damaged and undamaged parts of the car, close up and farther away, including context and damage to the other vehicle, if there was another vehicle and it was damaged. It’s not at all unheard of for a car to be damaged significantly as it’s being towed, and if you haven’t documented what the car looked like before it was towed, you could be on the hook for that damage.

  • If the car has to be towed, write down contact information of the towing company as well as the body shop’s address. The last thing you need is for the car to be driven away without you knowing where on Earth it was taken. (Obviously, this is way more important if you’re overseas.) And, yes, take a picture of that, as well as the tow truck’s license plate.

  • If the car’s being towed, make sure you take all your belongings out of the car. Check and double-check.

  • If there are injuries, you might need a lawyer, sooner rather than later. BHTP can provide international legal-referral services.

(Photo credit: Casey Horner via Unsplash.)

Your Next Steps

If you have a rental-car accident, even if you’re not at fault, the steps you take are a little different. Basically it’s a laundry list of people to call:

  • Call the car-rental company. Most often, their phone number is in the glove compartment or on the contract (which should always be kept in a safe place that’s easy to remember – and hey, you could take a picture of that, too). They’ll know the steps in rental-car reimbursement: getting the car repaired, getting you a new rental car, and dealing with their insurance, if you bought it.

  • Next, call your regular car-insurance company. Tell them about any other insurance that covers the rental car. They’ll need to know that because who pays how much in what order depends on who’s the primary carrier, who’s secondary, and so on.

  • Your third call will be to your credit-card company, if you have coverage through them. You might have only a small number of days to make a claim with them, so make sure you call and get in their system.

  • Did you get travel insurance with rental-car coverage? Give them a call, too. Or with BHTP, you could go online or use our app to start the claims process.

Experience teaches us that the key to successfully navigating rental-car-accident claims with multiple insurance companies, multiple jurisdictions, and quite possibly multiple languages is to document, document, document. Insist on getting everything in writing, keep copies of everything, and take pictures of the copies. It's not always because someone is trying to take advantage of you and your situation; quite often it's because one entity doesn't know what other entities are doing.

When you get through all of the calls, take a deep breath. This is why you had all this insurance in the first place.


Please visit our Disclaimer page for underwriter info. Policies have exclusions and limitations. For complete details of coverage, contact BHTP by callin 844-411-2487, or emailing us at  assist@bhtp.com. 

Molly Jensen
Molly Jensen

Molly Jensen is a graphic designer, a writer, a night owl, a reader, and a daydreamer. Mostly she suffers from wanderlust. A travel goal of hers is to eat ice cream in every U.S. state.



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