Who Pays for My Rental Car After a California Traffic Accident?
Most people will experience a traffic collision at least once in their lives. On average, U.S. adults can expect to be involved in a motor vehicle crash once every 18 years. California crash data demonstrates the prevalence of traffic crashes. According to data from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), nearly 161,000 accidents involving injuries or fatalities occurred in the state in 2022, and more than 40,000 of those happened in Los Angeles County alone.
If you are among the unfortunate people involved in car accidents in California, you might be left without your vehicle while you wait for repairs or replacement. In this situation, you might have to use a rental car during the interim. If you have been left without transportation and need a rental car because of an accident, you might rightly wonder who will be responsible for paying your rental costs. An experienced car accident lawyer can help you understand your options and guide you in obtaining reimbursement for your rental car costs. This can allow you to fulfill your daily obligations while your lawyer handles the other aspects of your claim.What Circumstances Might Require You to Rent a Vehicle After a Car Crash?
Not all accidents will leave vehicle owners without transportation. However, if your car crash was severe and left your vehicle with ma damage, it might be dangerous to drive or inoperable. Your insurance company might even declare it to be totaled and beyond repair.
You might need to rent a vehicle while you are waiting for repairs or searching for a new vehicle to replace the one you lost, especially if any of the following circumstances apply:
- You don't have a second car.
- You don't live with someone willing and able to transport you.
- Public transportation won't work to meet your needs.
- You are required to drive for your job.
- You need a vehicle to meet family obligations.
- It is not financially feasible for you to rely on rideshares or taxis for transportation.
If any of these circumstances apply, and your accident has left you without transportation for a week or longer, you might need to rent a car.Will Insurance Cover Your Rental Car Fees?
Depending on your policy or that of the other driver, insurance might cover your rental car fees. The responsible insurance company will be the one for the at-fault party.
If the other driver caused your crash, their insurance should pay for your rental car fees as a part of the driver's minimum liability accident coverage. You'll need to file an accident claim with the driver's insurance company, which will then investigate the accident to confirm their insured's liability. Once the other driver's responsibility is confirmed, the insurance company will then authorize the payment of rental car fees based on the driver's policy limits, terms, and conditions. In this case, you'll be provided rental car expenses to rent a vehicle while you wait for repairs or until you receive a settlement for the property damage if your car is a total loss.What if You're At Fault for Your Crash?
If you caused your car accident and need a rental vehicle, whether your insurance will pay the rental fees depends on your policy. Rental reimbursement coverage is an option, but standard auto insurance policies don't typically include it. If you have this coverage, it will help you pay your rental fees while your car is being repaired or until your insurer pays you a settlement if your vehicle is totaled. If you have comprehensive and collision coverage, your insurance company might cover the cost of replacing your vehicle minus a deductible. However, you will need to review your policy to determine the coverage you have.
If you don't have rental reimbursement coverage and caused your accident, your insurance company will not pay your rental car expenses. In that case, you will have to pay the fees out-of-pocket.Who Is Responsible for Paying Rental Car Fees When Liability is Under Dispute?
In some cases, it won't be immediately clear who caused an accident. In others, an insurance company will dispute the liability of its insured and drag out a claim for months even when you believe their fault is apparent. When an insurance company disputes liability, it can take several months to resolve. When you need to rent a vehicle immediately, there are a few things you can do.
- Talk to Your Insurance Company If you believe the other driver was at fault, but their insurance company denied your claim and is disputing liability, your first step to obtaining rental car coverage is to talk to your insurance company. Your company might agree to provide you with a rental vehicle and go after the other driver's insurance company for reimbursement when your claim is settled. Your company might want to review the accident details to make an initial determination of liability, and if it agrees the other driver was clearly at fault, it is more likely to agree to provide you with a rental vehicle while you wait for your claim to resolve.
- Pay Out-of-Pocket If your insurance company refuses to cover the cost, you might have to pay for your rental vehicle up-front while your disputed claim is pending. Make sure to keep copies of all of the rental vehicle expenses, and give them to your lawyer to include in your damages claim.
- Turn to Family or Alternatives If you aren't in a position to pay for a rental car out-of-pocket, ask your family for help. You might be able to borrow a car while you wait for your claim to finish. If you don't have someone who can help, consider using public transportation or using rideshare apps. Keep track of all of these types of expenses to include in your claim against the at-fault driver for reimbursement.
Most insurance companies place restrictions on the coverage they provide for rental cars after traffic collisions. Some typical restrictions include the following:
- Restricting your rental to a similar car to what you own
- Limited duration of coverage, which is typically about two weeks
- Daily and total caps on rental coverage
- Pre-approval requirements before you rent a vehicle
If you are using your own policy, you can review it carefully to understand the restrictions you might have for rental car expenses. If you will instead be relying on the other driver's policy, the rental car company should be able to review it and explain what restrictions you might have when renting a car.
If the coverage has a set duration of two weeks, but you need the rental car for longer, you will be responsible for paying the costs once the two weeks are over. Similarly, if your rental expenses are more than the daily or total caps on coverage, you'll have to pay the additional costs.How Do You Get Reimbursed for Rental Expenses You Paid Out-of-Pocket?
To get reimbursed for out-of-pocket rental car expenses, you'll need to keep records of everything. Make sure you keep receipts of every expense you paid, including the rental insurance costs, daily fees, and other charges. Scan these into your computer or smartphone as you receive them, and save them in a dedicated folder. Keep hard copies in a separate folder at home that you can give your attorney.
Keep copies of documents showing the date you rented the vehicle, when you picked it up, and when it was returned. This documentation shows how long you needed to use the rental car and the total reimbursement you should receive.
Gather proof that renting a car was necessary. Ask your mechanic for a statement showing the length of time it took to repair your car. If you had to wait to replace your vehicle, ask the car dealership for a note about how long the replacement process took.
Bring your documents and receipts to your lawyer's office. If you were injured in the crash, you will likely want to seek legal representation for help with your injury claim. Your attorney can also help you with your property damage claim, including your rental car reimbursement. They can file a detailed claim for reimbursement with the other driver's insurance company with copies of the receipts and other documents you have gathered.Get Help With Your Car Accident Claim
Dealing with rental car issues after an accident might be only one of the multiple things you must contend with. If you were injured, you might also be facing a lengthy recovery process and time lost from work. Whether you need help navigating the insurance claims process, or the insurance company has denied your claim, an attorney at the law firm of Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC can review your case and explain your legal rights.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation by calling 866-966-5240.