What do I do if I was in an accident while driving a rental car in South Carolina?
Renting a car is sometimes necessary, and it can, in many ways, make driving around in South Carolina much more convenient. However, getting into an accident with a rental car can be extremely inconvenient when your legal situation becomes quite complicated.
In some regards, a rental car accident involving two parties is the exact same as any other collision on the road. But rental companies rarely make it easy to determine what coverage you have available, how much coverage is available, and whether you are personally liable for any of the vehicle damages.
Any time you have been involved in a rental car accident, report the accident to the police and wait at the scene for emergency respondents to arrive. Seek prompt medical attention, and get a full diagnosis. Then, before you contact the rental company or any insurers, protect your own legal interests by reaching out to a South Carolina rental car accident attorney. Your attorney will be able to review what forms of insurance are available, and they can help you recover losses caused by any injuries you sustained in the wreck.
Who Is at Fault for My Rental Car Accident?
South Carolina uses an “at-fault” insurance system. This means that in the event of an accident, the person who caused the accident is legally responsible (or “liable”) for the damages they have inflicted.
Because of this arrangement, the person who is legally considered at fault can change depending upon the circumstances of the accident itself. Most often, the level of fault is determined using the legal concept of negligence. In a nutshell, negligence states that someone did not follow their expected “duty of care”, leading to an accident, an injury, and damages.
A “duty of care” can refer to a legal obligation to follow all traffic laws. It can also refer to a general requirement to exercise “ordinary care” as a “reasonable person” would while driving. Examples of a driver breaching their duty of care might include:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Failing to check blind spots before merging or changing lanes
- Following too closely
- Driving while distracted, such as while using a smartphone
- Ignoring stop signs, red lights, and other traffic signals
In some rental car accident cases, the at-fault party is not immediately clear until a thorough investigation has been conducted. Police reports, accident scene evidence, photos, witness statements, and other evidence may be used to paint a complete picture of how the accident happened and who may be at fault, making them responsible for your damages.
How Does Insurance Coverage Work After a Rental Car Accident?
Unfortunately, there is no standard arrangement for obtaining insurance coverage when you rent a vehicle. Some rental companies provide their own insurance options, whereas others may offer third-party coverage as an add-on to the rental agreement. You may also be covered by your own car insurance or any complimentary rental insurance offered by your credit card company.
The following forms of rental car insurance coverage might be available to compensate you for your losses after an accident:
Rental Car Company Coverage
In South Carolina, rental car companies are expected to provide the minimum level of coverage for every vehicle that leaves their lot. That includes $25,000 in coverage for bodily injuries caused by the rental car driver, $50,000 in bodily injury coverage per accident, and $25,000 in property damage coverage per accident.
All of these forms of minimum insurance will only cover someone who is hit by the rental car driver, however. That can benefit you if you are found at fault for the accident, but the liability coverage automatically offered under most rental agreements will not apply to your own injuries and the needed repairs to the rental vehicle.
Supplemental Rental Car Coverage
Rental car companies will always offer additional coverage to protect the rental customer from repair costs in the event the rental vehicle is involved in an accident or sustains some sort of damage. A “comprehensive” policy covers damages caused by most forms of severe weather, fires, theft, vandalism, and other incidents not involving an at-fault driver. “Collision” coverage pays for any repairs not covered by a comprehensive policy or an at-fault driver’s liability policy.
The one drawback to the supplemental insurance offered by rental car companies it is often quite expensive, and it may not provide the full expected amount of coverage in the event of an accident. Read the fine print on your agreement closely, and weigh the need for this coverage compared to any coverage that might be automatically offered by your credit card provider or your own car insurance carrier.
Your Own Car Insurance Policy
Many car insurance policies extend coverage to apply in the event that you are involved in a rental car accident. This “blanket” coverage is especially common for collision and comprehensive policies. It may also apply to uninsured/underinsured motorist policies. In most cases, the coverage is only made available once other forms of coverage have been exhausted, which is why the policy will often state that it provides “excess coverage”.
Review your car insurance policy contract closely with the assistance of an experienced South Carolina car accident lawyer to determine if your insurance provider will provide coverage for repairs to the rental vehicle and other losses.
Your Credit Card Provider
Many credit cards offer a form of rental car insurance coverage that automatically applies when you use the card to pay for the rental. However, you should be cautious before assuming that certain coverage will be available in the event of an accident. Many of these rental car insurance perks only offer coverage as a secondary payer, meaning your own insurance policies have to be exhausted before they apply. The coverage may also leave gaps for most expenses but provide compensation for towing, administrative fees, or deductibles.
Review your credit card rewards/perks agreement to see if this coverage is available and whether it may apply to your own accident losses.
The At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Policies
Without a doubt, the insurance coverage offered by an at-fault driver will be the most valuable in the event you are seriously hurt in a wreck. This coverage will not only pay for the costs of repairs to the rental vehicle, but can also compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages, future expenses, and other losses.
Know that liability insurance providers will use every strategy available to defend against claims and minimize the amount of coverage they end up providing. Working with a car accident lawyer in South Carolina can help you negotiate for a reasonable settlement that covers as many of your personal losses as possible.
Call Auger & Auger After Your South Carolina Rental Car Accident
The attorneys at Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers are prepared to assist you after you have been hurt in a wreck involving a rented vehicle. We know how confusing and scary this situation can be, especially when rental car companies are coming after you for hefty repair bills and other costs. We aren’t afraid to stand up to insurers or rental car providers in our efforts to help you obtain as much compensation as possible for all of your damages.
Getting in a wreck with a rental car can lead to a confusing, anxiety-inducing time in your life. Let us handle reviewing all available forms of insurance while dealing with the rental car company and other critical needs you may have. Most importantly, we never charge you for our services until we are able to recover a settlement or award for your losses. Find out more about your legal options and how we can help you pursue a claim during a free, no-obligation case review.
Call (855) 971-1114 or contact us online to schedule your free, no-risk consultation today.