If you’ve been involved in a car accident that has left your car totaled or in the shop for repairs, one issue will be obtaining a rental car and who pays for it.
You’ll still need a way to get around, and the cost of a rental car can be expensive if you need it for a week or longer.
Provided the other driver was at-fault, their insurance company is responsible for paying your rental car bill until either your car is fully repaired or until they’ve paid you the current market value of your totaled car. They also must pay for a rental car that’s similar to the vehicle you were driving, so if you had an SUV, they can’t only pay for you to rent a compact car.
Unfortunately, the process of being reimbursed for a rental car doesn’t always go as smoothly as it should. The ideal situation for you is that the liable party’s insurance company takes responsibility for the accident right away, which means they’ll also immediately pay for your rental car. However, this is rarely the case. Unless the other drive hit you from behind, there will likely be a dispute regarding who was at-fault or how much each individual driver was at-fault for the accident.
Q: Insurance company giving you the run-around?
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A: When the other insurance company either claims their driver wasn’t responsible or doesn’t make an immediate decision, then they won’t pay for your rental car until the claims process is complete and they’re found at-fault. If your own car insurance includes rental coverage, then this won’t be as much of a problem, because you’ll be able to use that to obtain a rental car. Your insurance company will then go after the other driver’s insurance company for reimbursement of the money they paid for your rental car. Keep in mind that if your rental car coverage is only for a certain period of time, you’ll need to pay out of pocket should you end up keeping the rental car past that time period.
If your car insurance doesn’t include rental coverage and the other insurance company is denying responsibility or not making an immediate decision, then you’re in a difficult situation. You can choose to pay for a rental car out of pocket, provided that you have the money available or can put it on your credit card. You are taking a risk when you do this, because if the other driver isn’t found at-fault, then you won’t be reimbursed for your rental car.
If the other driver is found at-fault, their insurance company will need to pay you, but the claims process can take time. For claims where both sides are adamant the other party was at fault, you could be waiting months for a resolution.
Q: Is there a way to be able to speed up the process and put more pressure on the other driver’s insurance company?
A: When you don’t have a lawyer, you aren’t able to do much to pressure the other driver’s insurance company, so they may take their time even if it looks like their driver was at-fault. With a lawyer and the threat of a possible lawsuit, insurance companies tend to work much more quickly.
When the other party’s insurance does pay for your rental car, you can typically keep it until the claim is resolved, either by your car being repaired or the insurance company cutting you your check for the value of your car. However, laws do vary for this depending on your area, and each insurance company will have its own policies.
For your own protection, you should document any communications between you and the insurance company. Whenever possible, get what the insurance adjuster tells you in writing so you have evidence, should you need it.
The best way to protect yourself in these situations is to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible after your accident to start putting pressure on the other insurance company. It’s also smart to add rental reimbursement coverage to your car insurance policy. This coverage typically doesn’t raise the cost of your policy much, often only increasing it by a couple of dollars per month, and it helps protect you in situations like this. You’ll be able to rent a car without spending your own money, regardless of whether or not the other party’s insurance company accepts liability right away or drags out the process.