Car accidents happen when we least expect them. Whether it's a minor fender bender or a major collision, it pays to have a plan of action prepared in case you are ever involved in an accident while driving your rental vehicle. How you react could prevent future injuries, reduce repair damages, and accelerate the clean up and repair process.
Immediately After Impact
The moments directly following the impact are critically important. Take a deep breath, and check for any injuries to occupants of your independent car rental. Chances are you will be a little shaken and upset. This is normal. If you suspect that someone has suffered physical injury, call an ambulance immediately. If you're unharmed and able to, turn on your hazard lights.
The next step is to check and make sure the other person involved in the accident is all right, but only if it's safe to do so. If you can get out and communicate with the other driver, see if he or she is ok. If you're unable to elicit a response, call an ambulance.
Moving Your Vehicle
If possible, move your vehicle off the road. If the accident was minor, try to move your car rental into a nearby parking lot or driveway. This will help free up the roadway. Communicate with the other driver where you plan to move your car rental, and ask him or her to follow you.
Once safely off the road, make note of your location, including the nearest intersection, the time of the incident, and the direction you were traveling. You will need this information for your police report.
The process of collecting information from the other driver is extremely important. While you want to make note of the necessary information, you also need to be careful not to discuss any details of the accident with the other driver. Avoid discussing what happened or who may be responsible for the accident. This will help avoid any disputes later on.
The information that you will want to collect will include:
• The name and phone number of the other driver
• The name of the driver's insurance company, the policy number and phone number
• License plate
• Vehicle make, model and year
If you haven't yet, now is the time to call the local police service. Furthermore, take some notes concerning the accident. This should include specific damages to the vehicles. If you have a smartphone on you, snap a few pictures. It's also important that you ask any witnesses for their contact information. You should also ask them to remain on the scene until the authorities arrive.
Filing an Accident Report
In some locations, police will not respond to an accident unless there are injuries reported. Even so, you will need to file an accident report. This can be done at the local police station. A police report will help speed up your insurance claim.
The next step involves contacting your car rental company and your insurance provider. It's important that you do this as soon as possible. Most policies will have a set reporting time period; failure to comply with this could invalidate your coverage. Hopefully, you will have reviewed your policy prior to hitting the road in your independent rental car. Knowing what your policy will and will not cover is important.
Remember that your car rental company will want to be informed of all of your accident and insurance filings. Don't try and cheat the system or cut corners – this will only cause additional problems later on.
Auto accidents can be physically, emotionally and sometimes financially draining. Following the above steps will help you stay levelheaded and deal with the situation in the best way possible.