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Home / Auto Accident / Who Pays for a Rental Car After a Car Accident in California?

Who Pays for a Rental Car After a Car Accident in California?

Who Pays for a Rental Car After a Car Accident in California?

Traffic accidents are an unfortunate reality of living in California, especially in or around Los Angeles. California saw just under 160,000 crashes causing injury or death in 2022, with 39,957 in Los Angeles County alone.

If a car accident in California damaged or totaled your vehicle, leaving you without transportation, you might need a rental car during repairs or while searching for a replacement. But who pays for the cost of your rental?

With the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney who can guide you on filing for rental car reimbursement, you can secure suitable transportation for your needs, like commuting to work, school, and other daily activities following a crash.

When Might You Need a Rental Car After a Car Accident?

Depending on the severity of your car accident, your car may be unsafe to drive or inoperable. For instance, if your vehicle sustained major damage, like a crushed front end or a severely bent frame from a high-impact collision, it would be undriveable and possibly beyond repair.

If you’ve lost the use of your vehicle and need an alternative form of transportation, renting a car after an accident may be the best solution if:

  • You don’t own or have access to a second vehicle
  • Public transportation is unavailable or unsuited to your situation
  • Your professional situation requires you to drive for work, such as commuting requirements or work vehicles
  • You need a vehicle for family activities, such as carpooling for school or caring for elderly and disabled family members

Does Insurance Pay for a Rental Car After an Accident?

After a car accident, a rental car may be covered by either the other driver’s insurance policy or your own. This responsibility typically falls on the party who caused the crash:

The Other Driver is Responsible for the Accident

If another driver is responsible for a car accident, their insurance typically pays for your rental car expenses as part of their mandatory minimum liability coverage. To use this coverage, you must file a claim with the insurance company of the driver who was at fault.

The insurance company will examine the accident details to verify their client’s responsibility and then authorize rental car expenses based on the limits and conditions of their policy. Generally, the rental is provided for when your car is being repaired or, in case of a total loss, until you receive a settlement for your vehicle.

You’re Responsible for the Crash

If you’re at fault in a car accident, your insurance may cover your rental car costs if you have rental reimbursement coverage in your policy. This optional coverage, not typically included in standard policies, helps with rental expenses while your car is under repair or until you receive a settlement for a totaled vehicle.

Coverage limits, including daily costs and total duration, vary based on the terms of your policy. Review your policy with your insurer or an attorney to determine your specific coverage after a collision.

What Happens if Fault for Your Accident is Disputed?

Disputes over fault in a car accident can complicate securing compensation for a rental car, potentially leaving you without transportation for weeks or months. Even if you believe the other driver is at fault, insurance companies might deny your claim, creating a liability dispute. For instance, they may deny the claim if the other driver didn’t own the vehicle they were driving.

Resolving these disputes often takes time, but if you need a rental car immediately, here are some steps to consider:

  • Contact your insurer. Reach out to your own insurance provider for assistance. They may be able to help with immediate needs like a rental car, even if you weren’t at fault, and seek reimbursement from the at-fault party’s insurer once your claim is settled.
  • Pay now, reclaim later. You might have to pay for the rental out-of-pocket if your insurance company doesn’t cover the cost. In this case, keep records of these expenses and include them as part of your compensation claim for reimbursement.
  • Consider alternative options. If possible, consider alternative transportation options. This could include borrowing a family member’s vehicle, taking city buses, or using a ride-share app. You can seek compensation for transportation-related expenses in a loss of use claim with the at-fault party’s insurer.

What Kind of Coverage Can You Expect for a Rental Car After a Crash?

Whether you contact your insurance provider or claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer, most companies offer limited coverage for rental cars. This may include:

  • Type of vehicle. Rental vehicle coverage typically only applies to vehicles similar to your own. For example, if you have a small hatchback, your insurance will cover a vehicle similar in make, size, and model.
  • Coverage duration. Insurance coverage for rental cars has a set duration, often about two weeks, depending on the damages. Once this period ends, if you need the rental longer, you’ll be responsible for the costs.
  • Coverage caps. Insurers often set daily and total limits on rental coverage. If your rental expenses exceed these limits, the extra costs will be your responsibility. Limits vary but can be around $30 per day and $900 per incident.
  • Approval process. Some insurance companies require pre-approval before you can rent a vehicle. To ensure expense coverage, you must contact them immediately after the accident and before renting a car.

How to Get Reimbursed for Out-of-Pocket Rental Expenses

If you’ve paid your rental expenses out-of-pocket while waiting for the resolution of your claim, take steps to ensure you receive full compensation. These include:

  • Keep all receipts. Maintain a detailed record of all rental expenses, including daily rental fees, insurance, and additional charges. Keep these documents in a dedicated folder or make digital copies you can access and share online.
  • Document rental duration. Note the exact dates you rented the car, from when you picked it up to when you returned it. This justifies the length of time you need the vehicle and helps calculate the total reimbursement amount.
  • Submit a detailed claim. File a reimbursement claim with the at-fault party’s insurance provider. Include all receipts, a copy of the rental agreement, and a statement of necessity for the rental.
  • Provide proof of necessity. Include evidence such as a mechanic’s statement showing how long your car was under repair or a note from a dealership if you were waiting for a replacement vehicle.
  • Consult an attorney. Seek legal advice if you need help with the insurance process or if the reimbursement seems inadequate. An attorney can help you present your claim and negotiate with the insurance company for fair compensation.

Get Back on the Road After a Crash in California

Understanding who pays for a rental car after a car accident in California can be complicated, especially when it involves insurance claims and questions of liability. Whether you’re dealing with your own insurance or the at-fault party’s, it’s important to know the type of vehicle coverage, duration limits, and cost caps.

Keeping thorough records and seeking advice from an attorney can help ensure you’re fully compensated if you’ve paid for rental expenses. Being informed about your rights and options is key to a smooth transition back to driving after an accident in California.