Call the Police When You Are Involved in a Hit-and-Run Accident — No Matter How Minor
I learned a valuable lesson this morning which hopefully will help you if you ever get involved in an incident where the vehicle you are driving — whether you own or rent it — is hit by another vehicle but the driver of the other vehicle leaves the scene.
My car was hit from behind this morning by a sport utility vehicle while crossing a busy intersection, which caused the rear bumper to be out of alignment. The driver sped away from the scene instead of pulling over to exchange driver’s license and insurance information — but not before the license plate number was written down. No one was injured, fortunately — which is most important, as the incident was minor…
…so minor that the police were not called immediately, as I do not like to bother law enforcement officers. Only when I returned from being out did I decide to call the police — using a telephone number and not 911 — who advised me to visit a local precinct, which I did. The police officer who recorded the report and assigned it a case number advised me that no matter how minor the incident, call the police at the scene of the accident as soon as possible — especially in an incident where the other party leaves the scene of an accident, which is illegal in most jurisdictions.
Of course, this is from a point of view in the United States. Local laws in other countries may vary.
If the incident occurred while driving a rental car, you should contact the rental car company to report it in addition to calling the police — but when renting a car, should you purchase insurance?
The answer is typically no if you already have automobile insurance for your personal vehicle or if you have a major credit card which provides collision coverage whenever you rent a car; but the insurance provided by credit cards is usually secondary to insurance for your personal vehicle, which becomes your primary insurance. In either case, carefully check the terms and conditions of the insurance policies of both your personal vehicle and the credit card with which you plan on paying for the rental of a car to ensure that you have the coverage you need — especially if you plan on renting a vehicle outside of the country from where you are based.
The purchase of vehicle insurance for rental vehicles is mandatory in some countries regardless of whatever insurance you may have, as was the case when I rented cars in Australia and New Zealand, for example.
Members of automobile clubs such as the American Automobile Association offer limited services such as charging the battery of the vehicle you are driving or towing it to a nearby service facility if it is disabled. If you are a member of such a club, you typically would not need to purchase roadside assistance coverage at a rental car facility. Your credit card used to pay for a rental vehicle may also include roadside assistance. Again, carefully check the terms and conditions to see if you are covered.
The vehicle which hit my car this morning was a sport utility vehicle manufactured by a luxury brand. If you decide to rent a luxury vehicle, a sport utility vehicle, a sports car or an exotic vehicle of some type, chances are that you may not be fully covered — or covered at all. Consider purchasing additional insurance to ensure that you are covered in case of an accident…
…as I was reminded this morning, you never know when an incident with the vehicle you are driving will happen — again, whether it is a vehicle you own or rent. Ensure that you are covered; that you call the police as soon as possible; and contact either your automobile insurance provider if the incident happened in a car which you own or the rental car company from which you rented your vehicle.
Have you ever been involved in an accident in a rental vehicle? Please share your experience here — as well as any additional advice you can offer to fellow travelers. Thank you — and drive safely.