Not everyone has the financial resources to purchase a new car, and that is one of the reasons why leasing a vehicle has become so popular in recent years. If you are in a vehicle accident while driving a leased car, there are a number of steps you should take, whether you’ve collided with another car or are involved in a single-car accident. Read on to learn more.
What Should I Do First?
At the accident scene, your first concern should be your own safety and health. If you are not injured, then you should inquire about the health of other persons involved in the accident, including all drivers and passengers.
Following that, contact the police or appropriate law enforcement agency so that they can respond to the accident. If you or others need medical assistance, be sure to request an ambulance or the fire department. Beyond an immediate need for emergency medical assistance, you’ll want law enforcement involved so they can properly document the accident scene, interview any witnesses, and eventually write up a police report. Having an official report available later in the process will assist you with a number of issues, particularly if there is a dispute about who caused the accident.
You should exchange information with the other drivers at the accident scene, including all contact details and insurance information. You will need this information later on as you report the accident to the appropriate entities (more on this below).
If you have the opportunity, it’s also a good idea to take photographs of the accident scene with your cell phone, including the positions of the vehicles and property damage.
Where Do I Report the Accident?
Almost every lease requires you to carry insurance on the leased vehicle. Most lease agreements have provisions requiring you to notify the car dealership or leasing agency where you leased your vehicle, letting them know that you’ve been in an accident.
Additionally, every automobile insurance policy has language that requires you to immediately notify your insurance company following any accident in a leased car. (Learn more: Contact Your Car Insurance Company After an Accident.)
Your insurance company will then set up an appointment with a claims adjuster to inspect the car’s damage. Depending on the company, it may send an adjuster to your location for the estimate, or the insurance company may direct you to a local field office or body shop where the estimate will be completed. Following that, the insurance company will instruct you on the steps to getting the vehicle repaired.
One of the reasons why it is important to notify the leasing company or dealership of the accident is that the leasing company may have very specific requirements for the repairs. For example, some dealerships will not allow you to repair a leased vehicle with after-market parts. Rather, the company may require you to repair the vehicle with original manufacturer parts. If you’re unaware of the requirements, and you fail to comply with them, you could face financial penalties at the end of your lease.
Pursuing a Claim Over the Accident
If you believe the other driver is at fault for the car accident, pursuing a claim for vehicle damage involves the same process as if you owned your car outright, free and clear of any loan or lease. In addition to contacting those persons and entities listed in the section above, you will also contact the other driver’s insurance company and notify that company of the car accident. During the telephone call the company will ask you to provide details of the accident, such as the date, time and location. You’ll also be asked to provide the identifying information for the other drivers who are involved.
At that point, the other driver’s insurance company will either accept the claim or dispute it. If the insurance company accepts the claim, it will direct you to get estimates for the repair of the property damage, and ultimately authorize you to have your car repaired. If the insurance company denies the claim, then different options are available to you. One option is that you can sue the other driver for the property damage claim. However, litigation is an expensive and long process. It can last several months to a couple of years, and you still might not achieve the desired resolution.
Another option is to have your car repaired under the collision coverage of your own insurance policy. Though the requirements vary from one leasing company to the next, almost every lease agreement requires you to carry both collision and liability insurance as part of your lease. Even though you are leasing the car, it is still owned by the leasing company or dealership. The leasing company wants to protect its investment. Because of this, you are usually required to carry collision insurance coverage as part of the lease. The purpose of collision coverage is for precisely this type of situation, i.e., to ensure that you will properly repair the leased vehicle if you are in an accident. Learn more about Car Insurance Coverage and Car Accidents.