More than a quarter of all new-car sales in 2014 were leased. This means that the rate of leasing in the United State has become higher than any other time before. This makes sense, as there are many reasons for leasing a car. Leasing allows you the freedom to have a new car every couple of years without committing to a large down payment and high price tag.
There is one aspect to leasing a vehicle that is a bit more tricky, and that is when you are involved in an accident. Since you technically do not own the car, you will be liable for damages if you are found at fault.
So what should you do in the event you get into an accident in your leased car? Here are a few tips to make this unfortunate situation go a lot smoother.
Check for Injuries
Immediately after getting into any car accident, the first step is to check for injuries. This means you need to examine yourself and your passengers, but also anyone else who has been involved in the accident.
Although not all car accidents cause injuries you still need to be aware if they do. Also, be aware that some injuries may not be apparent right away. This means you need to be diligent and in tune with your body in the days to come.
Move your Vehicle to a Safe Location
You might be shaken up, but try to calm down. Check to see if your leased vehicle is in the way of traffic. If it is, take it off of the road, or try to move it to the shoulder.
Call 911 or the Police
Depending on the severity of the accident, you might want to call 911. If no one is injured, it can still be a good idea to have an emergency responder there. This way if something does occur, there will be someone to administer first aid. If there is a severe injury then you will need to get medical care to the scene as soon as possible.
If you or someone else calls 911 then you will need to wait for the police to arrive. Do not leave the scene without speaking to the police. If you do, you leave yourself at risk to be arrested. Be respectful and take note of the police report number.
Do Not Admit Responsibility
When speaking with the police, or anyone for that matter, do not admit fault. It does not matter if the accident was your fault, do not admit anything. There might be individuals at the scene attempting you to admit that the accident was your fault, but do not give it. Calmly speak to them and tell them you will discuss it with them at a different time.
Although a car accident in a leased car is an upsetting situation, you need to stay calm. You should also stay silent and avoid giving too much information. Remember you are involved in an accident with strangers, and if you get angry it may seem threatening.
It is also important to remember that the person who you were in the accident with may try to blame it on you. Whether or not it was your fault, you should not give any indication that you will admit fault. Protect your right. Stay silent and calm.
After stepping out of your vehicle, moving it out of the way, and calling some type of first responder, you should assess the situation and take note.
Look to see if anyone is injured
Note who is involved in the accident, who the driver is
The number of vehicles involved
Damage made to either party
Names of all parties involved
License plate number(s)
Make and model of other vehicles
Speak to witnesses (and record them with their permission)
Weather conditions and visibility
Location of the accident
You can also take photos. This will help you to prove the extent of the damage to the car company. Then, decide if you will need the car towed.
If you can drive your leased vehicle then you may not need a tow, but if you cannot drive it then consider having it towed directly to a garage or dealership. This will save you an extra trip, and a hassle of bringing it to the garage at a later date. Be aware that there may be specific garages or locations that your leasing dealership requires you to go to.
Every lease agreement typically requires you to carry insurance on that vehicle. You also might have a clause that requires you to let the dealership know about your accident.
You will also want to let your own insurance company know what happened as well. This means you need to do two things.
File for an insurance claim
Make sure you contact your insurance company as soon as possible. This is important because you do not want them to find out through the other party. Your insurance company should help you in getting a replacement car if needed.
Clarify what your insurance covers
Although your car insurance most likely covers some form of medical expenses, there are different levels of coverage. Most often with a leased vehicle, you will be required to carry some form of “full coverage”. Clarify what you have in your package.
If you skip this step of notifying the dealership, or your insurance company, you will run into problems. Most leasing companies have specific requirements for repairs. If you have the car repaired and it is not done according to their requirements you will most likely need to pay for these repairs when your lease ends.
After understanding what is allowed in your lease as far as repairs, and what your insurance will cover, you can focus on getting your car repaired. If you were able to find out where to tow your car initially then this process may already be started. If there is external damage to your vehicle then it will be an easier start, but sometimes the damage is internal.
If you do not see any superficial damage to your vehicle, then you may decide not to bring your vehicle to a repair shop. After a few days or weeks, you might then notice things going wrong. At this time you will need to bring it into a designated shop, or the dealership, and go through the insurance/repair process.
One important thing to note is that if you wait to bring your car to a shop, then it may not be covered under accident insurance claim. The best way to avoid this is to bring it to a shop, or the dealership, immediately.
Pursuing a claim can be a tricky process, but it might be worth it. This process is exactly the same as if you owned your car. You will need to gather information, speak to everyone involved, and provide all of the details you recorded previously.
After giving your side of the story and all the proof or information you collected you will have to wait. You will wait to see if your claim is accepted and see if you are deemed at fault for the accident.
Your options if the opposing insurance company denies your claim:
Sue the other driver for property damage: The downside to this is that it can take a long time, even up to two years! Eventually, you may jump through a lot of hoops and end up without a resolution. Until this goes through you will need to pay out of pocket, and later be reimbursed.
Have your car repaired under your insurance: Since you may already be carrying collision insurance as part of your lease, this might be your best option.
Especially if you believe that the accident was not your fault, then you should contact an accident attorney. Lawyers can give you guidance on the course of action you need to take. Your lawyer can help you know how to interact with an insurance company, but also what actions to take with the opposing insurer. Experienced attorneys will make sure that you are compensated for repairs, medical expenses, as well as pain and suffering.
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