My rental car was hit. Now what?
September 29, 2016 2:29 AM   Subscribe

I bought 3rd party insurance when I pricelined my rental car. . This morning I came out of the apartment where I stayed (central St Louis) to find someone had hit the bumper. I was hurrying to get to my mother's bedside (she is dying) and did not file a police report. WHAT DO I DO NOW?

Once I got to Mom and calmed down a little, I pulled up the policy. It says that I must report to law enforcement for the insurance to be valid. Do I need to leave mom and drive 150 miles back to St Louis, park the car where it was, and call the police? Also when I picked the car up they said "This is third-party insurance, if anything happens you have to pay us immediately and then deal with the insurance company." I don't have the money to pay for damage (probably at least $500) right now, and I don't own a car in another state, so I have no additional insurance.

Please tell me what to do, I am sort of freaking out. I have to return the car on Sunday. Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (8 answers total)
Did you rent the car with a credit card? Many US cards give some insurance.

Speaking of credit cards, this is the sort of thing credit is good for- you can use credit to pay the rental company, and then pay back the credit when the insurance gets back to you.

I would take photos and phone the police in St Louis; I don't think there is anything to be gained by driving back.

Lastly, go spend time with your mom. It's why you're there after all. (And take care of yourself too, this must be a challenging time for you).
posted by nat at 3:14 AM on September 29, 2016

Other people will have more info, but just to help you calm down, you can probably just make a police report over the phone. In most cities, they won't come out at all for something minor like this. They're too busy with other stuff.

Now, take a deep breath. This will work out. Other MeFites will have more information about the rest of it, and it won't be as big a deal as you're imagining. I mean, you can't give them money if you don't have it, so what are they going to do, refuse to let you return the car? Anyway, they can't ask you for a dollar amount until they get an estimate. However, if this isn't one of the major rental companies and you're afraid they might do something shady (like charge you without getting an estimate from a body shop), and you paid with a debit card, you might want to transfer funds so that there's not money in the account for them to take.

I'm very sorry you're having to deal with this now. Sending you a virtual hug.
posted by MexicanYenta at 3:15 AM on September 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

The rental company will charge you some amount up to the maximum amount documented in the hire agreement. In my experience the claim may take several weeks before they try to charge you. The charge will be taken from whatever credit card you supplied (I assume they asked you for one when you hired the car).

Get the police report in order right now (over the phone should be fine) and make sure you're giving them full and correct information about the incident; don't be tempted to change/omit anything to cover up the fact that you didn't report it when it happened.

To make this go smoothly, you need to notify your third-party insurer as soon as you get any paperwork. For the most part this is just a case of calling them to let them you need to make a claim, and passing on any paperwork you receive from the hire company or the hire company's insurer. Your insurer will then (at some point) reimburse you for whatever charges apply.

For some sense of perspective, this whole process took me less than an hour, including all calls, emails and form-filling.

So the process is:
1. Call the police on a non-emergency number and report the incident; I'm sure they won't care that you've since driven the car away - you needed to.
2. Put the whole thing out of your mind, and look after yourself and your mom.
3. When you get paperwork, get in touch with your insurer straight away and find out what they need from you. Make sure they explain anything else they might need you to do (and then do those things). Then forget about it again.
posted by pipeski at 3:36 AM on September 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

I was in the same position a year ago and, like you, don't have a car so this was all new territory for me. I'm sorry you're having to deal with this, right now of all times.

The non-emergency number for the police in St. Louis is 231-1212.

For context: I was able to file a police report from Canada for something that happened in the U.S. So you'll be fine. It may take a while for the insurance to work itself out. In the meantime, as mentioned, the rental car company may put a few hundred dollars on your credit card for the damage until they get a repair estimate. (I went online and identified this as disputed with my credit card so I didn't have to pay it while it worked itself out.)

My credit card company was good to deal with and in the end the rental car company didn't even make a claim. The rental company likes to say things like that because they badly want to sell you their insurance. So you can safely ignore their hand-waving and dire declarations.

I think this is one of those things that for people like you and me is a big deal because it never happens (to us)! But everyone you'll be talking to — police, rental car company, credit card — sees this every day. It was really frustrating for me and I can imagine it's the last thing you need right now. But it's totally manageable. You got this.
posted by veggieboy at 4:30 AM on September 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just to reassure you, the one time somebody hit my car while it was parked, I never did get a police report filed because the cops gave me the runaround and the insurance company still paid. I just called the insurance company and they took care of it.
posted by interplanetjanet at 5:24 AM on September 29, 2016

The St. Louis PD almost certainly has an online form on their website you can fill out. I've been rear-ended twice (no major damage and no injuries) and the car's been broken into a couple times on our street and in none of those occasions did the cops send anybody out - they just asked me to file the report online.

I'm sorry about your mom.
posted by rtha at 7:04 AM on September 29, 2016

I don't have any more valuable information, I just wanted you to know I'm thinking of/praying for you during this time.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 7:12 AM on September 29, 2016

I filed a police report for damage on my parked car a few days after the incident, and I drove the car in the meantime. The police aren't going to want to come look at your bumper and where the car was parked, they know it's just a requirement to file it for insurance. There's probably a way to file it online.
posted by yohko at 1:18 PM on September 30, 2016

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