The easiest auto accident to understand is when two drivers, each adequately insured and in their own vehicles, crash into each other. Unfortunately, however, a huge variety of car accidents occur every day and not all of them are covered by insurance.
Keep in mind that your coverage may differ based on what state you reside in. Here's how insurance works in three common situations: rental liability; pedestrian and bicycle accidents; and accidents involving domestic animals.
In a Rental or Leased Vehicle
In most states, an individual's own auto insurance policy will provide coverage for any automobile that the person drives, including a rental car. There are some exceptions, such as liability-only policies that do not extend to rental car damage. However, in most circumstances there's probably no need to purchase additional insurance from the automobile rental or leasing company, unless required by the rental company or if you want to increase your coverage, e.g., add collision coverage. Before renting, it's a good idea to call your insurance company to find out whether your current policy provides adequate coverage for any potential rental liability.
When a Pedestrian or Bicyclist Is Hit
In some states, there's a presumption of fault if drivers strike a pedestrian or bicyclist, especially if the collision is concurrent with a statutory violation, e.g., driving over the speed limit. However, the presumption can be tempered or completely overturned by evidence of fault or a statutory violation on the part of the bicyclist or pedestrian. This concept is known as contributory negligence.
For example, a bicyclist may have been riding at night without a headlamp, or a pedestrian may have been jaywalking. In contributory negligence states, the bicyclist and the pedestrian may be held fully or partially responsible for their injuries even though the driver actually hit them. This is because neither of them acted as a reasonably prudent person would in a similar situation, and this behavior helped cause their injuries. In no-fault states, injured pedestrians are often covered by their own automobile policies, even though they were walking at the time, and even if the driver was at fault.
When a Domestic Animal Is Hit
When a domesticated animal is injured and/or damage occurs to the driver's vehicle, there may be a presumption of fault on the part of the animal's owner for allowing the animal to run at large. If the accident was caused by a driver's negligence, the animal owner may file suit against the driver. Most states limit damages to the value of the animal or its medical care, and do not permit non-economic damages, such as emotional distress, associated with the loss of a pet.
While this is a rapidly developing area of law, injury or damage to the driver's vehicle caused by collision with wild animals (for example, a deer) is generally covered without assignment of fault. The driver should render assistance to the animal only if it won't create further danger for the driver or other motorists.
Learn More About Rental Liability and Pedestrian Accidents from a Lawyer
If you've been involved in a car accident, it's a good idea to get in touch with a local personal injury attorney. A lawyer will be able to tell you whether someone was negligent or reckless in causing harm to you, and whether you might be able to collect damages to cover your losses.