Between gas, insurance, and maintenance costs, even modest cars can get expensive in a hurry. For people who are watching their budgets, leasing can be an affordable alternative to buying a vehicle. Advantages of leasing a car include a lower down payment, lower monthly payments, and lower costs for repair and maintenance. There are many major differences between buying and leasing a car – including what to do after you get into an accident.
What Are Your Responsibilities After a Car Crash with Injuries?
First, let’s quickly go over what stays the same when an accident involves a leased vehicle.
After any automotive accident where someone is injured, the first step should always be to call the police immediately. Pennsylvania and New Jersey both have laws which make it mandatory to get medical help if someone has been seriously hurt. If you leave an injured person by the side of the road without calling an ambulance, you can be criminally charged with leaving the scene of an accident, better known as hit and run.
You should also take as many pictures of the accident as possible. While police accident reports are usually reliable, it’s not impossible for the officer to mishear what you say, mix up details, or forget to write something down. Photographic and/or video evidence showing the aftermath of the crash or collision can go a long way toward getting adequate compensation for injuries and property damage.
Finally, you should move your vehicle from the path of oncoming vehicles, provided it is safe to do so. Avoid obstructing traffic if you can help it, but do not endanger yourself or other people just to avoid a traffic jam. Remember, get as many pictures as possible before you move your car.
What to Do if You Get into an Accident with a Leased Vehicle
If you crash a leased vehicle, you should inform your insurance company promptly. (If you’re currently uninsured, see our article about getting into a car accident with no auto insurance.)
The claims representative you speak to will probably try to get you to make a recorded statement, but you don’t have to grant your consent before speaking with an attorney. In the chaotic hours and days following an accident, it’s usually still too early to tell exactly why the accident happened, or how severe the resulting injuries are. Remember, the insurance company is looking for ways to keep their costs down at your expense. Know your rights as an accident victim, and know what types of statements to avoid: get legal advice from a personal injury attorney before you speak with your insurer.
Once you’ve spoken to a lawyer and your insurance company – ideally in that order – it’s time to break out your reading glasses and your lease agreement. It may not make for the most enthralling read, but it will spell out your rights and responsibilities to the business which provided the lease.
In many cases, leasing companies require documentation of vehicle damage. This means you must take your damaged vehicle to a service center designated by the leasing company so that it can be inspected. The inspector will give you an estimate on how expensive the necessary repairs will be, which will then be reviewed by the leasing company. The amount your insurance will pitch in toward repair costs is determined by subtracting your deductible from the total repair estimate.
New Jersey and Pennsylvania both require drivers to have car insurance, though each state’s minimum coverage amounts are different. Unfortunately, some car leases require the lessee to have coverage that exceeds the minimums required by state law. For instance, a lease might require comprehensive and collision coverage, which is designed to pay for costs resulting from theft or vehicle damage caused by fire, vandalism, and collisions with animals and inanimate objects.
If the leased car was heavily damaged, the insurance company might declare the vehicle a “total loss” (i.e. “totaled”). This means the insurer has determined that the costs of repairing the vehicle are too high in proportion to the value of the vehicle, rendering repairs financially pointless. If this happens, your insurance company will pay the lease company – not you personally – for the vehicle’s actual cash value. However, if the insurance payout is lower than the lease balance, you might be responsible for paying the difference unless you have purchased gap insurance. (That being said, the leasing company might force you to purchase mandatory gap coverage as part of your car lease agreement.)
If you were injured in an accident with a leased vehicle in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, you could be entitled to compensation to help with your medical bills, lost wages, and other financial losses. To start talking about your legal options in a free, private, no-obligation consultation, call Philadelphia car accident lawyer Brent Wieand at (800) 481-5206 today. Brent handles automotive accidents throughout both states.
***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes. It is not legal advice and should not be used as legal advice.***