What Happens When I Wreck a Leased Vehicle?
Leasing a vehicle offers many advantages to owning one or financing a car through a loan, but you also have to deal with extra headaches when accidents occur. The team at the Loewy Law Firm has helped many Texas residents navigate the legal process after accidents involving leased vehicles, and we’re here to protect your rights. Below you’ll find more details on what happens if you get into an accident while driving a leased car.
How Is Leasing a Car Different From Buying One?
When you lease a car, you’re essentially renting it for a predetermined period. Unlike buying a vehicle, where you own it outright or make payments until you do, a leased car remains the property of the leasing company. This difference has implications regarding insurance coverage, repairs, and responsibility in the event of an accident. These differences include:
- Insurance Coverage: When you lease a car, the leasing company typically requires you to carry higher levels of insurance coverage than you might need when buying a vehicle. This is because the leasing company wants to ensure you protect their investment. You might need to buy comprehensive and collision coverage, as well as an insurance policy with higher liability limits. Additionally, some leasing companies may mandate that you include gap insurance, which covers the difference between the car’s actual cash value and the remaining balance on your lease in case an insurance company declares the vehicle a total loss.
- Handling Repairs: In the event of an accident, you generally have to take a leased vehicle to a certified dealership or repair facility authorized by the leasing company. This requirement ensures that the repair shop uses original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts that meet the leasing company’s standards. When you own a car, you have more flexibility in choosing where to have the vehicle repaired and what parts to use, which may impact the overall cost of repairs.
- Vehicle Replacement: If an insurance company declares your leased vehicle a total loss after an accident, you’ll need to work with the leasing company to determine the next steps. The insurance payout will typically go directly to the leasing company to cover the remaining balance on your lease. Depending on your lease agreement and insurance coverage, you may still owe additional fees, such as early termination charges or penalties for excess mileage and wear-and-tear. In contrast, when you own a car that’s totaled, the insurance payout goes to you or your lender (if you have a loan), and you can use the funds to purchase a replacement vehicle or pay off your loan.
Steps to Take After an Accident in a Leased Vehicle
Here’s what you need to do to protect your health and rights after a crash in a leased car:
- Ensure Safety: First and foremost, make sure that you and any passengers are safe. Call 911 if anyone needs immediate medical attention.
- Contact the Police: Regardless of the severity of the accident, it’s important to contact the police and file a report. This will create an official record of the incident, which can be helpful when dealing with insurance companies and the leasing company.
- Exchange Information: Exchange information with the other driver(s) involved, including names, contact information, insurance details, and license plate numbers.
- Document the Scene: Take photos of the accident scene, your vehicle, and any other vehicles involved. This visual evidence can be invaluable in supporting your case.
- Contact Your Insurance Company: Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. They will guide you through the claims process and discuss coverage for the leased vehicle.
- Notify the Leasing Company: Inform the leasing company about the accident. They will advise you on the next steps, including any repairs or replacements needed for the vehicle.
- Consult with an Attorney: It’s crucial to seek legal counsel following a car accident, particularly when a leased vehicle is involved. An experienced car accident attorney can help you navigate the complex legal issues and protect your rights.
How Our Austin Car Accident Attorney Can Help
At the Loewy Law Firm, we understand the unique challenges that come with accidents involving leased vehicles. We are committed to providing you with compassionate and skilled legal representation. If you choose us to represent you in your case, we will:
- Investigate the Accident: We will thoroughly investigate your case to determine the cause of the accident and establish liability.
- Handle Insurance Matters: Our team will negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries and damages.
- Protect Your Rights: We will work diligently to protect your rights throughout the legal process, ensuring that you are treated fairly by the leasing company, insurance providers, and other parties involved.
- Pursue Compensation: Our goal is to help you recover the maximum compensation possible for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other damages you’ve suffered.
Contact an Austin Car Accident Lawyer Today
You have enough to worry about after a car accident without the hassle of dealing with a leasing company. If you need legal assistance after an accident in a leased vehicle, call us today or visit our contact page for a free consultation.