Bamboozled March 21, 2016: Honk if you’re accident-savvy

We wish more companies would take care of consumer problems without intervention.

Problems like the one encountered by Carole Marcus when she tried to have repair costs covered after her car was hit by a rented car.

Marcus’ story is a good reminder of what anyone should do if they’re involved in an accident. More on that in a moment.

Marcus was driving her 2015 Toyota Camry home from a doctor’s visit on Nov. 9 at about 2 p.m.

As she slowed to a stop at the corner of Gatzmer Avenue and Half Acre Road in Jamesburg, another vehicle hit her.

gatzmer.jpgThe location of the accident where Carole Marcus said a driver in an Avis rental hit her car.

“As soon as the crunch was heard the other car stopped and two men got out of the car,” she said.

Marcus said the men were very apologetic, but their English wasn’t great. They were visiting from Italy, they said, and the car was a rental from Avis.

“The driver apologized and showed me the contract for the car and asked me to phone in the accident to Avis since his English was bad,” Marcus said.

So Marcus called Avis, and the rep asked if a police officer was present. Marcus said there wasn’t, and she asked the rep if she should call one.

“They said that was up to me,” she said. “I stupidly didn’t think I needed one and didn’t call for one.”

Avis then spoke to the rental driver.

When the call was complete, Marcus and the driver exchanged information, and the driver of the rental went across to the street to make a copy of his rental contract for Marcus.

Avis also gave Marcus a claim number and said she would hear from an adjuster.

insurance card.jpgA photo of the insurance card provided by Avis to its driver, according to Carole Marcus.

In the weeks after the accident, Marcus said, she had several conversations with the adjuster.

She also got an estimate to repair the damage to the front bumper, left fender and left door: $738.30.

More time passed, and Marcus began to feel Avis was dragging its feet.

“[The adjustor] has repeatedly told me she cannot proceed further unless she gets a statement from the driver,” Marcus said.

The driver was long back in Italy.

In January, Marcus asked an attorney to write to Avis. The attorney requested an expedited payment, but nothing happened.

“Why should I have to pay this when I was not at fault?” Marcus said. “I hate the fact that a company like Avis can get away with this.”

When we reached out to Avis about the case, within a couple of days — but months after the accident — Marcus had good news.

“I got a call from the lawyer who sent them a letter,” Marcus said in an email. “She said Avis called her and said they will be sending me a check. WOW!”

We reached out to Avis to learn more.

“The matter has been resolved,” an Avis spokeswoman said.

We asked why there had been such a long delay, but Avis never responded.

IF YOU’RE IN AN ACCIDENT

A police report would have been helpful to Marcus, but there’s no guarantee it would have made Avis act faster.

Marcus’ only other option would have been to ask her insurance company to fight it out with Avis.

That’s what insurance is for.

Because having an accident can be an emotional and stressful experience and it can be hard to think clearly, we want you to be prepared.

Make sure you have essential supplies in your car: a pen and paper, your insurance card, warning flares or reflective cones. If your cell phone doesn’t take photos, keep a disposable camera in your glove box or trunk.

The first step after stopping your car is to make sure no one is injured, AAA sayson its website, and make sure you’re not in danger on the side of the road. Call 911 if someone needs medical attention.

If there are no injuries and your vehicle can be moved, get out of traffic lanes and to a safe place.

Then turn on your hazard lights, set out warning flares or reflective triangles, and don’t leave the scene but find a safe place to wait until emergency services arrive, AAA said.

In all cases — no matter how minor — call police and file a police report. This will be helpful if there’s a liability claim with either driver’s insurance company.

While you wait for police, exchange information. Write it down, or even better, take photos of important documents.

AAA says you should include:

  • Names
  • Addresses/email address
  • Makes, models and years for all cars involved
  • Vehicle identification/license plate numbers
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • Insurance carriers and policy numbers

Take photos of the damage to any involved car from different angles. Try to take photos of the scene of the accident or any road obstructions, but only if you can guarantee your safety.

When you get home, report the accident to your insurance company, which will then instruct you on how to proceed.

DO YOU NEED RENTAL INSURANCE?

While we’re on the topic of rented cars, many consumers are confused about whether they need to take extra insurance when they rent a car.

It depends.

Most drivers are covered by their own policies and don’t need the extra insurance, which can cost $15 to $30 per day.

So check with your insurer to see if you’re covered and for how much.

Also know that if you rent a car for business, your personal auto policy probably won’t cover you.

Some credit cards also offer rental car insurance as a perk. Of course, you have to put the cost of the rental on that credit card to be covered. Call your lenders to see if you have coverage, and be sure to ask about any limits or restrictions.

Stay safe on the roads, Jersey.

Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller atBamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. FindBamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Stay informed and sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.