Call the Police When You Are Involved in a Hit-and-Run Accident — No Matter How Minor

I  learned a valuable lesson this morning which hopefully will help you if you ever get involved in an incident where the vehicle you are driving — whether you own or rent it — is hit by another vehicle but the driver of the other vehicle leaves the scene.

My car was hit from behind this morning by a sport utility vehicle while crossing a busy intersection, which caused the rear bumper to be out of alignment. The driver sped away from the scene instead of pulling over to exchange driver’s license and insurance information — but not before the license plate number was written down. No one was injured, fortunately — which is most important, as the incident was minor…

…so minor that the police were not called immediately, as I do not like to bother law enforcement officers. Only when I returned from being out did I decide to call the police — using a telephone number and not 911 — who advised me to visit a local precinct, which I did. The police officer who recorded the report and assigned it a case number advised me that no matter how minor the incident, call the police at the scene of the accident as soon as possible — especially in an incident where the other party leaves the scene of an accident, which is illegal in most jurisdictions.

Of course, this is from a point of view in the United States. Local laws in other countries may vary.

If the incident occurred while driving a rental car, you should contact the rental car company to report it in addition to calling the police — but when renting a car, should you purchase insurance?

The answer is typically no if you already have automobile insurance for your personal vehicle or if you have a major credit card which provides collision coverage whenever you rent a car; but the insurance provided by credit cards is usually secondary to insurance for your personal vehicle, which becomes your primary insurance. In either case, carefully check the terms and conditions of the insurance policies of both your personal vehicle and the credit card with which you plan on paying for the rental of a car to ensure that you have the coverage you need — especially if you plan on renting a vehicle outside of the country from where you are based.

The purchase of vehicle insurance for rental vehicles is mandatory in some countries regardless of whatever insurance you may have, as was the case when I rented cars in Australia and New Zealand, for example.

Members of automobile clubs such as the American Automobile Association offer limited services such as charging the battery of the vehicle you are driving or towing it to a nearby service facility if it is disabled. If you are a member of such a club, you typically would not need to purchase roadside assistance coverage at a rental car facility. Your credit card used to pay for a rental vehicle may also include roadside assistance. Again, carefully check the terms and conditions to see if you are covered.

The vehicle which hit my car this morning was a sport utility vehicle manufactured by a luxury brand. If you decide to rent a luxury vehicle, a sport utility vehicle, a sports car or an exotic vehicle of some type, chances are that you may not be fully covered — or covered at all. Consider purchasing additional insurance to ensure that you are covered in case of an accident…

…as I was reminded this morning, you never know when an incident with the vehicle you are driving will happen — again, whether it is a vehicle you own or rent. Ensure that you are covered; that you call the police as soon as possible; and contact either your automobile insurance provider if the incident happened in a car which you own or the rental car company from which you rented your vehicle.

Have you ever been involved in an accident in a rental vehicle? Please share your experience here — as well as any additional advice you can offer to fellow travelers. Thank you — and drive safely.


  1. It really depends. I called the police once when another car hit mine from behind and the bumper got a little dent. The office told me since nobody was injured there was nothing they could do in that situation.

    1. Did the other driver leave the scene, Santastico? If not, I can understand that response you received from the law enforcement officer — and that was one reason I was initially hesitant to call the police.

  2. No. The driver stayed there. The damage was “minor” but being an expensive car it cost almost $2K to fix so having her insurance company to cover it was necessary. When it is a hit from behind it is easier to claim who was wrong but my concern is when you have a different type of accident that anyone can blame the other driver as wrong and then you will have issues with the insurance company if you don’t have witnesses or a police report.

    1. I am sorry to learn about your experience, Santastico. Was the incident ever resolved; and was it eventually covered by her insurance company?

  3. The officer gave you wrong info.
    If you get in to any accident with another vehicle other than on highaway or interstate high way, you get the other car’s plate info # first or exchange each other’s info. YOu call 911 but they will tell you if the cars are drivable, you should come to a police station to report the incident. Same goes to hit in run case.

    1. That was what I figured, jim — which is why I did not immediately report it; but apparently I was incorrect, according to that law enforcement officer who said that he has been on the force for 30 years.

      I suppose different jurisdictions have different rules and policies…?

  4. I always thought if there were no injuries not to bother the police. I did have my rental car hit and it was almost a hit and run but a store employee where I was shopping stopped the car and got me so we could exchange info. When I got back “home” I called the rental and my insurance company. I was told to file a police report. I had to drive back to the town the incident happened in to meet an officer. So I would say yes, call them so you don’t have to waste anymore time. Another good reason to take care of it immediately is that we went swimming before my appointment with the officer and my shirt ended up in a different car so I went wearing a bikini top. I also get nervous and thanked the “doctor” for his help. I think he thought I was on drugs at that point!

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