by Michael Franco, Esq. (pictured on a favorite beach in St. John, USVI)

MF beach photo
It’s the summer vacation season, so the following scenario may sound familiar to you…
You’re standing at a car rental counter in the airport. You’ve just touched down after hours of flying to your week-long vacation in paradise. You’re tired, and you can’t wait to get to the hotel, drink a cold one, and hit the beach. The person behind the counter asks, “Do you want insurance with the car rental?” You freeze. You break into a cold sweat. And, you have no idea what to do.
To insure, or not to insure. That is the question. The answer depends on whether you are renting a car in a U.S. state or territory (like my personal favorite, the U.S. Virgin Islands), Canada, or some other foreign country.
There are two types of coverage to think about when renting a car – liability and collision damage. Liability coverage pays for bodily injuries or property damage as a result of a car accident that is your fault. Collision damage coverage pays for physical damage to the rental car.
If you rent a car in a U.S. state or territory or Canada:
Liability coverage for bodily injury will be provided by the Optional Bodily Injury coverage of your Massachusetts policy. If you don’t have Optional Bodily Injury coverage, you should get it for the reasons described in my blog at http://bbflawoffices.com/accident-claims/unlocking-mysteries-car-insurance-michael-franco-esq/. So, there is no need for this form of liability coverage from the rental company.
Liability coverage for property damage will be provided by the Property Damage coverage of your Massachusetts policy. So, there is no need for this form of liability coverage from the rental company.
There is no coverage for damage to a rental car under the Collision coverage of your Massachusetts policy. But, if you use a credit card to pay for the rental, the credit card company may provide you with coverage for such damage. For example, Capital One provides collision damage coverage as a benefit. You should call your credit card company to see whether it provides collision damage coverage. If so, there is no need to get additional coverage from the rental company. You will simply have to sign a CDW – Collision Damage Waiver. If you do not have coverage under your credit card, you should definitely buy collision damage coverage from the rental company.
If you rent a car in a foreign country, other than Canada:
First of all, good luck. You may be driving on the left side of the road, trying to read traffic signs in an unknown language, and dodging the crazy locals who drive at rocket speeds, so you definitely want to have the right insurance.
There is no liability coverage for bodily injury or property damage under your Massachusetts policy. You should buy this coverage from the rental company.
With respect to damage to the rental car, the same rules apply as described above. Call your credit card company to see whether it provides collision damage coverage in the particular country that you’ll be visiting. (Typically, not all countries are covered.) If so, there is no need to get additional coverage from the rental company. If you do not have coverage under your credit card, you should definitely buy collision damage coverage from the rental company.
You are now ready to leave on vacation. Remember to wear lots of sun-block and send your favorite attorney a post-card.
Beauregard, Burke & Franco regularly handles serious accident cases for clients who have been killed or hurt by the negligence of others. Attorney Michael Franco is co-author of two chapters in the MCLE book “Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Torts: Liability and Litigation.”