I'm in California.
My vehicle is in the dealer for warranty repair work. While the vehicle is in the shop, the dealer gave me a rental car through a nation-wide rental car company.
While I was on the freeway, I struck a tarp that was laying in the roadway. I did my best to avoid it, but the wind pushed it into my lane before I could completely stop, and there were cars on both sides of me so I couldn't swerve to avoid hitting it.
I pulled over and my rental car had very limited damage - The paint of the lower part of the front bumper was scraped up. No dents, no major damage.
I contacted the rental car company, they said I should get a police report and they'll deal with everything when I return the rental car.
I contacted the Highway Patrol and they sent an officer to the scene. Just as the officer got there, a big rig pulled over at the roadway and stated that his strap broke on his trailer and his tarp flew into the lanes (which was what I hit).
I have all of his information (Company Name, Insurance, etc.). After speaking with the officer, he said that even though the big rig driver had an unsafe load, the big rig driver couldn't be listed "at fault" on the report because it was undetermined on how long the tarp was in the roadway to the time I hit it. However, he did say the report would not list me "at fault" either. The report would say the "at fault" party is "other than driver". I'm not sure what that means..
I spoke to my insurance company and they said I am covered if the Rental Car company wants the car fixed.
So now after I left the scene I went to a body shop. They were able to buff all of the scratches/scuffs/marks out of the bumper, but there is a plastic "guard" piece at the bottom of the bumper that's about 1" tall that's still pretty scratched up.
I took the vehicle to another rental car office (with the same company) and told them what happened. The manager of that office said that "if you were returning this car to my office, I wouldn't do anything about it. That is a 'wear-and-tear' piece; it gets damaged by hitting curbs or going in/out of driveways. It just a little scratched, it's not like it's broken off or anything. I wouldn't worry".
So, two questions: Do you think I'll have to pay to fix this $40 piece on the car? And.. Is the accident really "my fault" and should it have to go through my insurance company?