Florida is a year-round tourist destination. In fact, in 2020, over 85 million people visited the Sunshine State. With all these people visiting and traveling through Florida, there are thousands of rental cars on the roads and highways. When someone in a rental car is involved in a serious accident, many legal questions arise. One of the first questions is, “who is responsible for the rental car?” Does liability rest with the driver, the rental company, or do both share the blame if the rental car driver caused the accident? What if your rental was hit? Below, our experienced car accident attorneys in Ft. Lauderdale, FL look to answer some of the many questions concerning crashes involving rented vehicles.
Determining the At-Fault Party in a Rental Car Accident in Florida
if you were in a rental car, driving safely, and were in an accident caused by a reckless or negligent driver, then the process should play out like any other car accident. Our Miami car accident lawyers would have to establish that the other driver was legally negligent and would file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver and their insurance company. Under these circumstances, the rental company would typically not get involved.
However, if you were in a car accident caused by someone driving a rented vehicle, the legal issues become much more complicated. While it seems evident that the at-fault driver should be held accountable, questions arise about who should be held financially responsible for your injuries. Does the rental agency share a portion of the liability?
Florida Car Rental Agencies and Accident Liability
if you are a private car owner and lend your car to another person, you are legally responsible if that driver acts negligently and causes an accident. It does not matter that you were not in the vehicle at the time or did nothing wrong. Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Law imposes liability under these circumstances. However, this law does not apply to car rental companies in the state.
In 2005, the Graves Amendment was enacted as part of a federal highway bill. Under the Graves Amendment, car rental companies became virtually immune from vicarious liability claims filed by other drivers, passengers, or pedestrians who were injured through the negligence of a person who rented one of their cars. This federal law supersedes Florida’s law that imposes liability on the owner of a vehicle operated by someone else. In 2011, in a Vargas v. Enterprise, it was upheld that when a driver or passenger of a rental car or short-term lease under a year is involved in an accident, the rental company is no longer legally responsible.
Exceptions That Allow a Florida Rental Car Company to be Held Liable for a Car Accident
To rent cars in Florida, a rental company must comply with a number of state laws. For instance, a rental agency must ensure that an individual renting a vehicle has a valid driver’s license. If the car agency failed to comply with this requirement, then an argument could be made that the Graves Amendment does not apply or shield the rental company if the unlicensed driver causes an accident.
A rental car company must ensure that the vehicles they are renting are maintained in a safe condition. If a car is allowed to drive off the lot with defective brakes, worn tires, or broken taillights, the agency’s immunity could be lost. Furthermore, in addition to ensuring that a driver has a valid license, the rental company should not rent to a person who should otherwise not be driving, including underage or intoxicated drivers. If the rental agency employees are improperly trained or engaged in criminal activity, the company could also be held responsible if the conduct contributed to an accident.
Our rental car accident lawyers in Hallandale Beach will thoroughly investigate the business practices of a rental agency to determine if any conduct opens it up to liability.
What to Do if You Are in a Car Accident Involving a Rental Car in Florida
While many of the steps are similar, there are some different things you should do depending on whether you were hit by a rental car or if a reckless driver struck your rented vehicle. No matter how an accident occurred, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention for any injuries. Some other common steps that you should take after any accident include taking photographs of the accident site, gathering witness contact information, and asking local law enforcement about obtaining a copy of the accident report.
Accident Caused by a Driver of a Rented Car
if you are injured in a car accident caused by the driver of a rental car, there are several steps you can take to protect your legal rights and prepare for a possible personal injury lawsuit, according to our Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers.
You need to get the personal and insurance information from the driver of the rental car. Because of the Graves Amendment, any personal injury claim will likely have to be made against the at-fault driver. However, it is still critical to get the contact information for the rental agency. It is possible that the driver purchased additional insurance coverage from the rental company. Additionally, our experienced Hollywood, FL car accident lawyer for rental car accidents will want to determine if the rental agency engaged in any practices that opened them to liability.
Accidents When Driving a Rental Car
if you were driving a rental vehicle that was involved in an accident caused by a negligent driver, you need to get the driver’s name and contact information as well as their insurance information. In many ways, if the other driver was at fault, this type of case is handled like any other car accident.
However, there are some important differences. First, you must report the accident to the rental company. Depending on your rental agreement, you are most likely liable for any damages to the car. This means that if the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, you will probably have to go through your insurance company to pay for the damages. Before renting a car, you should review your insurance policy to determine if you should purchase additional insurance with the rental company. In some cases, insurance coverage could be provided through a credit card company. Our experienced Hollywood, FL car accident attorney can help you navigate these challenging legal hoops.
Call Our Florida Rental Car Accident Attorney for a Free Consultation
Serious car accidents leave many victims facing medical treatment, lost income, and many legal questions. When a rental car is involved, the legal questions, and challenges increase. With the help of our experienced Florida rental car accident and personal injury lawyer in Hollywood, FL, you can ensure that you are taking steps to protect your rights. Contact South Florida Law, PLLC at (954) 932-7877 to schedule a free consultation to review your case.