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Rental Car Accidents

Let a Car Accident Lawyer in Fort Lauderdale Help with Your Rental Car Accident

South Florida is the king of rental cars.  Between the airports in Palm Beach County, Broward County, and Miami-Dade County, there are no less than 100 car rental companies sending thousands of cars out into South Florida traffic.  What happens if you are in an accident with a rental car? The process can be complicated, so a consultation with a Fort Lauderdale accident attorney is encouraged.

Was the Rental Car Driver Negligent?

Negligence is a fancy way of asking who is at fault for the accident.  In order to make a claim for property damage, injuries, lost wages or pain and suffering, you must first prove the other driver was at fault for causing the accident.  Some accidents are easier to prove fault than others.  For instance, in a rear end accident the driver that makes contact from the rear is presume to be at fault.  Side impact crashes and head on crashes are sometimes more difficult to prove.  But in every car rental accident, your lawyer will still need to prove the other driver is at fault to recover damages.

Does the Car Rental Company Have to Provide Insurance for a Rental Car Accident?

Prior to 2005, the answer was yes.  Florida’s “Dangerous Instrumentality” law says that an owner of a car is vicariously liable for any injuries and damages caused by a person driving the car.  Ordinarily, this means that if you lend your car to a friend, and your friend runs into another car, you are responsible for the injuries and damages your friend causes just as if you had been driving.  But the Dangerous Instrumentality law does not apply to car rental companies.

In 2005, a federal law called the Graves Amendment (49 U.S.C. §30106) was passed giving car rental companies immunity from lawsuits when a car is being used during a rental or short term lease.  Florida affirmed the protections given by the Graves Amendment in Vargas v. Enterprise Leasing Co., 60 So.3d 1037 (Fla. 2011) which states that the owners of vehicles that are leased “short term”, i.e. less than one year such as rental cars, are not responsible for injuries caused by the negligence of the drivers that rent the cars.  Because of the Graves Amendment, car rental companies are not required to provide insurance for a person that has been injured by a car rental driver.

Can a Car Accident Lawyer in Fort Lauderdale Help Me Avoid the Graves Amendment?

The rental car companies must comply with certain Florida car rental laws before renting a car to a driver.  For instance, the car rental company must check to make sure a driver has a driver’s license.  If the car rental company fails to comply with Florida’s car rental laws, it can be argued that the Graves Amendment does not apply, and neither does the car rental immunity.  In that situation, you may be able to make a claim against for your rental car accident.

There are other grounds to hold car rental companies responsible for your damages though.  If the car rental company is negligent in its responsibilities, the Graves Amendment will not apply.  Examples of this could be:

  • Failing to maintain the car rental vehicle in a safe condition, i.e. allowing the car on the road with defective tires
  • Renting a car to a person the rental car company knows it should not rent to, i.e. negligent entrustment
  • Failing to supervise or train car rental company employees
  • Criminal acts of the car rental company or its employees

How Do I Protect Myself from a Florida Rental Car Accident?

  • If you are renting a car:
    • If you have insurance on a car you own, your insurance should provide coverage for you when renting a car.
    • It is important to make sure you have enough insurance coverage to protect you from both property damage to the other car involved in the car accident, but also any damage to the rental car you are driving. If you cause an accident, you will be responsible for damage to both vehicles.
    • Also make sure you have plenty of coverage for persons that are injured, including yourself. Car rental companies offer additional insurance coverage you can purchase at the time of the rental to protect you from accident damages.
  • If you are injured by another person driving a rental car:
    • See the Graves Amendment paragraph above. Make sure you have an insurance policy that covers you for injuries, lost wages, and property damage in the event you are hit by a car rental driver.
    • Purchase uninsured motorist coverage to cover you for injuries you suffer in a car rental accident. Uninsured motorist coverage provides insurance protection for you if the driver of the rental car does not have insurance coverage.

What Should I Do if I’m Injured in a Fort Lauderdale Renal Car Accident?

Car rental accident claims can be complex.  You will not know if the car rental company has liability for your accident without doing extensive investigation.  The car crash attorneys at the Maus Law Firm have been handling car rental accident claims for more than 25 years.  Maus Law Firm can evaluate who is at fault for the accident, and employ investigators and engineers to determine whether a car rental company should be responsible for your accident.  Contact the Maus Law Firm for a free evaluation of your claim.