I was recently injured by the driver of a rental car. If the driver does not have their own insurance coverage then I can sue the rental car company, right?
Author: Attorney Jason Macri
The State of Florida maintains top status as a worldwide tourist destination. People come from all parts of the world to visit Florida’s top attractions; Disney World and Florida’s beautiful beaches. Unfortunately, Florida is not known for maintaining a great public transportation system. Because of this fact, many of Florida’s visitors are forced to rent vehicles in order to see all of what Florida has to offer.
Consider that fact that Florida is now the third most populous state in the nation and currently has approximately 16,500,000 drivers on its roads, making roadway congestion an ever increasing problem. Add millions of vacationers to the mix, who already may not be so comfortable driving on our roads, and it becomes a recipe for disaster. Many of those vacationers will be driving rental cars. The question becomes; what happens if one of those rental car drivers causes a crash and injures someone.
Florida law follows the “Dangerous Instrumentality” doctrine which imposes strict vicarious liability on automobile owners. One would assume then that if the driver of a rental car is negligent and injures someone, the rental car agency may be on the hook for that negligence. This was the case until 2005, when the US Congress passed a bill entitled the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA-LU). An amendment to that act, sponsored by Representative Samuel Graves, called for the preemption and abolition of any state statute or common law precedent which held that rental or leasing companies would be liable for the negligence of their driver. This amendment is known as the “Graves Amendment.”
The Graves Amendment essentially set aside almost 90 years of Florida law and nullified the dangerous instrumentality doctrine as it applies to rental car companies. The Federal Government stepped in to ensure that the business of providing rental cars to the public was insulated and protected against anyone who was injured by the driver of that vehicle. This means that many people who are injured by the driver of a rental car will have no recourse and no way to get compensated or reimbursed for their injuries. It also makes purchasing uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage from your auto insurance company extremely important.
Even though the Graves Amendment seems to indicate that there is nothing that can be done if someone is injured by the driver of a rental car, it doesn’t mean that a lawyer cannot help. The driver of the rental car can be sued directly and may even have their own applicable insurance coverage. Also, the driver may have purchased an insurance policy from the rental car company which may be applicable to the crash. Lastly, most rental car companies provide a minimal insurance policy which applies to all of their vehicles which also may be applicable to your crash. If you have been injured by the driver of a rental car, call an attorney right away. There may be several different ways to get compensated and reimbursed for your damages.
If you are hurt in any type of incident, call the attorneys at Dell & Schaefer. We do not charge an attorney’s fee unless we recover money for you.