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Can You Sue a Rental Car Company in Florida When the Driver at Fault Was Driving a Rental Car?


Car accidents involving rental vehicles are not uncommon, especially in tourist-heavy states like Florida. When an accident occurs, and the at-fault driver is behind the wheel of a rental car, many questions arise about liability and the potential for suing the rental car company.

To determine if you can sue a rental car company in Florida, it’s essential to understand the concept of vicarious liability and the impact of the Graves Amendment.

Vicarious Liability: This legal principle holds that a party can be held liable for the actions of another party. In the context of rental cars, it traditionally meant that rental car companies could be held responsible for the actions of drivers using their vehicles.

The Graves Amendment: Enacted in 2005, the Graves Amendment significantly altered the law of vicarious liability for rental car companies. This federal law preempts state laws and shields rental car companies from liability for harm caused by drivers who rent their vehicles, provided the company is not negligent or otherwise directly at fault. The Graves Amendment essentially states that a rental car company cannot be held liable for injuries solely because they own the vehicle involved in the accident.

When Can You Sue a Rental Car Company?

Despite the protections offered by the Graves Amendment, there are specific circumstances under which you can still sue a rental car company in Florida:

  1. Negligence in Maintenance: If the rental car company failed to properly maintain the vehicle, and this failure contributed to the accident, the company can be held liable. For instance, if the car had faulty brakes or worn-out tires and the company neglected to repair them, this negligence could be grounds for a lawsuit.
  1. Negligent Entrustment: This occurs when a rental car company rents a vehicle to someone who they knew or should have known was unfit to drive. Examples include renting to someone without a valid driver’s license, someone visibly intoxicated, or someone with a history of reckless driving. In such cases, the company can be held liable for negligent entrustment.
  1. Violation of Vehicle Safety Standards: If the rental car does not meet safety standards or has been subject to a recall that was ignored by the rental company, they can be held accountable for any resulting accidents. Ensuring vehicles comply with all safety regulations is a responsibility rental companies cannot overlook.

Steps to Take After an Accident Involving a Rental Car

If you are involved in an accident where the at-fault driver was driving a rental car, follow these steps to protect your rights and strengthen your case:

  1. Document the Scene: Take photos of the accident scene, the vehicles involved, and any visible injuries. Collect contact information from witnesses and note any relevant details about the rental vehicle and its condition. 
  1. Report the Accident: Notify the police and file an accident report. Ensure the accident is also reported to both your insurance company and the rental car company.
  1. Seek Medical Attention: Even if you don’t feel seriously injured, it’s essential to get a medical evaluation. Some injuries may not manifest immediately but can become severe later on.
  1. Gather Evidence: Collect all relevant documents, including the rental agreement, maintenance records of the rental vehicle (if accessible), and any correspondence with the rental company.
  1. Consult an Attorney: Given the complexities of suing a rental car company, it is crucial to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. A lawyer can help navigate the legal intricacies, investigate the case, and determine if the rental company can be held liable.

The Role of Insurance in Rental Car Accidents

Insurance plays a critical role in accidents involving rental cars. Typically, rental car companies provide basic liability coverage for their vehicles. However, the driver’s personal insurance and any additional insurance purchased through the rental company also come into play.

Rental Car Company Insurance: This usually includes minimum liability coverage as required by state law, but it might not be sufficient to cover all damages in a severe accident.

Driver’s Personal Insurance: The driver’s own auto insurance policy may provide coverage that extends to the rental car, which can help pay for damages beyond the rental company’s policy limits.

Additional Rental Insurance: Many drivers opt to purchase additional coverage offered by the rental company, such as collision damage waivers or supplemental liability insurance, which can provide extra protection.

Contact Lance P. Richard, PA

While the Graves Amendment provides significant protection for rental car companies against vicarious liability claims, there are still scenarios where these companies can be held accountable for accidents involving their vehicles. If negligence in maintenance, negligent entrustment, or violation of safety standards can be proven, you may have grounds to sue a rental car company in Florida.

If you’ve been involved in an accident with a rental car in Stuart, Florida, it’s crucial to understand your rights and options. Contact Lance P. Richard, P.A., to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you navigate the complexities of rental car liability and fight for the compensation you deserve. Call us today to schedule a consultation.



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