Mark Perenich has been practicing personal injury law in Florida since 1984, he answer your questions if you have been in a car accident.
If you have been in a car accident, and either party was in a rental car, there are somethings you should know:
In a nutshell: The graves amendment makes it very difficult to hold the rental company liable under most theories of negligence.
Graves Amendment, 49 U.S.C § 30106
“An owner of a motor vehicle that rents or leases the vehicle to a person shall not be liable under the law of any State, or political subdivision thereof, by reason of being the owner of the vehicle, for harm to persons or property that results or arises out of the use, operation, or possession of the vehicle during the period of the rental or lease if: 1) the owner is engaged in the trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles; and 2) there is no negligence or criminal wrongdoing on the part of the owner.”
The Law in Florida
Before Graves Amendment was codified in 2005, In Florida ‘Voracious Liability’ was imposed on the owners of Motor Vehicles for negligence of the driver in adherence to Florida Code § 324.021(9)(b)(1) ‘Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine’, which made short term lessor of an automobile liable for the damages caused but only up to $100,000 per person, $300,000.00 total for bodily injury, $50,000.00 for property damage.
The conflict between the two laws (state v/s Federal) which arose after the enactment Graves Amendment continued for a long time up until 2013 when the Florida Supreme Court clearly stated that “the Graves Amendment preempts liability under Florida Statutes Section 324.021(9)(b)(1)” in Rosado V. DiamlerChrysler. The court rejected the contention that 324.021(9)(b)(1) is a financial responsibility law.
Exception to Graves Amendment
- Negligent entrustment – when the owner or lessor of the vehicle is negligent in entrusting the vehicle to an incompetent driver.
- Independent Negligence- When the owner or lessor of vehicle is found independently negligent for ex. they didn’t maintained the vehicle in good condition.
- Negligence by company’s personnel – When the employee/ staff / driver of the owner / lessor of the vehicle was negligent and caused damages.
- Only applicable to owners of leased or rented vehicle not for Loaner Transactions.