When it comes to Florida law regarding car accident injuries, there is a precedent of owner liability from previous cases and dangerous instrumentality doctrine. This allows the vehicle owner to be considered at fault for damages resulting from an authorized driver’s negligence. Vehicle owners can’t escape their liability just because they weren’t driving at the time of the accident, nor does it matter that their friend borrowing their car was negligent. Insurance follows the car, not the person.
However, under the Graves Amendment, car rental companies are an exception. Despite this, it still might be possible to sue one of these agencies for a car rental personal injury claim if you were hurt in a motor vehicle collision. This is only under specific circumstances where the company that rented the car to you was negligent. If you are in an accident involving a rented vehicle, contact an experienced Orange County, FL attorney right away to begin determining if there are multiple parties at fault.
What is the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine?
The dangerous instrumentality doctrine classifies motor vehicles as dangerous tools by nature. It was finalized in the Florida Supreme Court during the 1920 case of Southern Cotton Oil v. Anderson. An owner can be found liable through the driver’s negligent actions if they lend the vehicle to someone else.
In 2005, a federal highway bill called the Graves Amendment was passed. It prohibits this type of liability claim against car rental agencies if their customer causes an injury. The exception is if negligence can be proven on the part of the rental firm and it contributed to the damages caused. If a vehicle is rented to a grossly intoxicated person without a license, the rental company could indeed be deemed negligent if proven.
They can also be held liable if they fail to maintain the vehicle and this lack of maintenance leads to an accident. An example of this situation would be if tires were not replaced after the tread had worn out. A customer then rents the car, assuming it is in good condition because the rental agency states it was inspected and good to go. When the tire ruptures at high speeds, causing the driver to lose control and strike your own automobile, the renting company could be at fault.
How the Graves Amendment Could Affect Your Car Accident Claim
The Tampa Bay Times recently reported an example that is currently playing out in Florida courts. This case makes an excellent example of the liability a car rental agency holds, although the possibility of personal injury compensation is relatively low in this particular instance.
In 2013, Enterprise rented a vehicle to a man that later committed vehicular homicide with it. His actions led to criminal charges, for which he is now serving time in prison for his egregious negligence behind the wheel. The plaintiff believes he was unfit to drive when renting the car and believes Enterprise held some responsibility for the accident because they allowed him to obtain a vehicle despite being visibly intoxicated.
In addition to having an outstanding warrant for his arrest, the defendant had an expired license and reportedly rented the car under a different name.
Generally, drunk drivers will struggle to recover any damages in a personal injury lawsuit that they are liable for. However, this situation seems like a strong case against the rental company with the Graves Amendment in play.
Speak with a Skilled Orange County, FL Car Accident Attorney Today
A skilled Orange County personal injury lawyer will have the training and experience needed to analyze how vehicle rental agencies like Enterprise verify driving history and licensing for those they lend cars to. Your attorney will also be familiar with the regulations and standards that govern the proper maintenance of an agency’s fleet. In situations where poor upkeep of a rented automobile leads to an accident, this expertise is crucial.
If you were injured by a driver acting recklessly with a car rental, you might need to pursue compensation from them and the company that allowed them the vehicle. At Jordan Law, we represent motor vehicle accidents in every situation you can imagine. We are here to fight on your behalf and maximize any possible damages you might receive for your injuries. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation and learn more about what rights you have after being involved in a rental car accident.