No Liability for Rental Car Companies

September 26, 2015

A loophole in Florida law allows rental car drivers visiting from out-of-state to avoid providing proof of insurance when renting a vehicle.

Rental car companies in the state have little incentive to require or even push for out of state renters to provide proof of insurance because of a federal law known as the Graves Amendment, which exempts rental car companies from liability stemming from the negligent actions of those who rent or drive their vehicles.
Since 2005, the Graves Amendment bans all states, including Florida, from forcing rental car companies to be vicariously liable for accidents that happen in their vehicles. In other words, rental car companies are not responsible for damages whatsoever occurring in the cars or trucks they lease, unless if a company knowingly rents a faulty automobile.

Millions and millions of visitors to Florida rent cars. A fair portion of them don’t have insurance or allow drivers without insurance to drive those vehicles. The result is innocent people are seriously injured or killed.
In March, two lawmakers had pushed for legislation that would close this loophole. The proposed legislation would have mandated rental car companies to either verify coverage or require out-of-state renters to purchase insurance in order to make certain the vehicle is covered in the event of an accident.
Right now, people are given the choice of whether to purchase insurance when renting a car and most people say no. Most people make this decision because they either have their own insurance and some incorrectly assume the rental car company will be responsible to cover the damages.

Interestingly, Florida is among several states that recognize the concept of“vicarious liability” for auto accidents. A motor vehicle is considered in this state to be a dangerous instrument, and as such, if an owner of a vehicle loans it to someone else, and that person is driving with the owner’s permission, the vehicle owner is responsible for any injury that may result from its negligent use.

But the rental car industry isn’t subject to that same kind of liability. Their lobby, which is especially powerful here in tourist-heavy Florida, pushed hard for the passage of the Graves Amendment, and consequently mounted a substantial opposition to these efforts which resulted in stopping the passage of the bills.

The current state of the law poses a significant danger to Florida motorists. You can protect yourself by carrying uninsured motorist coverage on your auto insurance policy. If you have questions about rental car insurance issues, please feel free call Spinner Law Firm, Injury Attorneys at (813) 991-5099 for help.

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