When Are Car Rental Companies Liable in a Car Accident Claim?

June 7, 2022 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
When Are Car Rental Companies Liable in a Car Accident Claim?

Rental Company Liability in a Car Accident Claim

Car accidents often result from another party's negligence, where they breach the duty of care owed to other drivers. If you were involved in a car accident caused by another party's negligence, you could file a car accident claim with their insurance company. Typically, a driver will cause an accident in their own vehicle, making liability clear. However, some accidents may occur with a driver using a rental car. Responsibility in a rental car accident can fall on a car rental company if they rent out a malfunctioning car. However, there are many circumstances where federal law can remove liability from a car rental company.

What is the Graves Amendment?

The Graves Amendment is a federal highway bill passed in 2005 that barred vicarious liability for car rental companies. Vicarious liability is when a third-party shares partial liability for the unlawful actions of another party. Before this law was passed, car rental companies could share liability with a driver operating one of their vehicles that caused an accident. This bill made it so car accident victims could no longer include car rental companies in car accident liability claims for rental car accidents caused by reckless driving.

How the Graves Amendment Affected Florida Drivers

In Florida, rental car companies used to share liability for car accidents caused by their customers. Florida's Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine asserts that the owner of a dangerous tool (in this case, a car) can share liability for injuries caused by the tool's operation.  As the owner of the vehicle, the car rental company would share liability for a car accident involving one of their vehicles. However, the Graves Amendment overrides the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine, meaning car rental companies do not share liability for the recklessness of their customers.

Rental Companies Are Not Liable for a Driver Using Their Car

If you were involved in a car accident caused by a driver using a rented car, the car rental company does not share liability for the damages. The driver of the rented car that caused the accident would be the liable party with which you would pursue compensation.  The only way a rental company can share liability in a car accident claim is if it can be proven they acted in a way that led to the accident. In this case, the driver acted negligently and caused the accident, with the car rental company doing nothing to contribute to the accident. You would file the car accident claim with the driver's insurance company, and the car rental company would not be involved.

Rental Companies Can Be Liable for Renting Out a Malfunctioning Vehicle

Although most situations do not allow a car rental company to share liability in a car accident claim, they can if they acted in a way that caused the accident. One such example would be if they rented out a car with poor maintenance. Car rental companies must maintain their vehicles before allowing them to be driven because a vehicle without proper maintenance can cause an accident.  Allowing someone to rent a malfunctioning car is a dangerous and reckless action. For example, a car with faulty brakes will not be able to stop at red lights and stop signs. It can cause a driver to blow through a red light and cause a rear-end accident with the car in front of them. If a car rental company allows a driver to rent a car with a mechanical problem, they can share liability for committing an action that contributed to a car accident. A car rental company can still try to use the Graves Amendment as a defense, but an experienced car accident lawyer can help you prove their liability. Recovering Damages With a Car Accident Claim Florida is a no-fault state requiring drivers to purchase personal injury protection. PIP insurance can cover up to $10,000 of economic damages caused by a car accident. Your PIP insurance can cover you in a rental car. If you were involved in a car accident with damages exceeding your policy's limits, you could file a car accident claim with the at-fault party's insurance company. Whether you file a claim with another driver or a rental car company, a car accident lawyer can help put you in a position to receive compensation for your damages. They can draft and send the demand letter, collect evidence, interview witnesses, negotiate a settlement, and represent you in court. With the help of an experienced car accident lawyer, you could receive compensation for car accident damages, including medical bills, lost wages, lost earning potential, property damage, disability costs, and pain and suffering.

How Can a Lawyer Help in a Car Accident Claim With a Rental Company?

If you file a car accident claim with a car rental company for their role in a car accident, you will need to hire an experienced car accident lawyer to help you handle the claims process. A rental car company will have the financial resources available to draw out the legal battle and put up a solid defense. A car accident lawyer can help you determine if you have a case for filing a claim with a car rental company. They are not liable in all cases, so your lawyer will have to assess the case to determine whether they can share liability. They can evaluate whether Graves Amendment can apply and whether pursuing compensation from the car rental company is worth your time. If the car rental company acted in a way that led to the car accident, your lawyer could help you collect evidence that proves the car rental company's negligence. It would require your lawyer to prove that the car rental company did not put a vehicle through proper maintenance before renting the car out to a customer. They can also attempt to prove the company had knowledge of a dangerous defect a vehicle had but decided to rent the car out anyway. 

Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Car Accident Claim

Whether a rental car company can be liable or not, it is your right to pursue compensation for car accident damages caused by negligence. If a party acted negligently or intentionally recklessly behind the wheel, you could file a car accident claim with their insurance company to work toward receiving compensation for your car accident damages. At Dolman Law Group, our experienced car accident lawyers will assist you with filing the claim whether the at-fault party is another driver or a car rental company. They will work diligently to prove the at-fault party's liability by presenting tangible evidence of their negligence or reckless intentionality. They will work with you to put you in the best position to receive fair compensation for car accident damages. Get in touch with Dolman Law Group today for a free consultation. Call 833-55-CRASH or leave us a message on our online contact page.  


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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