Every year, millions of tourists flock to Florida, seeking sunshine, beaches, and family-friendly attractions. To travel from their hotels to beaches, theme parks, restaurants, and bars, many tourists lease cars from car rental agencies, flooding Florida roadways with rented vehicles. Because tourists are often unfamiliar with Florida roads and highways, the likelihood of being involved in an accident with a tourist using a rental car is high.
According to a federal law called the Graves Amendment, a rental car company that rents a vehicle to a driver is not liable for any harm that comes to people or property that results from the use, operation, or possession of the vehicle during the rental period.
This law essentially absolves rental companies from liability if their rental car causes an accident.
So who is responsible for the accident when the driver of a rental car hits you? Generally, the driver’s insurance company should be responsible for providing compensation for any injuries and damage to your vehicle.
However, while all drivers in Florida are legally required to have insurance, not all out-of-state tourists have adequate insurance to cover damages. Rental companies are not required to ask about the insurance of the drivers they rent cars to, so the driver of the rental car may not have adequate coverage to compensate you for your losses.
If the tourist bought insurance from the rental car company, the rental company may be required to cover up to $10,000 in damages. In many cases, this is not enough to cover the cost of medical bills, lost wages, and overall pain and suffering that results from a serious car accident.
What to Do If You are Involved in an Accident with a Driver in a Rented Vehicle
Being involved in a car accident is often a traumatic, painful, and frightening experience, but the situation can become even more frustrating if the other driving is driving a rented vehicle without adequate insurance coverage. If you are involved in an accident with a driver in a rental car, follow these steps to ensure your rights to just compensation are protected:
Report the accident. If you are able, you should report the accident by calling the police immediately. Call 911 if the accident resulted in serious injuries or created an unsafe condition for yourself or other drivers.
Collect information. Again, if you are physically able, you should obtain the driver’s insurance information, including carrier and policy number. If the other driver does not have this information, make sure to record their name, address, phone number, and license number. Record the name and contact info of the rental company as well as the make and model of the rented vehicle. You should also gather contact information from any witnesses, including names and phone numbers. If you have a camera or phone, take photographs of your damaged vehicle and the surrounding area.
Seek medical treatment. You should seek medical treatment as soon as possible, even if you do not believe your injuries are that serious. Auto accident injuries often worsen over time, and serious injuries may not flare up for days or even weeks after the accident. Under Florida’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) laws, drivers must seek treatment for their injuries within two weeks if they want to recover PIP benefits. Make sure you keep a record of all medical treatment you receive, including medical bills, prescription receipts, and invoices for any personal services or medical assistance. If you can, photograph your injuries, and record any pain or other complications carefully in a journal.
File a claim. Even if the driver of the rented vehicle was at fault for the accident, you should file a claim with your insurance company. Your insurance company will investigate the claim to determine fault and the severity of damages.
Contact an auto accident attorney. Accidents that involve a rented vehicle can be complex, which is why it’s generally a good idea to consult with an experienced Florida auto accident attorney after being involved in such an accident. An attorney will be able to investigate the situation to determine the parties responsible and find out what coverage is available through both the renter and rental company. Your attorney can negotiate with the insurance companies to ensure you receive a fair settlement, and defend your right to fair compensation if it becomes necessary to go to court. With the help of a skilled attorney, you are in a better position to obtain the compensation you need to cover medical bills, lost wages, repair fees, and overall pain and suffering.
About the Author:
John K. Lawlor, a South Florida personal injury attorney who focuses his practice on complex personal injury, wrongful death, and professional malpractice, founded the law firm of Lawlor, White & Murphey in 1998. Since 1995, Mr. Lawlor’s trial advocacy and litigation skills, as well as his wide-ranging legal expertise, have provided plaintiffs and their families with a distinct advantage when seeking financial compensation and justice for injuries caused by the negligence of others. Mr. Lawlor is an EAGLE member of the Florida Bar Association and an active member of the American Association for Justice, the Broward County Justice Association, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and several professional associations.