Florida welcomes over 125 million visitors each year. Often, out-of-state visitors prefer to get around town by car to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Sunshine State. In particular, many of these visitors and vacationers opt for rental car services for their temporary transportation. Though it’s the last thing on any vacationer’s mind during a trip, getting into an accident involving a rental car (whether you or the other party was driving a rental) can raise many questions, including:
- Who will pay for the resulting expenses?
- Whose insurance will cover the damages?
- Can the rental car company be held liable for losses and injuries?
Whose insurance will cover the damages in a rental car accident?
If you were in a car accident involving a rental car, you’re probably wondering whose insurance coverage will pay for the resulting expenses and damages. Under Section 627.7407, Florida Statutes, all owners of personal vehicles are legally required to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage as part of their car insurance policy.
If you carry auto insurance in the state of Florida, your PIP coverage will cover your damages and losses associated with the rental car accident, including up to 80% of your medical expenses.
And since Florida is a no-fault car insurance state, you will have to make a first-party claim with your own insurance company to get compensated, regardless of fault. However, if you sustained a serious injury and exhausted your PIP coverage (minimum of $10,000), you could file a third-party claim against the other driver involved in the crash if their negligence was to blame for the collision.
What if you don’t have auto insurance when renting a car in Florida?
If you do not have car insurance, you will be offered the option to purchase rental car coverage from the company renting you the car. Florida law prohibits motorists from operating a motor vehicle, including a rental car, without any kind of insurance.
Typically, a rental car company will have different insurance plans to choose from, which is why it is vital to review each plan’s terms and conditions to purchase the one that suits your needs as well as your budget.
Note: If you have both personal auto insurance and rental car coverage, your PIP coverage will take over if you get into a car accident while driving a rental vehicle in Florida.
Florida rental car company immunity laws
Under Section 327.32, Florida Statutes – also known as the “Dangerous Instrumentality Law” – a motor vehicle owner who voluntarily entrusts their vehicle to another individual can be held liable for any injuries or damages caused by that individual’s negligence while driving the car.
However, courts have previously held that the Dangerous Instrumentality Law cannot be applied to rental car companies. Rental car companies enjoy immunity from liability under the Graves Amendment (49 U.S.C. § 30106), a federal law that passed in 2005.
Under the federal law, rental car companies cannot be held liable for certain accidents involving their vehicles. Also, the Florida Supreme Court held in 2011 that rental car companies are not responsible for injuries caused by the negligence of the rental car driver [Vargas v. Enterprise Leasing Co., 36 F. L. W. S187 (Fla. April 21, 2011)].
A rental car company can be held liable if it was negligent
While the federal Graves Amendment preempts Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Law, a rental car company could be held liable if there is evidence that the company was negligent in any way. A common example of negligence on the part of a rental car company is its failure to properly maintain the vehicles.
If you were injured in an auto accident involving a rental car in Florida, you could be able to recover damages from the rental company if you can prove that:
- The rental car company acted negligently;
- The company’s negligence caused or contributed to your accident; and
- You suffered damages and losses as a result of negligence.
Because you would be facing a large rental car company armed with corporate insurance lawyers, it’s recommended to be represented by an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer to stand by your side, help you determine liability in your rental car accident and collect the right evidence to prove the company’s negligence.
Steps to take if you get into a car crash involving a rental car
Take the following 7 steps after a vehicle crash involving a rental car:
- The first thing you should do following a collision is to get to safety.
- Under Section 316.065, Florida Statutes, you must call the police if your accident involves injury, death, or at least $500 of estimated vehicle or property damage.
- Check on everyone involved in the collision and request medical assistance, if necessary. Even if it seems that you were not injured, it is best to seek medical attention because your injuries may not be immediately apparent.
- Exchange information with all other parties involved.
- Talk to witnesses and write down their names, phone numbers, and contact information.
- Gather evidence at the scene of the crash. You should write notes and collect detailed information about the accident, including taking photos and videos.
- Contact a Florida personal injury lawyer to determine liability in your rental car accident and help you pursue compensation.
Schedule your free consultation and consult with our West Palm Beach car accident attorneys at Fetterman & Associates, P.A., to learn what your rights and responsibility are if you were involved in a car crash involving a rental vehicle. Contact us online or give us a call at 561-845-2510.