Florida is a top vacation destination for people all over the United States, and the state also attracts a large number of international visitors. People flock to Miami and the rest of South Florida for the beaches, and head in droves to Central Florida for the amusement and theme parks. Every day of the year, rental car drivers traverse Florida’s roads en route to or from a vacation destination.
Visitors to the state are unfamiliar with Florida roads. They don’t expect tricky exit ramps or sudden turns. These drivers are often using GPS or checking the route on their smartphone. Just as often, these drivers have exciting children, family, and friends in the car causing noise and disruption. Between the lack of familiarity and distracted driving, rental car drivers are incredibly likely to cause a Florida car crash.
Who is responsible and liable if a rental car driver hits your car?
Establishing Fault and Responsibility for an Accident
Fault for an accident is extremely important. When a rental car driver causes a Florida car crash, you want to be certain law enforcement arrives at the scene and determines fault for the collision. Particularly when dealing with rental companies and their insurance, this official paperwork could be very important. It is also your proof that the rental car driver was responsible and is liable for injuries and property damage.
In addition to the police report, you want to collect your own evidence of the accident. Take photographs of your car, the rental car, and any injuries. Also document the scene, before any vehicles are moved and write down your own account of the crash. Many parties are going to be interested in this evidence later, including insurance companies and the rental car company.
However, in most situations, the rental car driver isn’t going to pay you directly for medical costs, expenses. and other losses. Instead, claims are filed with an insurance company, but identifying the appropriate insurance provider and finalizing a claim is far more complicated when a rental vehicle is involved.
Identifying the Source of Insurance
Every rental car company offers insurance to drivers. Typically, these companies provide a basic amount of insurance to the driver, but the terms of these of this coverage can vary. However, it is rare for this insurance policy to cover at-fault rental car drivers after a collision.
Instead, rental companies offer drivers a collision-damage waiver. This additional policy provides insurance coverage in the event of a Florida car crash. But this coverage is optional and an additional cost to the rental car driver, so not all people purchase it. After an accident, it is essential to determine what policy the driver selected and exactly what is covered.
In other instances, the rental car driver is covered by his or her personal automobile insurance. A driver that already has comprehensive and liability coverage should be covered for rented vehicles, as well. If this is the case, then the question becomes whether or not this particular accident falls within the allowed claims.
When Is the Rental Company Responsible?
As the owner of the vehicle, it seems plausible that the rental car company could be liable for an accident caused by the rental car driver. But this is rarely the case. A federal law called the Graves Act states that rental car companies are not liable for the negligence of the drivers and operators of their vehicles. This law provides rental car companies in Florida with a lot of protection that isn’t afforded to other vehicle owners, but it doesn’t entirely negate their responsibility.
In a small number of instances, the rental car company could be held liable. If the rental company is also negligent in its training or rental policies, then it might be liable for the accident. For example, if the company rented the vehicle to a driver it knew was unsafe or illegal rented the vehicle.
As well, rental companies have a duty to properly maintain their vehicles. This includes handling repairs and addressing maintenance complaints. An accident that occurs because of worn out brakes or engine failure could lead claims back to the rental company.
Need to File a Claim?
If you were involved in an accident with a rental car driver in Florida, it’s time to speak with an attorney. Aronfeld Trial Lawyers has over 20 years experience with car accidents and insurance claims in touristy South Florida. We’ve spoken with many drivers injured by a Florida car crash involving a rental car driver, and our accident attorneys are ready to help you.