Rental Car Accidents in Florida: What to Know
Posted by Justin
At any given time, Florida has a high number of rental cars on the road – with many of them found right here in the central Florida area. They are so common that, unless we are following someone who clearly isn’t a local, we rarely pay much attention.
But what happens if you are involved in a car accident with a rental car? While the thought has probably never crossed your mind, finding yourself in the thick of this situation could prove to be rather frustrating.
Rental cars crash the same as personally-owned automobiles, but uncovering protection and determining liability can become quite an issue.
STEPS TO TAKE AFTER A RENTAL CAR ACCIDENT
If you have been involved in any type of accident – including a rental car accident – it is important that you first assess the condition of everyone involved. You should also, if possible, move the cars off the road to safety. Then, call 911 to report the accident and get checked out medically.
At this point, it doesn’t matter whether you are traveling in a rental car or hit by someone in a rental car, the concern is about making sure everyone is ok, safe, getting the assistance they need, and having a report written up.
Everything else will come later.
UNDERSTANDING RENTAL CAR INSURANCE PROTECTION
If you have ever rented a car then you know there is a lot of documentation to read and sign before those keys are handed over to you. Most people drive off in a rental car with only a general idea of how it is protected – until an accident occurs.
If you were driving a rental car and were found at-fault in an accident, is it your own car insurance that will protect you? Did you pay for the supplemental rental car insurance? What does it cover?
If you were the victim in an accident caused by someone in a rental car, who do you file a claim with – the rental car company? The driver’s insurance company?
Car accidents and insurance protection can get tricky when rental cars are involved. For now, know that there are typically three potential means of protection in these instances: supplemental insurance from the rental company, personal insurance, and the renter’s credit card.
PERSONAL CAR INSURANCE
Many personal car insurance policies provide coverage if you have been involved in a car accident in a rental car. This coverage often applies as the rental car is considered a “temporary replacement” under your auto insurance coverage. However, whether your insurance will apply while you are in a rental vehicle is determined by the terms of your insurance policy. As such, it is incredibly important that the terms of the policy be reviewed to ensure that the proper protections will be in place.
A SUPPLEMENT POLICY
For those who don’t have personal car insurance or whose policies do not transfer to rental cars, rental companies offer supplemental policies for protection. This is typically an additional fee and will extend various liability coverages – such as bodily injury liability or property damage coverage. This protects you in case you cause an accident while in a rental vehicle.
Additional coverage may also be available for purchase to protect you in case you are injured by an uninsured/underinsured driver while in a rental vehicle.
CREDIT CARD PROTECTION
Finally, some credit card companies offer a limited amount of rental car insurance coverage. There are usually certain terms, such as using that card for the rental car purchase, and the amount of protection could be very minimal. Understand these terms before declining any other coverage.
Florida is a comparative fault state. This means any person who causes injury is liable for the damage they cause, or their proportional share. While this seems fairly cut and dry, determining which insurance companies may be responsible to pay for those damages can be complex. This is especially true when someone in a rental car causes a car accident.
A federal law known as the Graves Amendment protects rental car companies from the liability of personal injuries that result from accidents in their rental cars. 49 U.S. Code § 30106 states:
(a) In General.— An owner of a motor vehicle that rents or leases the vehicle to a person (or an affiliate of the owner) shall not be liable under the law of any State or political subdivision thereof, by reason of being the owner of the vehicle (or an affiliate of the owner), for harm to persons or property that results or arises out of the use, operation, or possession of the vehicle during the period of the rental or lease, if—
- (1) the owner (or an affiliate of the owner) is engaged in the trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles; and
- (2) there is no negligence or criminal wrongdoing on the part of the owner (or an affiliate of the owner).
- (b) Financial Responsibility Laws.—Nothing in this section supersedes the law of any State or political subdivision thereof—
- (1) imposing financial responsibility or insurance standards on the owner of a motor vehicle for the privilege of registering and operating a motor vehicle; or
- (2) imposing liability on business entities engaged in the trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles for failure to meet the financial responsibility or liability insurance requirements under State law.
This all means that the federal Graves Amendment acts to shield rental car companies by capping their exposure for liability as a result of those who rent their vehicles and cause car accidents. Pursuant to the Graves Amendment, rental car companies in Florida have a maximum injury liability exposure of $10,000.00 to any single person injured or killed in a car accident, and $20,000.00 total per car accident regardless of the number of people injured or killed.
In 2011, the Florida Supreme Court, in Vargas v. Enterprise Leasing Co., 60 So.3d 1037 (Fla. 2011), held the federal Graves Amendment preempted Florida law which had provided that rental car companies were subject to significantly higher insurance exposure. In doing so, Florida law changed practically overnight and exposure by rental car companies was limited in most cases to the amounts above. In 2011, this was codified into law when the legislature passed Florida Statute Section. 324.021.
Following Vargas and Florida’s Grave Amendment statute, a question remained as to how broad the language was meant to be and just who was covered. Rental car companies were now protected from exposure, but what about car dealerships which provide loaner vehicles without charge? In 2020, Florida amended statute 324.021 to provide that car dealerships were not liable for damages caused by those driving their loaner vehicles as long as they had:
- An executed written rental or use agreement;
- A copy of the person’s car insurance information reflecting at least minimal coverage; and
- A copy of the person’s driver license, even if it was later found to be false, fraudulent, nonexistent, cancelled, or invalid.
If these three conditions are met, Florida provides car dealerships with immunity from liability unless you can show active negligence or criminal wrongdoing on the part of the dealership or its leasing or rental affiliate.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MY INJURIES IF CAUSED BY A RENTAL CAR?
If you have been injured by someone in a vehicle they rented, typically the exposure of the driver and/or rental car company will be limited to the higher of:
- The personal insurance limits of the driver who rented the car; or
- The Graves Amendment cap of up to $10,000.00 per person, not to exceed $20,000.00 per crash.
As a result of the minimal coverage limits that may be available, your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage would provide another mechanism of recovery if you have purchased that as well.
An experienced attorney is a critical part of determining liability and getting you the protection and compensation you deserve for your injuries.
IN A RENTAL CAR ACCIDENT? CONTACT PRESSER LAW
If you have been involved in an accident involving a rental car, contact car accident attorney Presser Law for a free review of your case. With over a decade of experience in handling car accident and personal injury cases throughout Central Florida, you can trust a high level of experience to handle your case.
Do not settle for anything less than the compensation you deserve. Call Presser Law today at (407) 216-2000. Let our award-winning car accident lawyer go to work for you.
GET YOUR FREE CAR ACCIDENT, INJURY OR WRONGFUL DEATH CASE REVIEW WITH AN EXPERIENCED ATTORNEY TODAY
If you have been injured in a car accident or recently lost a loved on, contact Presser Law for a free case review with an attorney to determine your legal rights. For over 10 years, Justin Presser has represented car accident and injury victims throughout Central Florida in their times of need and he would be honored to help you as well.
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About Injury and Wrongful Death Attorney Justin H. Presser
Justin H. Presser is an award-winning lawyer and founder of Presser Law, P.A. representing clients in the areas of personal injury, car accidents, motorcycle accidents, wrongful death and more. With an office located in Altamonte Springs, Florida, Presser Law, P.A., proudly services clients throughout Central Florida including the following areas: Orange County including Orlando, Ocoee, Doctor Phillips, Apopka, Winter Garden, Winter Park, Maitland, College Park, Thornton Park; Seminole County including Altamonte Springs, Longwood, Winter Springs, Lake Mary, Oviedo, Casselberry, Chuluota; Lake County including Clermont, Mount Dora, Eustis, Tavares, Leesburg, Sorrento; and Brevard County including Melbourne, Merritt Island, Cocoa Beach, Titusville, Palm Bay.
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