Brandon & Tampa Personal Injury Attorneys
It's Like Having a Lawyer in the Family
Follow Us Facebook Twitter Linked In

Call For a FREE Consultation Handset 813-438-5960 Serving Brandon, Tampa and all of Florida

Rented Vehicles And Third Party Liability

CarAcc5

One of the main reasons we file negligence lawsuits is to make the roads safer for everyone, and that is also one of the reasons third party (vicarious) liability is so important. Rented vehicles are a good example. If no one holds Enterprise, U-Haul, and other vehicle lessors responsible when they carelessly rent vehicles to incompetent drivers, they will continue the same policy that allows anyone with a valid credit card and a passable form of picture identification to drive anything from a small sportscar to an extra-large moving truck.

In direct opposition to this need, the curiously-named Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act has a controversial amendment provision that its makers designed to defeat safety and accountability on Florida’s highways.

The Graves Amendment

SAFETA is a sprawling, 800-plus page bill that lawmakers enacted in 2005. Typically, when representatives consider such omnibus bills, they add rather spurious provisions at the last minute, often with little or no forethought. 49 U.S.C. 30106 is just such a provision. Before members voted on the Graves Amendment (named for U.S. Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri), there was nary a single hearing and there was almost no floor debate.

With such little legislative history, it is difficult to know what the Graves Amendment is supposed to do, and what it is not supposed to do. What is known is that Rep. Graves introduced the measure to keep vehicle rental companies from leaving certain states to avoid vicarious liability judgements. Under traditional negligent entrustment doctrine, vehicle owners are liable for the victim’s damages if they allow someone else to use their vehicles, and these people later cause car crashes.

Bypassing the Graves Amendment

This provision is rather poorly drafted, which is another common feature of last-minute add-ons. For one thing, most of the key terms are not defined. Moreover, the law includes two very large exceptions:

  • Not Otherwise Negligent: The Graves Amendment states that if the owner or agent is negligent, owner liability still attaches. A growing number of courts have ruled that owners or agents are negligent if they do not verify the customer’s drivers’ license beyond a mere visual inspection, and as a result, a growing number of companies are enforcing such a requirement. A policy violation is evidence of negligence.
  • Trade or Business: Because the term is not defined, no one is sure what it means to be “engaged in the trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles,” but vehicle owners are liable for damages if they do not meet this condition. In the ordinary sense, owners/agents must derive most of their income from a certain activity to be in that trade or business, and especially with regard to smaller vehicle rental agents, this requirement may be lacking.

Florida law may provide a way around the Graves Amendment as well, because the measure says that it does not supercede state law. The dangerous instrumentality doctrine is well-settled law in the Sunshine State. According to this rule, a person who “voluntarily entrusts that motor vehicle to an individual whose negligent operation causes damage to another” is liable for damages. So, even if the owner/agent was not negligent and was engaged in the correct trade or business, liability may still attach under Florida law.

Reach Out to Experienced Attorneys

Regardless of the Graves Amendment, vehicle lessors may still be vicariously liable for damages in certain car crash cases. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed. From our office in Brandon, Reed & Reed helps clients in Tampa, New Tampa, Plant City, East Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida.

Resources:

law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/30106

scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=3961412222465628062&hl=en&as_sdt=6&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr

autorentalnews.com/channel/legislative/article/story/2012/01/investigating-the-renter-are-you-responsible-for-verifying-licenses-with-the-dmv.aspx

Reed & Reed, Attorneys at Law
Reed & Reed, Attorneys at Law, is located in Brandon, FL and serves clients in
and around Brandon, Tampa, Apollo Beach, Sydney, Gibsonton, Balm, Valrico, Wimauma, Sun City Center, Lithia, Ruskin, Durant, and Hillsborough County.

Our Locations

Brandon

101 East Lumsden Road
Brandon, FL 33511
Tel: 813-438-5960
Fax: 813-438-5995

St. Petersburg

1700 66th Street North, Ste. 104-1008
St. Petersburg, FL 33710
Tel: 727-362-7520
Fax: 727-362-7521

Lakeland

248 N Kentucky Avenue #72
Lakeland, FL 33801
Tel: 863-274-7715
Fax: 863-274-7716

Tampa

401 E Jackson Street, Ste. 2340
Tampa, FL 33602
Tel: 813-440-6678
Fax: 813-440-6682

Clearwater

13575 58th Street N, Ste. 200
Clearwater, FL 33760
Tel: 727-767-9914
Fax: 727-767-9915

Memberships

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from www.NeedReed.com

MileMark Media - Practice Growth Solutions

© 2014 - 2017 Reed & Reed, Attorneys at Law. All rights reserved.
This law firm website is managed by MileMark Media.

Contact Form Tab