Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Brandon Personal Injury Attorney
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

What is the Graves Amendment and What Does It Mean?

CarAccident2

Like many other obscure federal laws, the Graves Amendment is completely meaningless unless you are in a certain situation. That situation is a vehicle collision which involves a U-Haul truck, Enterprise car, or other rented vehicle.

Typically, when drivers in borrowed vehicles cause crashes, the vehicle owners could be responsible for damages, under the negligent entrustment rule. But commercial negligent entrustment cases are different. The Graves Amendment limits owner liability in these cases.

The stakes are high. Fully-loaded U-Haul moving trucks weigh up to 33,000 pounds. If incompetent operators drive these massive vehicles and cause high-speed crashes, the results are often catastrophic.

Despite the Graves Amendment, a Brandon personal injury attorney might be able to obtain substantial compensation in these situations. That compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

49 U.S.C. § 30106: A Closer Look

In the late 1990s, there were a string of high-dollar judgements against companies like Enterprise Rent-a-Car. These companies threatened to cease operations in several states if the aforementioned negligent entrustment laws did not change. Congressman Sam Graves (D-MO) responded by attaching the provision which bears his name to a large transportation bill.

This special interest policy rider is like many others. Congress held no hearings, the provision itself does not define key terms, and the only legislative history is a few minutes of floor debate. So, it’s impossible to tell what the Graves Amendment means simply by looking at it.

What is known is that there are two provisions in 49 U.S.C. § 30106 which supposedly immunize companies like U-Haul against liability judgements. But good personal injury lawyers do not just know the law. They know how to make the law work for victims.

Not Otherwise Negligent

One such requirement is that the owner or agent was not otherwise negligent during the rental transaction. In this context, negligence often means a failure to verify a renter’s drivers’ license. In negligent entrustment matters, operators without valid licenses are usually incompetent as a matter of law.

In the early 2000s, when lawmakers approved the Graves Amendment, there was no way for retailers to verify drivers’ licenses beyond a visual inspection. Today, such technology is readily available.

In fact, it is arguably the industry standard to run a DMV verification before completing a vehicle rental transaction. Violating an industry standard of care is usually conclusive evidence of negligence.

As mentioned, drivers with safety-suspended licenses are usually incompetent as a matter of law, even if the license is facially valid. Generally, a poor driving record is circumstantial evidence of incompetence. Victim/plaintiffs must introduce additional evidence to establish owner liability.

Trade or Business

Graves Amendment immunity applies if the company was in the trade or business of renting vehicles. Once again, the provision does not define this key phrase. So, lawyers must look elsewhere for such a definition.

Attorneys frequently use the Uniform Commercial Code in retail contract dispute matters. The UCC defines “merchant,” which is a similar term, as a:

  • Dealer in a particular kind of good, or
  • Person with specialized knowledge.

Arguably, most vehicle rental establishments do not meet either of these standards.

Most such companies are moving supply companies which happen to rent a few truck on the side. They are not truck rental dealers per se. A flower shop is still a flower shop, even if it also sells gifts, snacks, and non-floral items.

Moreover, most employees at such establishments have no specialized knowledge about the vehicles available to rent.

Vicarious liability theories like negligent entrustment are often quite important in rented vehicles claims. Typically, the individual tortfeasors (negligent drivers) have little or no insurance coverage.

Reach Out to Experienced Attorneys

Despite the Graves Amendment, owners are usually still liable for damages in vehicle rental cases. For a free consultation with an experienced Brandon car accident lawyer, contact Reed & Reed, Attorneys at Law. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).

https://www.needreed.com/the-five-types-of-driving-impairment/

Brandon Personal Injury
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 - 2020 Reed & Reed, Attorneys at Law. All rights reserved.
This law firm website is managed by MileMark Media.

Contact Form Tab