Some 90 million people visit Florida each year. Around 25 million of these opt for South Florida. About one in four visitors rents a car here.  Therefore, the odds that a crash will involve a rental car go way up in the tourist season. Hence, it’s wise to learn the liability issues related to rental cars.

WHERE’S THE LIABILITY?

In general, the owner of a car driven by someone else is liable for damages due to the driver’s negligence. This doctrine is in Florida state law. It’s called vicarious liability.  However – and this is key – the Florida Supreme Court has ruled that a clause in Federal law trumps this state law. Rental car companies don’t have vicarious liability.

Hence, if someone is hurt in Florida due to the negligence of a rent-a-car driver, the rental company is mostly off the hook. He or she must seek damages from the driver, not the rental company.  Florida law does require rental companies to include $10,000 of coverage to the renter. This amount is equal to the  PIP coverage in Florida personal car insurance. However, this is secondary to the driver’s personal insurance. If any.

When the rental car driver is an out-of-state visitor, this slows the process of pressing claims for damages. That driver, unless laid-up by the crash, will likely leave the state not long after it.  In fact, so might the injured party if he or she is also a visitor. Thus, it’s a must to gather all that driver’s personal data as soon as possible.  Likewise, timely review of any coverage through the rental driver’s insurance is essential.  So is a copy of the rental contract.  It’s even more urgent than usual to get police on the scene and a report filed.

PRESSING A CLAIM

It’s crucial to call a personal injury attorney right away.  It’s going to get harder than the case of an owner-driven car. The drivers, any passengers, the rental company, and the several insurance carriers all have seats at the table. The companies have resources. These cases are routine to them. They know all the ins and outs.  A Florida accident attorney is the right choice for Floridian victims and injured visitors alike. The parties must settle Florida accidents under Florida law. As state laws differ, a Florida lawyer familiar with state law and process helps level the playing field.