Rental cars are a common sight in New York and almost all large cities around the United States. Surprisingly, many people are unaware of who might pay if a distracted rental car driver causes a car accident. It seems logical the rental car company as well as the driver should be held liable in such instances, but this is actually not the case. A little-known law called the Graves Amendment makes it difficult to hold rental car companies liable for a renter’s bad driving.
Before the Graves Amendment passed in 2005 when accidents occurred involving rental cars most victims would settle personal injury claims with an at-fault driver either through that driver’s own auto insurer or otherwise pursue recovery through a lawsuit. However, some state-permitted vicarious liability claims against anyone who owned the motor vehicle involved; this means victims could also file a personal injury claim against a rental car company that owned the vehicle.
To avoid this, rental car companies began making their renters agree to rental contracts that released them from any vicarious liability; they also started offering temporary auto insurance for renters without coverage. The end result saddled the renter with liability for injuries from rental car accidents where they were determined to be at-fault.
The Graves Amendment largely prohibits any claims of vicarious liability against rental car companies for injuries resulting from car accidents caused by their renters. The only exception is when the company’s actions were negligent or criminal and contributed to the injuries. The Amendment applies if:
- The vehicle’s owner or affiliate engages in the business of either renting or leasing motor vehicles
- Neither negligence nor criminal behavior occurred on the part of the owner or affiliate
The Amendment has also been found to apply to trailer rental companies and carsharing companies.
When Graves Is Inapplicable
In a few situations, personal injury victims still may hold rental car companies vicariously liable for injuries from a car accident caused by their rental vehicle. If the company performed negligent maintenance on the vehicle or did not keep to the maintenance schedule before the accident, a crash caused by worn brakes or tires could incur liability. The same is true if a rental car company allowed someone without a valid drivers’ license to rent and drive their vehicle.
Contact a Long Island Car Accident Attorney
When a car accident involving a rental car is involved, it can be confusing to figure out how to get compensation for your injuries. The skilled Long Island car accident attorneys at the Falkowitz Law Firm, PLLC understand rental car companies and their insurers will try to avoid any liability for a renter’s bad driving; we have experience dealing with these companies and producing results. We have the resources and experience to thoroughly investigate the accident and will fight for you to receive maximum compensation. Contact us 24/7 at (844)-385-4279 or by completing our online Contact Page to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Take the first step towards getting justice for yourself today.
Gary P. Falkowitz is the Managing Partner and Founding Attorney of the Falkowitz Law Firm PLLC‚ one of the premiere personal injury law firms in New York. Gary received his J.D., in 2005 from St. John’s University School of Law and served as an Assistant District Attorney with the Kings County District Attorney’s Office.