Who Is Liable for a Florida Rental Car Accident?
Summary: The number of rental cars in Florida means frequent accidents involving rented vehicles; renter is responsible for these Florida rental car accidents if he or she consented to another individual operating the vehicle.
Who Is Responsible for a Rental Car?
The individual who rented a car is often responsible for the actions of someone else using or operating the vehicle. The determining factor is whether the renter consented to someone else’s use of the car. Four factors contribute to this determination: (i) the driver’s prior use of the vehicle; (ii) the location and accessibility of the keys; (iii) the existence of a familial relationship between the owner and the driver; and (iv) the conduct of the parties after the accident. These considerations are different than when a vehicle is privately owned.
However, rental companies are liable for an accident if it was caused by its negligence. This can include a rental car company’s failure to train employees, failure to supervise its employees, negligently renting the car to an individual that shouldn’t have been able to enter into a rental contract, and failure to maintain or repair the vehicle.
Are there Exceptions to Liability?
In this case the court was asked to consider whether an individual was legally responsible for a Florida rental car accident, when the rental car was taken without the person’s knowledge or agreement. The facts of this case made it particularly difficult for the court to determine what constitutes consent by a car renter.
He was at-fault for a serious collision with the driver of a motorcycle. The motorcyclist, Mr. Stokes, brought a personal injury lawsuit against Mr. Phillips, Ms. Wynn, and Hertz. He claimed that Ms. Wynn was liable for the accident because she consented to Mr. Phillips driving the rental car or was negligent in making the keys available to Mr. Phillips and Hertz was liable because the key was an identifiable Hertz key fob, which made it clear the car was a rental.
The jury determined that neither Ms. Wynn nor Hertz were liable for the accident, and the responsibility rested entirely with the driver, Mr. Phillips. Later, the court of appeals upheld this decision, and found that Ms. Wynn neither expressly nor implicitly consented to Mr. Phillip’s use of the vehicle, even if he did obtain the keys from a common area of the home, such as the kitchen.
Contacting an Attorney
Involved in an accident with a rental car or other commercial vehicle? Our Miami personal injury firm has over 30 years of combined experience representing clients in accident and injury cases throughout the State of Florida. During these years our firm has handled personal injury cases that involve all manner of vehicle and circumstances.
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