A brand new groom, with his bride in the passenger seat, lost control of a rented Ferrari 458 Spider and smashed into a friend’s house.
The car has a top speed of 210mph with the factory engine, and can accelerate from 0 to 60 in only three seconds. The groom states that his foot slipped on the mat and he pressed the accelerator instead of the break moments before the crash. He reportedly lost the $7,100 rental deposit and must pay an additional $28,000 in insurance costs.
The Ferrari 458 Spider retails for around $345,000.
Rented Vehicle Liability
Thanks to an obscure law known as the Graves Amendment, traditional third party liability may not apply in these cases. 49 U.S.C. 30106, which was enacted without prior hearings and with almost no floor debate, shield vehicle owners and their agents from liability if a vehicle renter negligently causes a car crash.
These wrecks occur rather frequently, either because the driver rents a high-performance sports car to “show it off” or a large moving truck that normally requires a commercial drivers’ license to operate.
This law was enacted after a large vehicle rental company ceased operations in several states following a multimillion dollar jury verdict. Although the Graves Amendment seems straightforward and ironclad, there are two very big loopholes.
First, according to Section (a)(1), the company must be in the “trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles” for the law to apply. This phrase is not defined in the law, but many U-Haul and other franchises do much more than rent vehicles. They may also sell moving supplies, operate storage facilities, and act as an employment agency for professional movers. As such, they are arguably moving companies and not vehicle rental companies.
A larger loophole is in Section (a)(2), which says that the owner or agent must not be otherwise negligent. When the Graves Amendment was passed, store clerks had no way to verify a drivers’ license beyond a visual inspection. But since technology has advanced, some courts impose a duty to electronically verify the license, and negative information can be evidence of negligence.
Despite the federal law, third party liability may still apply to rented vehicles. For a free consultation with attorneys who find ways to get you the compensation you deserve, contact our office. After hours and hospital visits are available.