a female driver about to have a car accidentGetting into a regular car accident is stressful enough as it is. If you get into an accident involving a rental car, the situation can get a little trickier. It’s important to consult a rental car accident lawyer in Atlanta from Butler Kahn as soon as possible. Here’s a guide on what to do after the accident and a brief overview of the insurance options.

Steps to Take After a Rental Car Accident

If you get into an accident with someone driving a rental car, it’s important to stay calm and exchange information with the other driver. A rental car accident lawyer in Atlanta would advise you to ask the driver for the name of the rental company that owns the car and the rental paperwork.

If anyone was hurt during the accident, you should contact the police. They will come to the scene of the accident and make a police report. This report will include important information about the accident, such as when and where it occurred, who was at fault, statements of the parties and witnesses, and weather and road conditions. It’s important to obtain a copy of this police report so that you can give it to your rental car accident lawyer in Atlanta.

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Liability for Rental Car Accidents

If you get hit by someone driving a rental car, that person will be held legally responsible for the damages. How the damages are paid will depend on that driver’s insurance policy.

  • Personal Car Insurance: If the driver who hit you has personal auto coverage, you should be able to recover your damages from that policy. The majority of personal car insurance policies cover rental cars. The insurance will pay for your damages up to the policy limits.
  • Rental Car Insurance: If the rental car driver didn’t have personal auto coverage, he or she most likely purchased an insurance policy from the rental car company. However, if the person only bought minimal liability coverage, you might not receive enough compensation to cover all your damages.
  • Your Own Car Insurance: Unfortunately some rental car drivers don’t have personal car insurance or rental car insurance. If this is the case, you may have to use your own auto policy to pay for your damages.

Special Situations in Rental Car Accidents in Georgia

Under normal third-party liability theories like respondeat superior (where an employer is responsible for the employee’s driving), and negligent entrustment (where the owner is responsible for his driver’s driving), you would expect that Avis, Enterprise, U-Haul, and other vehicle rental companies would be responsible for damages if they lease a vehicle to a tortfeasor (negligent driver) who later causes a car crash. But that’s not the case. If you rent a car and you cause a collision, your car insurance is on the line.

The story behind the Graves Amendment actually began in the Northeast. After a jury gave a verdict holding a rental car company to pay several million dollars in damages after a tortfeasor (negligent driver) caused a deadly crash in a rented vehicle, the company threatened to pull out of several states. In response, lawmakers hastily added 49 U.S. Code § 30106 to an omnibus spending bill. Like almost all such measures, there is basically no legislative history about the Graves Amendment other than a few minutes of floor debate.

It’s important to know what the Graves Amendment does and does not say, because many people in Atlanta rent large moving trucks that normally require commercial drivers’ licenses to operate and some people in rented passenger cars are focused on following GPS directions on their cellphones as opposed to watching the road.

What the Graves Amendment Does

Republican Congressman Sam Graves of Missouri authored the provision which purports to eliminate liability for car rental companies if they rent a vehicle to a person that subsequently causes a car crash. There are two very big conditions because the owner or agent:

  • Must be “engaged in the trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles,” and
  • Cannot be otherwise negligent.

Because it was a last-minute add-on, 49 U.S. Code § 30106 is not particularly well-drafted and does not define “trade or business,” but in the ordinary sense of the phrase, it means that the company must receive most or all its income from vehicle rental.

As for the “otherwise negligent” prong, technology has advanced a lot since Congress passed the Graves Amendment in 2005. Back then, there was basically no way for store clerks to verify drivers’ licenses beyond a visual inspection. Now, such checks are arguably the industry standard, and violation of such a standard usually constitutes negligence.

Despite the Graves Amendment, vehicle rental companies may still be liable for car crash damages as responsible third parties. A rental company like a U-Haul or Ryder can still be responsible and liable in some situations. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury attorney in Atlanta, contact our personal injury lawyers at Butler Kahn.

Consulting a Rental Car Accident Lawyer

If you’re having trouble recovering damages from a rental car accident, you should speak to a rental car accident lawyer in Atlanta. Negotiating with insurance companies isn’t easy, so you need someone with knowledge and experience on your side. An auto accident lawyer Atlanta residents trust who has experience with rental car accidents will work hard to get you the compensation you deserve.

If you were injured in a rental car accident, you should schedule a free consultation with a rental car accident lawyer in Atlanta today.