Under Florida law, if a driver causes a collision while operating a borrowed car, both the driver and the owner of the vehicle may be held accountable for any damages that ensue. Some parties are immune from vicarious liability for collisions caused by people using their vehicles, though. Specifically, under a federal law referred to as the Graves Amendment, entities that lease or sell vehicles generally cannot be deemed vicariously liable for losses that arise out of the lease or sale of a car in their fleet. Recently, a Florida court issued an opinion discussing the Graves Amendment and explaining what evidence a party arguing it applies must produce to avoid liability. If you were involved in a crash with a borrowed car, it is advisable to meet with a Florida car accident attorney regarding what claims you may be able to pursue.
The Facts of the Case
It is alleged that the motorist visited a car dealership owned by the defendant to drop off his wife’s car. The defendant gave him a vehicle to use while he waited for his wife’s car to be serviced. The parties disputed whether the driver completed a rental agreement, however. A short time later, while driving the loaned vehicle, the driver was involved in a collision with the plaintiff. The plaintiff sustained significant injuries in the crash. She then filed a lawsuit asserting vicarious liability claims against the defendant. The defendant moved for dismissal via summary judgment, arguing that it was immune from liability pursuant to the Graves Amendment.
Exemption From Vicarious Liability Under the Graves Amendment
The Graves Amendment provides that certain parties are exempt from vicarious liability. In other words, it provides that entities that are engaged in the business of selling or leasing cars will not be held accountable for harm caused by a collision involving a car they leased or rented to a motorist. The Graves Amendment only applies if the driver in question was not negligent or engaged in criminal activity.
A party arguing that the Graves Amendment applies bears the burden of proof. In the subject case, the plaintiff argued that the defendant failed to meet its burden and, therefore, its motion should be denied. The court ultimately agreed, noting that while the defendant was engaged in the business of leasing and selling cars, it failed to demonstrate that the driver rented or leased the vehicle in question. Thus, it denied the defendant’s motion.
Meet with an Experienced Florida Car Accident Attorney
People often lend their vehicles to friends and family members without a second thought, but if the driver causes a collision, the owner may be found vicariously liable for any losses sustained in the crash. If you were injured in a car accident caused by a person driving a borrowed car, you could be owed damages, and you should meet with an attorney to discuss your rights. The experienced Florida car accident attorneys of Cardoso Law, PLLC, have ample experience helping people hurt by the negligence of others in the pursuit of damages, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can reach us via our form online or by calling us at (850) 466-2073 to set up a conference.