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Rental Car Accident Seriously Injures Pedestrian At Airport

A McCarran Rent-A-Car worker was also badly hurt when a Hyundai Sonata suddenly accelerated in the parking lot.

According to a release from Hertz Rent-A-Car, a customer was pulling into the return area when the vehicle sped up instead of slowing to a stop. The Sonata struck another customer who was unloading belongings from another car before it careened into a third parked car, injuring a worker in the process. The Sonata finally came to rest after it hit a fourth parked vehicle. Both police and private investigators are looking into possible causes, although they have ruled out intoxication.

None of the names were released.

Third Party Liability in Vehicle Rental Cases

Many times, vehicle owners are responsible for damages in these cases, even if they were not the ones driving the cars. But the federal Graves Amendment significantly limits liability in these cases, largely to protect vehicle rental businesses. After a jury ordered a company to pay millions of dollars in damages after a fatal crash in the Northeast, and that firm threatened to cease doing business in several states, Missouri Republican Sam Graves sponsored 49 U.S. Code § 30106, which House lawmakers then attached to an omnibus bill.

Like many such last-minute “riders,” the Graves Amendment is rather poorly drafted and there is no legislative history, other than a brief discussion on the House floor, in support of the measure. The law contains a blanket protection for vehicle owners and leasing agents if their customers later negligently inflict injury while they are renting the vehicle. Yet there are two very, very large exceptions.

Getting Around the Graves Amendment

Rented vehicle-involved collisions are rather common. First, many drivers are unfamiliar with newer cars and unable to operate them as well; second, with regard to moving trucks, many of these vehicles are so large that, under different circumstances, only experienced and licensed commercial drivers are qualified to operate them.

To pierce the Graves Amendment in these cases, victim/plaintiffs can invoke subsection (a)(1) and establish that the owner or agent was not in the “trade or business” of leasing vehicles. This exception often applies to truck rental agents, because many such franchises are really moving service companies that happen to rent a truck or two as essentially a side business.

The (a)(2) exception is a little broader. It states that liability attaches if there was any “negligence or criminal wrongdoing on the part of the owner (or an affiliate of the owner).” When lawmakers passed the Graves Amendment, the law basically only required agents to visually inspect drivers’ licenses. Now, technology has advanced to the point that a mere cursory visual inspection is probably insufficient. Instead, it is becoming the industry standard to run a DMV check on the renter.

If the renter’s license was suspended or otherwise invalid, it is usually negligence as a matter of law for the owner or agent to complete the transaction; the same result applies if the renter has a facially-invalid license or is obviously intoxicated. Typically, if the renter had a poor driving record, such a background is evidence of negligence but not conclusive proof.

Rely on an Experienced Attorney

Despite the Graves Amendment, owners may still be liable for damages in car rental crash cases. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury lawyer in Las Vegas, contact Naqvi Injury Law today, because you have a limited amount of time to act.