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Rental car liability under the Graves Amendment

In the past, if you were hit by a negligent motorist who was driving a rental car, you could file a legal action against the negligent driver as well as the rental car company that owned the vehicle. However, all this changed in 1995 with the passage of the Graves Amendment.

The Graves Amendment, for the most part, eliminated vicarious liability claims brought against rental car companies after their vehicles were involved in crashes. Vicarious liability is a legal theory that allows individuals to hold the owner of a piece of property responsible for an injurious accident, even when the owner wasn't directly involved in the accident.

The Graves Amendment was incorporated into a federal highway bill that became law in 1995. The amendment states that rental car companies will not be liable for personal injury or property damages arising from the use or operation of a rented vehicle simply by reason of being the owner of the vehicle. In other words, just because the rental car company owned the vehicle, it does not mean that it will be liable for accidents involving the rental car.

All that said, if a plaintiff can show that the rental car business was responsible for the accident -- perhaps due to poor maintenance -- then the rental car company could still be held liable. These circumstances, however, are rare.

If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident involving a rental car, special laws and unique legal circumstances may apply to your situation. A Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer familiar with rental car accidents can help you evaluate the viability of your potential claim for damages.

Source: FindLaw, "Graves Amendment and Rental Car Liability," accessed March 22, 2017

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