Just imagine if you were driving down I-95 on your way home and a negligent driver in a rental car suddenly and negligently loses control of the car and crashes into you causing you to become catastrophically injured.
Under the current law, established in 1920 by the Florida Supreme Court, the rental car company would be liable for the negligence of the individual who was renting their car.
The rental car company knows that the use of its automobiles on the highways in the State of Florida poses extraordinary risk and that rental car companies profit by placing their cars on the highway. They are thereby exposing all the citizens of the State of Florida to significant risk. This law and reasoning is what is referred to in legal doctrines as the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine.
The Florida Supreme Court stated that it is believed to be a common opinion among many that the automobile constitutes a dangerous machine and that the operation of the motor vehicle on the public thoroughfare is necessarily hazardous.
Unfortunately, Florida's legislature prepared HB777, which will abrogate to a great extent liability of the rental car agencies based on this 80 year old doctrine known as the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine. HB777 which is known as Tort Reform limits the liability of rental car agencies to $100,000.00 per person, $300,000.00 per incident plus $500,000.00 additional for economic damages if the lessee or operator has less than $500,000.00 insurance, combined limits. Tragically this Bill was signed into law on May 26, 1999 by Governor Bush.
This law will severely hurt the most catastrophically injured victims who are in need of compensation. Catastrophically injured patients will not be able to recover adequately from rental car companies who profit by having their cars on the street. These victims will become wards of the State and taxpayers dollars will have to pay for their medical care and other expenses associated with their catastrophic injuries.