Last year, officials reported record-breaking traffic on New England roads over the Thanksgiving holiday. More than 2.2 million people in this region make a turkey day trek more than 50 miles, representing a 3.5 percent increase over a year ago and the biggest boost in volume since 2005. It’s not clear exactly how many of those were in rented vehicles, but we know it’s common. There was also an uptick in air travel, with some 36,000 people flying out of Portland International Jetport, many opting for rental vehicles while in town. Nationally, it’s estimated some 51 million people traveled over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday period from Wednesday through Sunday (with Wednesday being the busiest day).
Maine car accident attorneys in Bangor know that when a collision involves a rented vehicle, there may be some unique elements to consider with regard to auto insurance and liability coverage.
Prior to 2005, victims of car accidents could take legal action against rental car companies, holding them liable for the negligent actions of the person driving a vehicle owned by the rental company. This falls under a special type of law called “vicarious liability,” meaning it’s not necessary to show the person you’re suing for injuries directly did anything wrong. Rather, motor vehicles are inherently dangerous and so the owner was responsible for negligent use of that dangerous tool by someone else if the owner gave that person permission.
But then Congress passed the Graves Amendment, part of a larger federal transportation bill, which largely released rental car companies from liability when a renter crashes a car. However, that does not mean they are entirely off-the-hook. They can still be held liable for direct negligence. For example, if a causal factor in the crash was worn tire tread, that could be the fault of the rental car company. If the brakes were old or the car hadn’t been maintained, that could be evidence of direct negligence by the rental car company. Continue reading