According to Auto Rental News, as of 2011, there were approximately 1,760,761 rental cars in the United States. With an estimated 86.5 million visitors to Florida in 2011, there can be little doubt that our roads are besieged with rental cars. What most people do not realize is that the State of Florida does not require a driver of a rental car to carry any automobile insurance in the event of an accident. In the past, Florida had a financial responsibility law in place that made rental car agencies responsible for the carnage caused by their uninsured drivers. However, with the Bush Administrations’ passage of the Graves Amendment in 2005, Florida’s financial responsibility law was struck down, and rental car agencies were relieved of any responsibility for injuries caused by an uninsured driver operating a rental vehicle. The cold hard truth is that if you do not carry what is generally referred to as uninsured motorist’s coverage under your own insurance policy, you could be gravely injured without any recourse.
Consider the following example:
A Chinese tourist visits Florida and rents a car with Hertz. The Chinese tourist does not carry automobile insurance that will cover him while traveling internationally, and he chooses not to purchase the extra insurance offered by Hertz. While driving on I-95, he slams into the back of a Mr. Smith’s car, and Mr. Smith suffers a severely fractured arm requiring surgery and the installation of metal plate. Mr. Smith has only the basic personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, and does not have health insurance. His medical bills total $75,000. After the accident the tourist returns to China.
Since the Graves Amendment has relieved rental car companies of any responsibility for permitting uninsured drivers to rent and drive their cars, Mr. Smith’s only viable avenue of recovery is the $10,000 in PIP benefits under his own automobile policy.
My best advice to anyone driving a car in Florida is to make sure you have, at least, basic catastrophic health insurance coverage and sufficient uninsured motorist coverage. In the example above, if Mr. Smith had a $100,000.00 uninsured motorist coverage added to his automobile insurance policy, his own insurance company would likely quickly tendered the full amount of any such policy with a modest amount of effort from his attorney. When you consider the recent changes in the law eliminating any liability on the part of rental car companies, and the significant number of foreign tourists operating rental cars in Florida, uninsured motorist coverage is virtually a necessity.