Until recently, every owner of a motor vehicle in Florida was responsible for damages caused by crashes involving the negligent operation of their/its vehicles by permissive users. The concept behind the legal principle is that motor vehicles are dangerous instrumentalities to be used with great care and caution, and that by holding the owner accountable careless vehicle lending/leasing practices will be minimized.
With one glaring exception, this law remains in effect in Florida today. The major exception applies to car rental companies.
In 2005, the United States Congress, at the urging of the Bush Administration, passed a legislative measure known as the Graves Amendment. The law preempts the laws of the individual states, including Florida, over the responsibility of car rental companies for accidents involving vehicles owned by them. Unlike Florida law, the federal law appears to have limited, if not altogether eliminated, the legal responsibility of rental companies for damages caused by their vehicles.
Proponents of the bill argue that the individual states should not be allowed to legislate the behavior of major rental car companies.
The law has been and continues to be challenged in courts around the country. The final decision will be made by the United States Supreme Court.