Monday, May 18, 2009
7 News Investigations: Rental Risk
If you get hit by someone driving a rental car, you may want to have good insurance coverage. Rental car companies are not responsible if the person driving their car causes an accident and hurts you. Here's the Nightteam's Patrick Fraser with this special assignment report.
WSVN -- Rolando Gonzalez is lucky to be alive after a man driving a rental car raced across four lanes of traffic and slammed into his truck. Rolandos left with $100,000 in medical bills and brain injuries.
Danny Rio: "From Rolando who we knew to now is a big difference. He's not Rolando, he's not the same."
Robert Jacobs owes $40,000 in medical bills after the driver of a rental SUV slammed into his motorcycle.
Robert Jacobs: "It pretty much turned my world upside down. I'm still trying to recover from it."
Police say Bipersadd Kumarsingh was hit by a drunk driver in a rental car. The driver fled, so Kumarsingh turned to the rental car company to pay his medical bills.
Manny Morales, Attorney: "The rental car company who rented him that vehicle no longer has any responsibility, and I think that's wrong."
Rental car companies are no longer responsible because of a law called the Graves Amendment passed by congress in August 2005. It protects rental car companies when drivers who rent their cars cause accidents.
Patrick Fraser: "In South Florida, we have a lot of tourists driving rental cars. Many of them don't have any insurance or enough insurance. If they hit you, you have great insurance, your medical bills are covered, but many South Floridians only have minimum coverage, and when they get hit by drivers of rental cars they are stuck with the bills."
Arnold Ginsberg, Fighting Graves Amendment: "I think that's terrible."
Arnold Ginsberg is an appellate attorney who is trying to get the Graves Amendment overturned.
Arnold Ginsberg: "I think that the Graves Amendment, passed as it was by Congress, has essentially driven a dagger through the heart of public policy."
Phil Glatzer, represents rental car companies: "I think it's about time this law was passed because it is fair."
Phil Glatzer represents several rental car companies. He says the Graves Amendment makes them responsible if they make a mistake like renting a car with bad brakes and protects them if the accident is not their fault.
Phil Glatzer: "It retains responsibility on the part of the rental car company if the rental car company has done something negligent. It absolves the rental car company of responsibility if it has not acted negligently, so I think that's very fair."
But not only are the victims of rental car accidents left to pay, so are taxpayers.
Manny Morales: "When those accidents happen and people get seriously injured, the taxpayers are going to have to foot those bills when these people end up at Jackson Memorial Hospital or end up needing public assistance."
In the meantime, Arnold Ginsberg is left trying to get the Florida Supreme Court to overturn the Graves Amendment. Rolando is left with a debt he can barely imagine and Josh Diamond is left trying to explain to him why he will never be able to pay his medical bills.
Josh Diamond, attorney: "At this point, given the Graves Amendment, there's no way to get him compensated."
A law designed to save rental car companies money, but a law that also cost many South Floridians dearly.
To protect yourself, talk to your insurance agent to make sure you have enough to cover a hospital stay in case you'ar hit by a rental car or any car for that matter.