As a carowner, you might be surprised to learn that you can be liable for a car crash that you were not a part of. In Florida, this is the “Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine.” In short, as the car owner, when you give a driver permission to drive your car, and that person is found at fault for causing the accident, you are equally at fault, even though you were nowhere near the accident scene.
What is the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine?
Specifically, when the title owner of a vehicle gives express or implied consent to another’s use of the car, the title owner is responsible for the operation of the car. This is also referred to as “strict vicarious liability.” See The Florida Standard Jury Instructions.Liability is said to be strict because an injured client need not prove that a car owner negligently entrusted the vehicle to its operator for liability to attach; the injured client need only prove some fault on the part of the car driver, which is then imputed to the car owner under vicarious liability principles.
Exceptions to this rule include leases of cars which exceed one year, or if your car was stolen or you otherwise can provide evidence that you did not give permission.
Not only are cars included within the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine, but also included are trucks, golf carts and motorcycles.
Also, the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine applies in crashes caused by an employee driving a company vehicle. Specifically, if a company owner gives permission for an employee to drive a company-owned vehicle, and the employee is otherwise acting within the course and scope of their duties, the owner is said to be strictly vicariously liable for the negligence of the employee in causing the crash.
When Your Minor ChildCausesan Accident in Your Car
Under the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine, if a parent is a title owner of the car, a parent can be held strictly liable for the minor’s negligence if they granted the minor permission to use the car. Further, in Florida, financial responsibility extends to the parents or legal guardian who signed the child’s driver’s license application.
We recommend to our clients with children that are driving that as soon as the child reaches age 18, remove the parent’s name from the title, leaving only the child’s name as the title owner. This provides a protection to the parent from liability should the child cause an accident.
Seek Legal Advice from a Knowledgeable Tampa Car Accident Attorney
If another individual who was driving your motor vehicle gets in a crash and you are having issues with the involved insurance companies or need some legal guidance, contact Hancock Injury Attorneys. Learn more about your case in a free consultation with our Tampa car accident attorney. Call 813-915-1110 or contact us online for more information.