As a vehicle owner, you probably believe someone who has borrowed your car bears liabilities for anything that might happen on the road, including auto accidents. Usually, you’d think you should not be responsible for an accident if you’re not driving the car.
However, under Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine, you’re accountable for your car’s accident even if you’re not driving.
Unfortunately, only a few people in Florida have a basic understanding of this law. That’s why some Floridians have been subjected to accident liability that they don’t understand. To protect against future auto accident liabilities, it’s essential to understand Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine.
What is the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine?
Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine establishes that the owner of an inherently dangerous tool will be held responsible for any injuries caused by the tool’s operations. In this case, in case of your car’s accident, you’ll be held liable for the injuries and damages it has caused.
This means that vicarious liability in Florida will apply to the vehicle owner and other parties whose names appear on the vehicle’s title. When the accident occurs, the vehicle owner will be viewed as the individual in the driver’s seat.
Under this law, a vehicle is dangerous, and by permitting your neighbor to drive the car, you bear both moral and financial responsibility to ensure the vehicle is driven responsibly. Therefore, you’ll be liable for all financial liabilities if an accident occurs.
When does the Florida Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine Apply?
Before establishing when the Florida dangerous instrumentality doctrine applies, it’s essential to indicate that this law applies to many vehicles, not just cars. It applies to vehicles such as trucks and other automobiles such as:
- Golf carts
- Farm tractors
Am I liable if my name is on a car title? Yes. Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine applies when you allow the driver to operate your vehicle in your stead. You’ve expressly authorized someone to drive your car. If you give someone implied access to your vehicle, the dangerous instrumentality doctrine will also apply.
However, this doctrine will not apply if you have not expressly or impliedly permitted the driver to operate your vehicle. For example, if your car has been stolen and is subsequently involved in an accident, you’ll not be held liable for the resulting accident.
What are the Exceptions to the Florida Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine?
In as much as you’ll be held liable for the permissive use of your vehicle in case of an accident, there are some exceptions to the rule. That’s why you need an attorney to guide you on the possible exceptions that you might use. Some of the exceptions to this rule include:
1. Car rental companies
When you lease a car from a leasing or a rental company, the car’s title is in the name of the rental agency. However, the rental company will not be held liable for the negligent use of the vehicle under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. Therefore, if you’ve leased a car from a leasing company, you must take all the necessary precautions as you’ll be held liable for the accident and the resulting injuries and damages.
2. Stolen vehicle
If your vehicle has been stolen and it causes an accident, you’ll not be held liable under this doctrine. In this case, you did not grant permission (expressly or impliedly) to the driver. Therefore, you don’t have any moral or financial responsibility for the accident caused by your car.
3. Sale of your vehicle
As you already know, selling your vehicle is a complex process that might take several days or weeks. In this case, the vehicle’s new owner will continue to possess and drive the car before you have transferred the title to their name. If the buyer causes the accident before you’ve transferred the title, you may be able to escape responsibility.
4. The “shop rule”
When you take your vehicle to a repair shop, the repair shop employee may decide to drive the car around to ascertain its roadworthiness; however, if an accident occurs during road testing, the vehicle owner will not be held liable. There’s no doubt that you entrusted your vehicle to the service station, but the dangerous instrumentality doctrine exempts you from such liabilities.
Protect Yourself from the Florida Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine
You may not find yourself fitting into any of the exceptions discussed above. This doesn’t mean you’ll not protect yourself from possible liabilities after an accident.
Reviewing your vehicle’s title to ascertain who is open to liability is a strategic way of protecting yourself and members of your family. By adding or removing some names from a vehicle’s title through the Department of Motor Vehicles, you’ll be safeguarding such individuals from possible problems in the future.
Also, you need to evaluate your auto insurance policy and ensure that your coverage limits are adequate to cover all the possible liabilities you could face under this doctrine. In addition, you can review your Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Policy to protect the drivers that may not have the necessary insurance in case of an accident.
Additionally, when someone who borrowed your car is involved in an accident, or you’re involved in an accident caused by someone who borrowed a car, an accident attorney can help.
An experienced Florida lawyer can evaluate the details of the case and provide some possible options to explore. Whether you need to recover compensation for injuries or vehicle damages from a vehicle collision caused by a non-owner, your accident attorney understands your situation and can fight for your rights.
Contact a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer Today for Assistance
Contact an experienced Florida personal injury attorney at Stevenson Klotz for assistance if you’re involved in an auto accident. We’ll help you build a strong case and get compensated for personal injuries and damages to your car.
Get in touch with us today to get started.
Car Accident FAQs
What should I do after an accident?
Immediately after the accident, you must check for injuries and call 911 if necessary. Once you have ensured that everyone is safe, you should exchange insurance information with the other driver and take pictures of the damage.
Should I continue driving my car after an accident?
No, you should not continue driving your car after an accident unless it is safe to do so and you are not blocking traffic. If your vehicle is not drivable, turn on your hazard lights and call a tow truck.
What happens if I leave the scene of an accident?
If you leave the scene of an accident, you may be charged with a hit and run. Depending on the accident’s severity, this could be a misdemeanor or felony offense.