Everyone knows that if you are driving a motor vehicle and cause an accident and someone suffers injuries, you and/or your insurance company are responsible for compensating the injured person for his damages. What you may not know is that if someone else is driving a vehicle you own and injures someone, you are also responsible. In Florida, a motor vehicle is considered to be a "dangerous instrumentality". Florida Courts have long held that a person who authorizes and permits a motor vehicle to be used by another person is liable for any damages caused by the negligent operation by the driver. This is often referred to as the "dangerous instrumentality doctrine."
There are exceptions to the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. There are circumstances when a car is loaned to another and that person may be deemed to have breached the owner's trust, resulting in a theft. These circumstances are rare and often times difficult to prove. However, when an owner does not truly give his consent to operate his or her vehicle, the owner should not be held liable. The courts have generally held that the owner of a vehicle is not responsible for the actions of servicemen and repairmen when his vehicle is being serviced, tested or repaired. Finally, an owner may not be held for intentional misconduct by another driver unless that intentional misconduct was foreseeable.
Next time you loan your car to someone else, keep in mind that if they injure someone while on the road, you may be responsible for their actions.
Corey Bundza is the president of Bundza & Rodriguez, P.A. He has extensive experience handling automobile accident claims and lawsuits throughout Florida. His office is located in Daytona Beach, Florida.