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Owner Of Car Is As Liable As Driver

I once heard someone say that in Florida it’s ok to lend anything but your car to a friend…I didn’t quite understand what that meant until I attended Law School and came across the “Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine”.

Vehicle Owner Equally Responsible

Under Florida Law, the owner of a motor vehicle is liable for the damages and/or injuries caused by another operating his or her vehicle. This rule is the result of the “Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine” as adopted by the Florida Supreme Court in the case of Southern Cotton Oil Company v. Anderson, 80 Fla. 441, 468, 86 So. 629, 637 (1920) where the Court stated that: “one who authorizes and permits an instrumentality that is peculiarly dangerous in its operation to be used by another on the public highway is liable in damages for injuries to third persons caused by the negligent operation of such instrumentality on the highway by one so authorized by the owner”.

Can You Lend Me Your Car For A Quick Spin Around The Block?

At some point, most of us have been approached by a friend or a family member asking to borrow our car for a quick drive. We should remember that under the preceding doctrine, we are liable for any damages and/or injuries these friends may cause. If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a car accident where the driver was not the owner of the vehicle, please note that you may be entitled to pursue monetary compensation against the vehicle owner (and his or her insurance company), even if they were not present at the time of the accident.

There Are A Couple Of Exceptions To The Doctrine

However, in order to hold a person vicariously liable under this doctrine, that person must have an identifiable property interest in the vehicle. Hence why the legal title holder of a vehicle is typically held vicariously liable for the negligent operation of the vehicle. However, this doctrine does not apply when the title holder of a vehicle can demonstrate an absence of “beneficial ownership” of the vehicle. This has brought about two notable exceptions in the application of the doctrine:

(1) Where the holder of a vehicle’s title can demonstrate that it merely holds title as security for payment of the purchase price, like a bank or financing company.

(2) Where a parent merely purchases a vehicle for a child who lives at home, even if the parent exercises some control over the vehicle.

It is important to note that family dynamics and the parent-child relationship cannot be used to hold responsible parents who have purchased vehicles for their children, unless the parent has signed the minor child’s license application.

If you have been injured or lost a loved one due to the negligence of a person operating someone else’s car, you may be entitled to monetary compensation from the owner of the vehicle and should immediately contact a law firm experienced in handling car accidents, personal injury and wrongful death cases. The Miami Dade County Car Accident Law Offices of Greenberg, Stone & Urbano has throughout the years represented many clients involved in serious personal injuries and wrongful death cases caused by motor vehicle accidents. Visit our website to learn more about our firm and contact us today for a free consultation.

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