Who Is Liable for Injuries Involving a Stolen or Loaned Vehicle in Orlando?
Written by Shawn Diederich on April 26, 2016
In Florida, most car accidents are dealt with under the state’s “no-fault” insurance rules. This means the injured driver is supposed to seek compensation from their own insurance company without regard to who was at fault for the accident. But in cases where someone suffers a permanent injury, including death, the victim may step outside of the no-fault system and seek damages against the persons responsible for the accident.
Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine
The responsible parties are not limited to the negligent driver. The owner of the vehicle may also be liable under Florida’s “dangerous instrumentality doctrine.” This phrase comes from a 1920 decision by the Florida Supreme Court, which held that anyone who “authorizes and permits” another person to use “an instrumentality that is particularly dangerous,” such as a car or truck, on the public highways, the owners is then liable “for injuries to third persons caused by the negligent operation of such instrumentality on the highway.”
In simpler terms, if you loan your car to someone who then causes a car accident, the victim can sue you for damages. The dangerous instrumentality doctrine imposes a legal duty on you, as the car owner, to ensure the vehicle is operated in a safe manner at all times. As the Supreme Court observed in a 1990 case, the dangerous instrumentality doctrine is presumes “the one who originates the danger by entrusting the automobile to another is in the best position to make certain that there will be adequate resources with which to pay the damages caused by its negligent operation.”
Theft vs. Implied Consent
But what happens if your car is stolen and then involved in an accident? Does the dangerous instrumentality doctrine still apply to you? In general, the answer is no. If someone takes your car without your permission, you are not responsible for any accident that occurs.
Keep in mind, however, that the dangerous instrumentality doctrine applies whether you give express or implied permission. Let’s say your child “borrows” the car without asking you first and gets into an accident. If you have a history of letting the child take the car whenever she wanted without asking, that could be construed as implied consent and you could be held liable for the accident. On the other hand, if you specifically forbade the child to ever use the car without permission, and he takes the keys when you are not around, that would suggest you did not give implied consent.
Get Advice From a Florida Car Accident Attorney
If your car is involved in any type of accident, whether or not the driver had your permission, you should still consult with an Orlando personal injury lawyer who can advise you of your potential liability. Contact the Diederich Law Firm, P.A., if you would like to speak with a car accident attorney today about your situation.