It is commonly believed that if you are not a driver of a vehicle involved in a collision, there is no fault on your part, and, therefore, you are shielded from any liability arising from that accident. With that said, it may come as a surprise when you find yourself subject to liability after lending your pick-up to your brother, who subsequently rear ends another driver. This liability is imposed by Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine.
The Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine provides that the owner of an inherently dangerous tool is liable for any injuries caused by that tool’s operation. In 1920, the Florida Supreme Court in Southern Cotton Oil Co. v. Anderson, 80 Fla. 441(Fla. 1920), extended the doctrine to include motor vehicles, reasoning that automobiles are inherently dangerous tools, and when an owner gives permission for the operation of his vehicle by another, that owner — or anyone currently listed on the Certificate of Title, whether a person or company — has both the financial and moral responsibility to ensure that the vehicle is driven responsibly.
As a result, the Doctrine imposes strict vicarious liability upon an owner who voluntarily entrusts his vehicle to an individual whose negligent operation of same causes damage to another.
There are, however, several exceptions to this Doctrine, including:
- The owner is generally not liable for the negligent operation of his vehicle by a repair shop employee when the owner entrusted his vehicle to the shop for repairs. This rule also applies to valet drivers.
- A car rental/leasing company is generally not liable for the renter/lessee’s negligent operation of the rental/leased vehicle.
- If an “owner” successfully sells his vehicle, but the buyer causes an accident before the seller had a reasonable opportunity to change the ownership on the title, the seller may not be liable for damages caused by the buyer’s negligent operation.
- The owner of a vehicle is not liable if the vehicle was stolen, and the thief subsequently causes an accident. In this situation, no permission was given by the owner.
Attorney Chelsie M. Lamie is a personal injury attorney located in Safety Harbor, Florida. If you were involved in a motor vehicle accident as a result of another driver’s negligence, contact the Personal Injury Law Office of Chelsie M. Lamie, P.A., to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve from all responsible parties. Please call 727-501-3464 for a free consultation. You can also learn more about Attorney Lamie at www.chelsielamie.com.