How many times have you loaned your car out to a friend or relative without giving it too much thought? Even if you trust the person you are loaning your vehicle to, you need to understand that you could be facing some serious repercussions if that person were to get into an accident in your vehicle.
Can you be held liable and sued when someone else uses your vehicle in Florida? The short answer is yes!
Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine
The Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine in Florida says that the vehicle owner is liable for any damage caused by the person operating the vehicle. It is also known as vicarious liability.
Under vicarious liability, a third party has the obligation as well as the right to control the activities of the negligent party. Dangerous instrumentality refers more to the object used to cause death while being used.
Does Vicarious Liability Equate to Neglect?
Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine doesn’t apply if the driver handles the vehicle without express or implied permission. In these cases, the owner may not be held liable for injuries suffered.
However, if you knowingly let someone borrow the vehicle, then it is reasonably foreseeable that you allowed them to operate the vehicle, making yourself liable for the third party’s actions.
Under Florida law, an injured party can bring a claim against the vehicle owner and the driver using Negligent Entrustment. Of course, this does depend on the circumstances surrounding the accident. It needs to be proven that the vehicle owner was acting negligently when they loaned their car out to a bad driver.
What Damages May I Be Liable for?
The injured party can sue for the following damages from the owner and driver that caused the accident:
• Lost income
• Future lost income
• Medical expenses
• The replacement value of lost property
• Funeral expenses
• Mileage reimbursement
• Disability or disfigurement
• Mental anguish
• Loss of capacity for life
While personal injury protection (PIP) in Florida will pay a good portion of the medical bills after an auto accident in Florida, you may still be responsible for expenses above and beyond the PIP coverage limits.
Are There Limits?
Under some Florida statutes, if the vehicle owner who is considered a natural person (a real human being as opposed to a legal person who could be a business entity, for example) lends their vehicle to a permissive user, the owner’s liability is up to $100,000 per person and up to $300,000 per incident regarding bodily injury and up to $50,000 for property damage.
Suppose the person who borrowed the vehicle is uninsured or has an insurance policy with limits of less than $500,000 combined for property damage and bodily injury liability. In that case, the vehicle owner may end up being liable for up to $500,000 more in economic damages.
There is no limit when it comes to the owner’s liability for their own negligence in loaning their vehicle out.
If you loaned your vehicle out and that person caused an accident that resulted in serious damages, it may be in your best interest to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.
These kinds of cases can get complicated very quickly because it involves so many working parts. The attorney can help navigate this complex case and see how much liability you hold for loaning your vehicle out to someone else.
Injury Case Damages – How Much Can I Get?