| Read Time: 3 minutes | Auto Accidents

Were you recently involved in a car accident in Florida, and the person who caused the crash wasn’t the owner of the vehicle? You might be surprised to learn that the owner could still be liable for your damages. This is thanks to the dangerous instrumentality doctrine in Florida.

This doctrine says that the owner of a car can be held liable (responsible) for damages caused by someone else driving it if they gave the person permission to drive. It’s a legal principle known as vicarious liability in Florida. While the owner might not have been behind the wheel, they are vicariously liable because they entrusted the vehicle to someone else. Let’s break down what this means for car owners and accident victims and how it affects compensation in Florida.

If you’ve been injured in a car crash and have questions about your rights, contact James Horne Law PA. We can help you understand your options and navigate the legal process. There are no fees unless we win your case! Call us today for a free confidential consultation.

When Does the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine Apply?

Imagine the owner of a car lends their vehicle to a friend for a quick trip to the grocery store. The friend agrees to go only to the grocery store but then decides to take a detour and run other errands before returning. Unfortunately, the friend gets into a car accident while on this detour. 

In this case, the dangerous instrumentality doctrine will still apply even though the friend went against the owner’s instruction. This means the owner (all of those listed on the title) will still be held liable for the damages caused by the accident. The doctrine applies because the owner gave the friend permissive use of the car, even if the friend misused that permission. 

Another example that may be seen more frequently in Florida is when a beach house or condo owner includes their car as part of the stay for guests. A guest may borrow the car to explore the area and cause an accident. Here, the dangerous instrumentality doctrine could also apply, making the car owner potentially liable for damages.

Important Exceptions

There are a few key exceptions to the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Stolen vehicle. This doctrine does not apply if the car involved in the accident was stolen. The thief wouldn’t have permission to drive the car, so liability would fall on the thief.
  • Extreme detour or misuse. Imagine an owner lends their car to a friend for a doctor’s appointment, but the friend takes the car on a joyride across multiple state lines. This situation would likely be considered extreme misuse and, as an exception, would mean the owner is not liable. 

There can be some debate about whether certain actions fall under the extreme detour or misuse exception. This is why consulting with a qualified personal attorney like James Horne is always recommended. We can analyze the specific details of your case and help you understand how any exceptions may apply. 

How Compensation Is Affected by the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine in Florida

The dangerous instrumentality doctrine can significantly impact the compensation you receive. Here’s how:

  • Expands the pool of potentially liable parties. This doctrine allows you to pursue compensation not just from the driver who caused the accident but also from the car owner. This can be crucial if the driver has limited insurance coverage or lacks the financial resources to cover your damages fully.
  • Increased chance of reaching a fair settlement. Because the owner’s insurance company is now potentially liable, there’s a greater chance of reaching a fair settlement that reflects the full extent of your losses.

Keep in mind that the specific amount of compensation you receive will depend on the severity of your injuries, the impact on your life, and the particular details of your case. An attorney can help you determine the value of your damages and negotiate for a fair settlement that covers all your losses. 

Let James Horne Law PA Help You Get Back on Your Feet

Unsure if the dangerous instrumentality doctrine applies to your situation? James Horne Law PA understands the complexities of Florida personal injury law, and our team can fight to protect your rights and help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. We will take the time to understand the whole story—your story. We fight tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome in every case, no matter how complex.

With a proven track record of securing settlements in the 6-to-7 figure range for many car accident victims, we have the experience to fight for the compensation you deserve. While each case is different and we cannot guarantee the same outcome in every case, we will show the same dedication to every case we take on. We’re also rated AV Preeminent, the highest possible rating from Martinedale-Hubbell for legal ability and ethical standards. This prestigious recognition reflects our commitment to excellence and dedication to our clients.

You shouldn’t have to suffer the physical, emotional, and financial burdens of an accident you didn’t cause. If you’ve been injured by someone driving a borrowed car, James Horne Law PA can help. Contact us today, and remember, there are no fees unless we win your case!

Author Photo

James “Jay” Horne is an AV-Preeminent rated aggressive litigation attorney, who focuses his practice on medical malpractice, personal injury and family law matters. He has successfully represented clients from case inception through trial and appeals in state and federal court. Jay was born and raised on the Suncoast. He is married and proud father to a one year old son. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, golfing and distance running during the cool months.

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