Most people realize they’re responsible for what happens in their car when they’re behind the wheel. But what happens if you loan your car to another person, and they get in an accident? Are you liable?
It’s a good question. And Florida’s complex insurance and liability laws don’t make the answer as straightforward as one might hope. Here is what you need to know about your car being involved in a Florida accident when you’re not the driver.
Third-Party Liability in Florida Accidents
In Florida injury law, there are statutes that allow for third-party liability. That means, in certain circumstances, you can be held liable for a car accident you weren’t involved in, but your car was.
Typically, a third party can be liable in Florida car accidents in one of three ways.
If you employ a negligent driver and they are acting in the scope of their duties they get into an accident causing serious injuries, you can be at fault.
In accidents involving drunk drivers, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that social hosts or bars may be held legally responsible for an accident if they served the alcohol that led to the crash. This is called dram shop liability.
Owners of Vehicles
Can you be sued if someone driving your car causes an accident? The simple answer is yes, you can. In Florida, there is something called the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. This doctrine views vehicles as inherently dangerous.
Therefore, if you own one and let someone use it, you can be held legally responsible if that person operates it negligently and causes an accident. This doctrine only applies if you have given the driver permission to take your car – not if it is stolen.
It’s also possible for a car owner to be held liable based on negligent entrustment. In other words, if you let someone you know is dangerous take your car and they cause an accident, you could be liable. This is because you owe a duty of care to others on the road.
What Can You Do?
It may seem as if having a car opens you up to potential liability in numerous ways – and it does. That’s why you want the Florida insurance you carry to include bodily injury liability coverage and underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage. These two things can help to protect you if your car is involved in an accident.
Car accidents are common. Because accidents happen, you need to have a skilled and expert attorney on your side if you find yourself sued as a third party in a motor vehicle accident. A good lawyer can help you get through the case and help you work toward a solution that is best for all parties involved.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all personal injury cases, focusing on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in representing injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and named one of America’s Top 100 High-Stakes Litigators. Mr. Winston is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, and has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2022– an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite,” recognized by Expertise as one of the 20 Best Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys, named one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015-2022, and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida for 2015-2017 and 2019-2022.