If I let someone drive my car, am I responsible for any accidents?
It happens all of the time. A friend or family member asks to borrow your car so that they can run an errand. Of course, you want to help them out. But what happens if your friend or family member causes a motor vehicle accident while driving your car? Could you be held financially liable for any injuries or property damage that are caused by the car accident? You may be surprised, but the answer is yes! This is because Florida follows what is known as the “dangerous instrumentality doctrine.” The doctrine comes from English common law and was adopted by the state of Florida in 1920.
According to the doctrine, one who provides a “dangerous instrumentality” to another individual is responsible for any harm caused while using the “dangerous instrumentality.” So what is considered a “dangerous instrumentality?” A few examples of “dangerous instrumentalities” are: cars, motorcycles, golf carts, trucks, buses, airplanes, and other motorized vehicles that are uniquely dangerous in their operation. With the invention of new technology, there will likely be several other types of motor vehicles that will be found by the Courts to be “dangerous instrumentalities” in the future.
It makes no difference whether the person you entrusted your car to had a perfect driving record. The Florida Supreme Court has stated that the purpose behind the “dangerous instrumentality doctrine” is “…to provide greater financial responsibility to pay for the carnage on our roads. It is premised upon the theory that 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.” Kraemer v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 572 So.2d 1363, 1365 (Fla. 1990). What this means is that if you lend someone your car, you should already be aware that there are financial risks to doing so.
Let’s use an example to show how the “dangerous instrumentality doctrine” works in the real world. My brother asks me whether he can borrow my car until his car is out of the shop. Naturally, I lend him my car because I want to do whatever I can to help my brother out. After I lend him my car, he causes an accident with another vehicle. Who can be held liable? We know that my brother is financially liable for any injuries or property damage because he is at fault for the car crash. But what about me? You may have guessed it - I am also financially liable under the “dangerous instrumentality doctrine” because I let him borrow my vehicle. You may now be thinking twice about lending your motor vehicle to a friend or family member!
Englander Peebles' Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyers regularly seeks justice for clients who have been injured due to the negligence of a driver of a borrowed motor vehicle. If you have been injured in a car accident or have any questions about the “dangerous instrumentality doctrine,” contact Englander Peebles today for a free confidential consultation.