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Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine and Liability

Posted by Bill Skopelja | Dec 05, 2017 | 0 Comments

Florida's Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine and Liability

If you own a pickup truck, you're probably the most valued friend whenever anyone needs something large and bulky moved or hauled. How many times have you been called upon to altruistically lend out your truck and saving them from having to resort to delivery fees or rental truck charges?

Does this sound familiar to you?

First scenario: Your friend calls you on a Saturday at 9 a.m. in desperate need of help. They're moving and they could really use a truck to move some furniture from one end of town to the other. But, they don't want to bother you too much and suggest they take the truck from you and return it at the end of the day when they're finished. Of course, being the nice person that you are, you oblige, and they happily drive off with your truck promising to bring it back in one piece.

As your friend drives off you think to yourself, “I hope they don't wreck my truck, but I'm not driving it, so how could I be held responsible?”  Hold that thought.

A second scenario: Your same friend who borrowed your truck has had an epiphany about trucks and decides they need one, too. It will save them time and they won't have to keep calling you, hoping you will still hand over your keys. Your friend calls and pleads with you. “My credit is in terrible shape and I do not want to keep borrowing your truck. Can you co-sign for purchase of a truck for me? I promise I will help make all the payments.”

Since you're all about maintaining your track record as that good friend with the truck, you agree and rationalize if I'm not driving the truck, I can't be held responsible in an accident. It's a win-win. Now, they'll have their own truck and I'm still their amazing friend.

Is it really a win-win? You might be an amazing friend, but now, you're an amazing friend with a truckload of liability you didn't even know you signed for.

Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine

Florida follows a doctrine of strict liability, known as the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine. This doctrine imposes liability of the title owner of the vehicle involved in the crash. And unfortunately, it does not matter who was driving. If your name is on the title, you may be held responsible for the crash.

We all want to be the helpful neighbor or the good friend to someone out in their time of need, but under Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine, you must be extremely careful who you allow to use your vehicle. If the title is in your name, you will be held responsible if your vehicle causes an accident.

It is important to note the driver of your car who caused the crash can also be held liable. Both the driver of the vehicle involved at the time of the accident and the owner can be held liable for damages caused by a car accident.

As personal injury attorneys, part of our investigation is to find ALL parties that may be responsible for our client's damages. As If you are involved in a car accident that is not your fault, and the owner and the driver are not the same person, you may be entitled to damages from both the driver and the owner. Contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Schiller, Kessler & Gomez for a free consultation at (800) 350-FIRM.

About the Author

Bill Skopelja

Bill Skopelja is the managing attorney at the Law Offices of SKG Stuart office.

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