Driving To Deliver Your Business

What Happens When Someone Other Than The Motor Vehicle …

Posted By 1 on July 22, 2014

In Florida, it is legal for you to loan your car to someone else to use; you can even loan your rental car (even though it s a vehicle you don t own) to another person to drive. Whether you live in Florida or are visiting for business or on vacation, sharing a car between drivers is permitted and it happens all of the time.

However, what happens if the non-owner driver gets into a traffic accident? Can you the owner be held legally responsible for that crash even if you weren t there and you weren t driving? Even if someone died in that accident? The answer to these questions is, yes.

View all posts in Car Accidents

Florida s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine

In Florida, the courts have established the dangerous instrumentality doctrine to apply when there is an accident caused by a driver who does not own the vehicle he or she was operating at the time of the crash.

Why allow this?

Florida judges have imposed the dangerous instrumentality doctrine in Florida traffic accidents in order to protect accident victims when they are in a crash and the person who caused the accident does not own the vehicle. Otherwise, those victims might not have an avenue for financial compensation and coverage for the injuries and damages they have sustained through no fault of their own.

Vicarious Liability Holds Car s Owner Responsible

As a general rule, Florida imposes vicarious liability upon an owner when the owner allows someone else to drive their car (or truck or SUV). The owner takes the risk that the non-owner driver will be involved in a crash and be found to be the negligent cause of that accident when you toss them your keys.

This is true in Florida even if you, the owner, are not aware that vicarious liability laws exist.

As the Florida Supreme Court has explained2, Beneficial ownership continues to exist with regard to the non-using titleholder because he or she remains in a legal position to exert dominion or control over the vehicle.

Defenses to Vicarious Liability? There Aren t Many

There are exceptions to the imposition of vicarious liability in Florida, but they are limited and the burden of proof is high. For instance, there is the beneficial ownership exception where the law holds vicarious liability does not extend to someone who had no ownership or legal control over the vehicle at the time of the crash.

How does this work?

Here s an example: you have sold the car to Bad Bad Driver but before you can get the legal title to the car transferred officially, Bad Bad Driver has already been in a wreck. Florida courts won t hold you legally liable for Bad Bad Driver s negligent driving because of the beneficial ownership exception to our vicarious liability laws. See McAfee v. Killingsworth.3

According to the Florida Supreme Court, the owner of a motor vehicle will be held legally liable for the negligent driver who was driving the owner s car unless the owner can show they were NOT in a position to exercise dominion or control 4over the vehicle. However, proving this exception can be very hard to do.

Rental Cars in Florida: Vicarious Liability in a Car Crash

What about rental cars? It is well settled here in Florida that if you rent a vehicle here and then allow someone else to drive it, you will be legally liable for any driver who operates that car with your permission for injuries sustained by a third party in a crash caused by that driver. See, Chandler v. GEICO.5

Also, legal responsibility for the victim s damages may also be shared by the company that loaned you the car, as well, under Florida law.

Did Someone Other Than The Owner Cause a Car Crash? Ask an Accident Lawyer For Help

When there s a car crash involving a non-owner driver, it s important to know that legal liability can be imposed upon the owner of the car even if they aren t present at the accident; there s also the possibility that other parties can be held to have the duty and/or obligation to compensate the accident victim in the wreck.

It s important in these situations to have the circumstances of the accident evaluated by an experienced Florida auto accident attorney,6 so you can work together to discovering all of the liable parties.


Alan Sackrin7 adds value to his clients because he will go to trial when the insurance company doesn t make a settlement offer that he believes is fair. Alan won t send his client to a different lawyer to file a lawsuit, he s the lawyer that other lawyers send their cases to when they are unable to obtain a reasonable settlement offer.

Categories: Car Accidents, Damages – Money Awards, Injury8910
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  1. ^ (southfloridainjuryaccidentblog.com)
  2. ^ the Florida Supreme Court has explained (scholar.google.com)
  3. ^ See McAfee v. Killingsworth. (scholar.google.com)
  4. ^ unless the owner can show they were NOT in a position to exercise dominion or control (scholar.google.com)
  5. ^ See, Chandler v. GEICO. (scholar.google.com)
  6. ^ experienced Florida auto accident attorney, (www.hallandalelaw.com)
  7. ^ Alan Sackrin (www.hallandalelaw.com)
  8. ^ View all posts in Car Accidents (southfloridainjuryaccidentblog.com)
  9. ^ View all posts in Damages – Money Awards (southfloridainjuryaccidentblog.com)
  10. ^ View all posts in Injury (southfloridainjuryaccidentblog.com)
  11. ^ (southfloridainjuryaccidentblog.com)
  12. ^ (southfloridainjuryaccidentblog.com)
  13. ^ (southfloridainjuryaccidentblog.com)
  14. ^ (southfloridainjuryaccidentblog.com)
  15. ^ (southfloridainjuryaccidentblog.com)

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