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What is the dangerous instrumentality doctrine?

| Apr 22, 2019 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

Given the number of vehicles occupying Sarasota’s roads, car accidents are bound to occur. That does not absolve one of the responsibility to drive safely and demonstrate a concern for others. If you happen to be involved in an accident with a driver, your frustration over the entire situation may be compounded if it is discovered that the they had a history of poor driving. Your surprise over how such a person was even allowed behind the wheel may be equaled only by your concern over who might have entrusted them with a vehicle in the first place. 

This latter thought may lead you to wonder whether it is possible to assign liability to the third party who loaned the vehicle to the driver who caused your accident. Florida subscribes to a legal principle known as “the dangerous instrumentality doctrine,” which states that anyone who allows a person access to their vehicle may be held liable for any damages or injuries the one to whom the vehicle was loaned causes. 

The Florida State Supreme Court has ruled that “[O]ne who authorizes and permits an instrumentality that is peculiarly dangerous in its operation to be used by another on the public highway is liable in damages for injuries to third persons caused by the negligent operation of such instrumentality on the highway by one so authorized by the owner.” Notice that the terms “authorizes” and “permits” are used in defining the doctrine. Thus implies that consent to use the vehicle must have been given in order for the doctrine to apply to your case. A vehicle owner whose car, truck or SUV was taken without their permission may escape from held legally liable under this doctrine. 

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Dana Watts is a board certified civil trial lawyer by the Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization with more than 30 years of litigation experience. He also received an AV* peer review rating through Martindale-Hubbell.

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