With the tens of thousands of motor vehicle accidents that occur in Florida each year, it is not surprising that a significant number of these accidents involve a vehicle that was loaned to the person who caused the accident. These accidents present interesting legal issues, involving when the owner of the vehicle can be held responsible for the negligent actions of the person to whom they loaned the vehicle. The answer, under Florida law, is almost always.
The dangerous-instrumentality doctrine provides that the owner of a vehicle can be held liable for any injuries caused by an accident that is caused by someone to whom they loan the vehicle. This is irrespective of any negligence on the owner’s part. Thus, as long as an accident victim can show that the owner of a vehicle provided permission to the at-fault party, the owner of the vehicle can be held liable.
However, under section 324.021(9)(b)(3) of the Florida Statutes, Florida law limits an owner’s liability under the dangerous-instrumentality doctrine to $100,000 unless there is a showing that the owner was negligent in loaning the vehicle to the at-fault driver. A recent case illustrates how Florida courts interpret and apply section 324.021(9)(b)(3) to limit an owner’s liability in these situations.