Maybe your car is in the auto shop, or maybe you do not have a vehicle of your own, and you need a car to get to work, to the doctor, or just want to take the kids to the beach. Is it legal for you to drive your family’s car or friend’s car to take care of things? As car accident attorneys, we have to tell you of course, it is.
If the car is legal with proper license and insurance, there is no law that says your friend cannot loan it to another licensed driver in the state of Florida. Even if the car is a rental and does not belong to them, they have accepted possession and responsibility for the vehicle, and they can loan it to you. But, what if you crashed the car while you were in possession of it? What if you destroyed other people’s property, caused injury, or even killed someone? What happens then?
Who is Held Liable for the Accident?
When someone allows you to operate their vehicle, they are taking responsibility for any damage or injury that you cause while driving their car. While you (or they) may not agree with this morally or ethically, it is the legality of the situation according to our car accident attorneys. They are held responsible, and if someone is hurt or killed, they are the ones who will be expected to make restitution.
Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine
Simply put, in the state of Florida, the law says if a non-car owner causes an accident, they may not have insurance (which is required on all automobiles) and the victim would have nowhere to turn to recover their costs. By holding the owner of the car responsible for anything that happens with that car, the victims are safer and not expected to cover their own damages when the accident was not their fault.
What is Vicarious Liability?
You are in control of your vehicle. You decide when and where to drive it, and you decide who can drive it. If you toss your keys to someone, you have decided that your vehicle can travel the roads under the power of another person. That is vicarious liability. You have the power, you make the choice, and you are liable for accidents that happen in this situation.
Are There Exceptions?
Yes, there are exceptions. However, the burden of proof is difficult. One exception would be this. Perhaps you sold your car to another person. Before you could change the title to his name, he has an accident, and someone was hurt. If you can prove to the court that you were not in possession of the car and had sold it to this individual, the court could grant an exception in the case.
If you are in this situation, you will do yourself a service to consult a car accident lawyer. Accidents tend to cost more than repairs. They go on your record and can make insurance rates skyrocket. A qualified car accident attorney can tell you if your case is an exception to the law.