The scenario is a common one: You loan a friend your car for the afternoon, not concerned about what could happen if he or she is involved in a car accident. You know the person is dependable and a safe driver – and insurance will cover any potential losses in the event of a traffic crash. Plus, you may think you’re not driving, so you can’t be legally responsible. However, you may be surprised to learn that the situation isn’t so simple under Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine (DID). The rule may impute liability to you, as owner.
Obviously, this can lead to frustrations in dealing with your insurance company regarding coverage. An Ocala, FL insurance disputes lawyer can provide advice on your situation, but you should be aware of some basic information.
How DID Works in Florida: The underlying doctrine provides that the owner of an inherently dangerous device or tool is responsible for bodily harm resulting from its usage. A case dating back to 1920 extended this common law rule to include motorized vehicles, which were considered to be inherently dangerous. Today’s version of DID imposes liability upon anyone who appears on the title of the vehicle, making them vicariously liable just as if they were driving at the time of the collision.
Exceptions to Liability Under DID: The application of this rule is very harsh, which is why it’s critical to understand the exceptions that allow you to avoid liability under DID. The include:
- The “Shop” Rule, which absolves you if someone making repairs on your vehicle negligently causes an accident. Under this exception, you’re also not liable if you’ve entrusted your car to a valet driver.
- If you sell your vehicle and the purchaser is involved in a traffic collision before transferring the title, you may not be liable under DID. The key is whether you have reasonable time and opportunity to make the change of ownership.
- The owner of a stolen vehicle will not be responsible for injuries and damage caused by the thief. DID only applies to those you’ve given permission to drive your car.
Protect Your Interests in Car Insurance Disputes: There are some tips you can use to avoid liability or reduce your risk of exposure under DID, such as:
- Check official documents of your vehicle to make sure the title properly reflects who owns it;
- Immediately transfer the title when you sell your vehicle to someone else; and,
- Make sure you only give permission to a trusted individual when loaning out your car, and don’t lend it to anyone who doesn’t have insurance coverage.
Ocala, FL Car Insurance and Insurance Disputes Lawyer
If you have questions about DID and how it affects your rights as an insured, please call Piccin & Glynn, Attorneys at Law to get the answers you need. Our Ocala insurance dispute attorneys can explain how the laws work and will protect your interests under applicable exceptions. We’re happy to schedule a free consultation, so call 352-581-6174 or go online to set up an appointment today.