Under Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine, the owner of a motor vehicle who gives permission to another to drive their vehicle is legally responsible for any injuries or damages caused by the negligence of the permissive user.
The following is one of many car accident questions asked on avvo.com which attorney Mike Hancock answered.
Question: Is a parent responsible for an auto accident of an adult child living at home? My 22-year-old son who lives at our home in New Jersey is temporarily in Florida living in a half-way house in recovery from drug addiction. He has asked to have the car he drove at home (which is in my name and under my insurance) transported to him in Florida (Delray Beach area). I checked with the half-way house and many of the residents do have cars. However, I am concerned that if he had an accident with my car and he was at fault, that I would be held financially responsible. If I sell/give my son the car and arrange to have the auto insurance in his name (I would still be helping him with the premiums), am I protected if he had an accident with my car in Florida? I was going to still have the car registered in New Jersey since I don’t know how long he will be staying in Florida. I have heard from a couple of people (insurance agent and an investment person) that I can still be held responsible even though the car and insurance is in his name, because he still lives in my home and right now I financially support him. Is this true? If the car and insurance is in his name am I financially protected? Also, is it better to have the car registered in New Jersey or Florida?
Mike Hancock’s Answer: A parent is not responsible for the negligent acts of an adult child just because he is living in your home. In your scenario the only way to impute liability on you, the parent, is if he injures someone while driving a car owned by you. Florida follows the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine. Motor vehicles are considered dangerous instruments and as such, public policy is going to hold the owner of the car just as liable as the negligent driver, even if there is no negligent entrustment. I could let you, the safest driver on earth, borrow my car, and in Florida, if your negligent driving causes someone to be injured, I, as the owner, will be held liable. The theory of negligent entrustment assumes that you own the vehicle and entrust it to someone else. If you have no ownership interest in the vehicle, there is no negligent entrustment, and thus no liability on you for injury caused by your adult son.
The Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine may find other auto insurance coverage available to you, to repay you for your lost wages and unpaid medical bills.
Questions about what auto insurance is available to you? Call 813-534-5982 for your free, no obligation telephone consultation with attorney Mike Hancock. Or reach us by e-mail. If we don’t recover money for you, you don’t pay us. Phones answered 24/7.