Car Owners May be Liable for Driver’s Carelessness Under the “Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine”

Every year, thousands of people are injured on Florida roads, and tragically some are even killed. Unfortunately many of these accidents could have been prevented if the driver exercised reasonable care behind the wheel. While liability is clear when a negligent driver gets into an accident, what happens when a car owner lets another person drive his or her car and that person causes an accident? In this situation, Florida law allows the injured party to take legal action against both the driver and the car owner under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine, which is rooted in negligence.

The dangerous instrumentality doctrine is a common law rule that holds the owner of a fundamentally dangerous tool responsible for any injuries caused by the use of that tool. The doctrine applies to motor vehicles in that car owners may be responsible for any damages suffered by third parties as a result of negligent driving of the car, when the car is driven with the owner’s knowledge and permission.

In Roman v. Bogle, the lawsuit arose from a tragic car accident in which the driver and his passenger were killed when the car ran a red light and was hit by a truck. The passenger’s mother (Roman) filed suit against the driver’s estate as well as the driver’s father (Bogle), claiming that the father, as the owner of the car, was liable under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. It is important to note that Bogle was not in the car at the time of the accident.

The court permitted Bogle to be named in the lawsuit and explained its position:

One 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.

Put another way, when an owner authorized another person to use an automobile that is considered to be “peculiarly dangerous,” that owner is responsible for the carelessness of the driver. This does not mean the driver would be able to evade a lawsuit altogether.  In most cases, both the driver and owner can be named in the suit.

In complicated cases, the laws of negligence can become very complex. However, the underlying principle of the law is to allow the injured party to recover from any party whose carelessness caused or contributed to the accident and harmed the plaintiff. The dangerous instrumentality doctrine is a plaintiff-friendly doctrine empowering Florida victims with additional legal options to recover for their injuries.

If you have been injured in a car accident, the attorney you choose can make all the difference. Robert Dixon is an experienced South Florida car accident attorney who works diligently for the interests of his clients. Our firm will investigate the facts of your case, work with adverse parties, and try to get you a fair settlement in a timely manner. If that doesn’t work, we are not afraid to go to court and fight vigorously for your rights. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car wreck because of another person’s negligence or recklessness, contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) for a free case evaluation.

Contact Information