The Caldarone Law Group, P.A.

What is the dangerous instrumentality doctrine?

Imagine getting into a car accident in Naples, in which you not only sustain injuries but also extensive damage to your vehicle. You then later find out that the driver had multiple drunk driving arrests on his or her record, and that he or she was driving with a suspended license. Your frustration over the results of your accident is probably then only matched by your confusion as to why someone would allow such an individual to drive a car. That confusion may prompt you to ask whether the person who permitted the driver to operate his or her vehicle can also be held responsible. Is this possible? 

Many states subscribe to the legal principle of negligent entrustment which holds automobile owners who lend their cars to reckless, incompetent or inexperienced drivers liable for the accidents they cause. Florida, however, does not. Yet the state does recognize the dangerous instrumentality doctrine, which assigns liability to owners of dangerous instruments who allow others to use them. Per Section 327.32 of the Florida state statutes, all vessels (including cars) are viewed as dangerous instruments over which their operators must exercise extreme caution. 

You may be able to apply the dangerous instrumentality doctrine to your car accident case if you can show that the vehicle owner knowingly entrusted it to the driver that hit you. At the same time, you should also know that Florida law does place caps on the amount of damages you can recover in such a case. These are $100,000 per person involved for up to $300,000 in bodily injury. You can also only recover $50,000 in property damage. You may, however, be able to collect up to an additional $500,000 in economic damages from the vehicle owner if the driver is uninsured or has insurance limits less than that amount. 

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