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What is Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine?

Florida teen driver in a car accident calling the car owner who can be responsible for damages under Florida's dangerous instrumentality doctrine.
Did you suffer an accident with someone who was driving a borrowed car? Florida DID law says the car owner can be held responsible for your injuries.

Every year, there are more than 400,000 car accidents in Florida. That means that, on average, there are over 1,000 crashes per day. But did you know that a Florida driver can be held liable for a car accident even when they weren’t actually driving one of the vehicles involved in the crash? 

This is possible under Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine. Under this law, the injured car accident victim can sue the owner of the vehicle even if the vehicle was being driven by someone else (who had permission to borrow the car).

In other words, if you allow someone else to drive your car, you may be held responsible if that person’s negligence causes a crash and injures someone. 

If you were involved in a car crash involving a driver who was operating a car owned by someone else, it is important to contact a Daytona Beach personal injury attorney to help you hold the owner of the vehicle liable for your injuries and damages.

How does Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine (DID) work?

Under Section 327.32, Florida Statutes, all vessels, including motor vehicles, trucks, cars, boats, motorcycles, and others, are declared “dangerous instrumentality.” 

When the owner of a vessel or any item deemed a dangerous instrumentality permits another person to use that vessel or item, the owner may be held liable for any injuries caused by that person to others. Thus, if an accident victim is injured by someone who is not driving their own car, the victim is legally allowed to seek compensation from the vehicle owner. 

Note: The dangerous instrumentality doctrine does not extend to rental car companies. Under the Graves Amendment (49 U.S.C. § 30106), rental car companies are immune from liability for accidents involving their vehicles unless the company was negligent in maintaining the vehicles.

What is “dangerous instrumentality” under Florida law?

Florida DID law declares automobiles and other vessels a “dangerous instrumentality.” The Florida Supreme Court classified motor vehicles as “dangerous instrumentality” back in 1920 [Southern Cotton Oil Co. v. Anderson, 80 Fla. 441 (Fla. 1920)].

However, motor vehicles are not the only items that are declared a dangerous instrumentality in the state of Florida. Typically, the definition of a dangerous instrumentality can be applied to any item that is likely to cause bodily injury or death when used negligently. Some examples of a dangerous instrumentality include: 

  • Firearms
  • Guns
  • Heavy machinery
  • Household appliances

What are exceptions to Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine (DID)?

Valet driver who is an exception to Florida's dangerous instrumentality doctrine.
Florida DID law exceptions include car rental companies and valet drivers.

There are three notable exceptions to the dangerous instrumentality doctrine in Florida:

In order to hold the vehicle owner liable for a crash under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine, the injured victim must prove that the negligent driver had the owner’s permission to use the car. Thus, if the owner’s car was stolen or they otherwise didn’t give the driver permission to use their vehicle, they cannot be held liable for the resulting damages.

Car owners are not held liable for accidents caused by negligent auto mechanics or repair shop employees driving the entrusted vehicle. This “Shop rule” also extends to valet drivers.

A vehicle owner cannot be held liable for accidents caused by a new owner when the title is not transferred yet. For example, a person sells their vehicle, but the new owner does not complete the transfer of the title and gets into a car crash.

How to seek compensation under Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine (DID)?

Since Florida is a no-fault auto insurance state, victims can get compensated for their injuries and lost wages through their own car insurance company regardless of who is at-fault in a car accident. 

 

When the victim’s injury is serious and the damages exceed their Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy limits, the injured victim may step outside the Florida no-fault system to file a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance company or file a personal injury lawsuit against them. Under Section 627.737, Florida Statutes, this is possible when the victim suffered significant or permanent injuries. 

 

If the negligent driver who caused the victim’s accident is not the owner of the vehicle, the injured party may file the claim or lawsuit against the vehicle owner under Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine. 

 

When suing a car owner under the dangerous instrumentality law, the injured party may be entitled to seek compensation for the following types of damages:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Loss of income
  • Diminished earning capacity
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish

These and many other types of damages may be available if you can prove that the car owner is liable under the state’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine. Considering the complexity and the various exceptions to Florida’s DID law, it’s essential to seek help from an experienced personal injury lawyer in Daytona Beach to help you prove your claim and obtain the compensation you deserve. 

 

Speak with our skilled personal injury attorney at Rick Kolodinsky, P.A., in Daytona Beach to determine liability in your particular case. Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation.

Mr. Kolodinsky has been honored by his induction into this prestigious nationwide organization of trial lawyers. Of some 900 lawyers in Volusia Country there are four lawyers so honored.

- American Board of Trial Advocates
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Rick Kolodinsky, P.A.

Phone: 386-200-1866

Email: info@rickkolodinskypa.com