Florida motor vehicle laws establish that an owner of an automobile is liable to an injured party for the negligent operation of the vehicle by a permissive user. This often occurs when the owner of a car allows a friend or family member to borrow their car and afterwards the friend or family member is involved in an auto accident.
This liability and the law that controls such instances are known as the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. The dangerous instrumentality doctrine is intended to protect victims involved in the car accident by making the owner of the vehicle liable directly to the claimant. In most instances, liability will apply to the owner even if the third party friend or family member lends the vehicle to a person unknown to the owner.
Furthermore, there are very few exceptions when liability to the owner will not apply. Florida case law provides that “only a breach of custody amounting to…conversion or theft will relieve an owner of responsibility for a vehicle’s use or misuse.” Susco Car Rental System v. Leonard, 112 So.2d 832, 836 (Fla. 1959). Often times, these types of situation are defined by the strict language of the insurance policy. In a typical case, the owner’s insurance policy insures the permissive user and applies coverage as an additional insured. When the owner’s insurance policy covers an additional insured that policy typically controls and thus the driver of the car at the time of the accident is provided insurance by the owner’s policy.