Under Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine, an owner of a motor vehicle is responsible for any subsequent negligent act involving the vehicle when he or she allows another person to operate the vehicle. This doctrine was designed as a public safety policy with the goal to encourage vehicle owners to be cautious in allowing others to use their motor vehicles.
This permissive user liability can found under Florida Statute 324.021. However, within F.S. 324.021 the Florida legislature capped the monetary liability of the vehicle owner.
Specifically, Florida Statute 324.021(9)(b)3, provides:
The owner who is a natural person and loans a motor vehicle to any permissive user shall be liable for the operation of the vehicle or the acts of the operator in connection therewith only up to $100,000 per person and up to $300,000 per incident for bodily injury and up to $50,000 for property damage. If the permissive user of the motor vehicle is uninsured or has any insurance with limits less than $500,000 combined property damage and bodily injury liability, the owner shall be liable for up to an additional $500,000 in economic damages only arising out of the use of the motor vehicle. The additional specified liability of the owner for economic damages shall be reduced by amounts actually recovered from the permissive user and from any insurance or self-insurance covering the permissive user. Nothing in this subparagraph shall be construed to affect the liability of the owner for his or her own negligence.
Thus under F.S. 324.021(9)(b)3 the Florida Legislature created what some find as arbitrary damage caps which can limit the owners financial liability.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, it is important that the right investigation is conducted. The investigation must include not only a factual investigation as to liability, but must also include a thorough investigation regarding the insurance policy itself. By conducting the proper investigation a victim can then identify how many potential defendants may be responsible for his or her injury and can then examine the scope of the defendants’ respective financial responsibility.