Liability In Car Accident Cases

Determining who is at fault in a car accident is usually the first thing to do when deciding who is liable for the resulting injuries and damages. Typically, liability rests on the driver as well as on the owner of the car found to be at fault. The owner is liable, under most cases, under Florida's dangerous instrumentality doctrine. Under this law, we can be found liable for the injuries and damages caused by anyone we lend our car to or allow to drive our car if they cause an accident, even if we were not present at the time and place of the accident.

This kind of "vicarious liability" is based on our ownership of the vehicle in question and the fact that the driver at fault was operating that vehicle with our consent. Consequently, owner liability typically attaches only when the owner has consented to the use of his or her vehicle, not when it was taken without permission. It is worth noting that the law in some states holds the owner liable if he or she were negligent by, for example, leaving the keys in the ignition, if the car was stolen and subsequently involved in an accident.

Also, if a member of the owner's household was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident, the law in some states presumes that the owner consented to the use of his or her vehicle by that family member.

Finally, if the owner of a vehicle lends his car to an incompetent or unfit driver, the car owner may be held liable for any damages or injuries that such unfit driver causes. A driver is considered unfit if he or she is incompetent (i.e., a minor without a license); reckless or inexperienced; intoxicated or even a driver whose old age renders him or her unfit to drive.

A Parent's Liability For Their Children's Negligent Driving

Although vicarious liability is usually imposed by statute, it can also be based on common law principles. For example, the common law principle of "negligent entrustment" states that if you lend your car to a minor child knowing that the child is incompetent, reckless or inexperienced, you can be held liable for any damages or injuries your child causes while driving the car.

Similarly, some states adopt the "family purpose doctrine," which establishes that when a member of a household (usually mom or dad) purchases and maintains a vehicle for general family use, that person is liable for the damages and/or injuries caused by any household member when driving that vehicle.

Please note that some states hold parents liable for their children's negligent driving behavior if the parent signed the minor children's driver's license application.

Common Mistakes Made When Selling A Used Car

At some point in our lives, most of us have sold an old used car. Most of us have also made some of the following mistakes when selling that old used car:

  • Letting the buyer keep our plates. The seller should never allow the buyer to drive away with his or her license plate still on the vehicle. The buyer of a used vehicle from a private seller has no need for the vehicle's existing plates as buyers are usually allowed to drive home or to a place where they can register the car in their name without even having any plates on the car.
  • Not completing the title work. The sale of a used vehicle by a private owner should ideally take place at a local DMV's office or tag agency, so that the buyer can immediately transfer title to his or her name and out of the seller's name. However, typically these sales take place at the seller's home and the seller fails to fill out the information on the title so as to allow the buyer to transfer ownership. This is a mistake that can lead to claims against the seller if the buyer fails to register the car to his or her name immediately after the sale (which is very common) and gets into an accident while the vehicle is still registered as owned by the seller. The seller should always complete and date the transfer of title document and keep a copy of said document for his or her records and if possible, go in person to make sure title is transferred.

We Can Help

If you have been injured in an accident caused by a driver operating someone else's car, you need a law firm with experience handling these types of cases. The lawyers at the law offices of Greenberg Stone & Urbano have more than 130 years of combined experience handling personal injury cases, including car accident cases.

Please contact us immediately at 786-408-8973 to schedule a free initial consultation. We handle all personal injury matters on contingent-fees basis. This means you do not have to pay us anything unless we recover monetary compensation for you.