When you’re injured in a Florida car accident, most people think that because it was the other driver that caused the crash, they are the only person that can be held responsible for your injuries. While this is often true, there are many crashes where liability may also extend to someone who was not directly involved in the crash. This is known as the doctrine of vicarious liability. This doctrine exists because, unfortunately, not all drivers have the resources to fully compensate someone for injuries they may have caused. The doctrine of vicarious liability protects injured victims by giving them another avenue of recovery.
When Does Vicarious Liability Apply?
Vicarious liability will apply when there exists some legal relationship between the driver and another that makes them partially responsible for the driver’s actions. The most common example is when the driver of the car who caused the crash is not the owner of the car. In such a case, the car’s owner may be liable for damages caused by the negligence of the driver to whom the owner entrusted the car. While this often arises in cases involving family members (parent-child, husband-wife), vicarious liability applies regardless of the nature of the relationship between the owner and driver.
Another example is when the driver of the car causes a crash while he/she is in the course and scope of their employment. Although the employer certainly did not instruct the employee to do whatever action it was that may have led to the crash (running the stop sign or red light, speeding, etc.), the employer can be held responsible for the employee’s actions and will be held liable for any damages the employee caused.
Are There Any Limits to Vicarious Liability?
There are certain exceptions and limits that apply to vicarious liability claims. While the owner of a car can be held liable for the negligence of the driver to whom they entrusted the car, the doctrine will not apply if the driver did not have permission to use the car, or if the car was stolen. When these issues come up, the facts will be closely examined to see if the exception applies. For example, if you regularly let your friend use your car without asking and your keys are available for use, the exception will unlikely apply to the claim that you did not specifically tell your friend that they had permission to drive the car on the day of the crash.
Florida law also sets forth certain limits for vicarious liability claims. By statute (Fl. Stat. 324.01), Florida caps the amount of money you can recover from a vicariously liable owner. The cap is $100,000 per person and up to $300,000 per accident for injuries, and $50,000 for property damage. However, if the driver is uninsured or has any insurance with limits less that $500,000 combined property damage and bodily injury liability, the owner is liable for up to an additional $500,000 in economic damages. This additional amount will be offset by any amount recovered from the driver. While these may seem like large numbers, in reality, when there is a catastrophic injury involved these numbers pale in comparison to what the actual damages will really be. It should be noted that this statute applies only to owners that are natural persons – not corporations. Accordingly, employers or other businesses do not get the benefit of these limits.
In addition, by law rental car companies are not responsible for any injuries caused by the negligence of the rental car driver. Unless there is evidence that the rental car company was, itself, negligent, they cannot be held responsible.
Why You Need an Attorney to Evaluate Your Florida Car Accident Case
As you can see, it’s not always easy to determine who can be held responsible in a car accident case. If your damages exceed the available insurance for the driver, you could be left with unpaid medical bills or other damages, for which you would be held personally responsible. This is especially true if you overlook a party that may be vicariously liable for your damages. This is why you need an experienced attorney to evaluate and handle your claim. An experienced attorney will identify all parties who may bear any liability and all resources that may apply to your claim.
If you have questions about your Florida accident case, you can download our Free Reports:
which are available at our website, or you can click the link provided. You can also contact us at (813)419-3866 to talk directly to an Apollo Beach Personal Injury Attorney now.