Liability for Teenaged Drivers
We all know that teenagers are notorious for making rash and illogical decisions. While in most cases, this is merely annoying for parents, it can have devastating consequences when the teen in question is a driver. Summer break is officially over, so many Florida teens are back on the road, traveling to and from school and extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, teen drivers have some of the highest collision rates in the state, which means that anyone else on the road could be at risk of injury.
Most teen drivers don’t own their own vehicles, but drive one that belongs to a parent or relative. In these cases, injured parties can hold the driver’s parents liable in the event of an accident by asserting the dangerous instrumentality doctrine, which, when successful, allows car accident victims to recover damages compensating them for medical expenses, vehicle repair or replacement, lost wages, and pain and suffering. To learn more about this doctrine and whether it applies in your own case, please contact an experienced car accident attorney who can assist you.
What is the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine?
The dangerous instrumentality doctrine was first recognized by the Florida Supreme Court in 1920, when it held that anyone who authorizes, or gives someone else permission to use an instrumentality that is dangerous when operated, can be held liable for injuries caused by that person’s negligent operation of that object. As applied to car accidents, this means that a vehicle’s owner is liable for damages caused by negligent drivers who use his or her car, but only if the driver qualifies as a permissive user. In its opinion, the Court reasoned that a vehicle is a dangerous instrumentality because it has the potential to cause serious harm, so owners should bear some responsibility for damages it causes.
There are limits to the amount of damages that an injured party can recover from a car’s owner under this legal theory. For instance, Florida law restricts plaintiffs to collecting no more than $100,000 per person or $300,000 per accident for bodily injury damages from a car’s owner for the negligence of a permissive user. There is an exception to this rule, however, that applies when the negligent permissive driver is uninsured or has insurance limits of less than $500,000. In these cases, the car’s owner can be held liable for an additional $500,000 in damages.
In Florida, all minors who obtain learner’s permits and driver’s licenses must have a parent or guardian sign an application, in which they agree to be responsible if the minor causes an accident. Plaintiffs who choose to file a claim against this party are not restricted to filing suit against the owner of the car, but can also attempt to hold the person who signed the teen’s license application liable for a portion of their damages. Unlike a claim filed under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine, successful plaintiffs are not limited when it comes to recovering compensation.
Contact Our Dedicated Attorneys Today
If you or a loved one was seriously injured as a result of the actions of a negligent teen driver, the experienced Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys at Boone & Davis are here to help. To learn more about how we can assist you, please call 954-566-9919 for a free consultation.