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Car Accident Liability

Car accidents in Florida can result in serious injuries and damages. Under Florida law, both the negligent driver of another vehicle and the owner of that vehicle can be responsible for the losses that occur as a result of a crash. Here are some of the parties that could potentially be held liable for the injuries sustained by victims in a serious car accident.

The Driver of the At-Fault Vehicle

If you have sustained injuries as a result of a car accident, you can first go after the negligent motor vehicle driver. In order to prevail in a negligence case, you must be able to show that the other driver violated the “reasonable person” standard of care – usually by violating a traffic law that is on the books – and that this violation directly resulted in all of the injuries and damages you suffered and continue to suffer from.

In most cases, the at-fault driver will have an auto insurance policy in place that provides for bodily injury coverage. If such a policy is in place, then the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage will pay for your damages (i.e. the costs of your medical bills, treatment, lost wages, and non-economic damages), up to the limit of coverage on the policy – provided that your injuries exceed Florida’s PIP threshold. If they do not, you will need to make a claim on your own insurance policy.

The Owner of the At-Fault Vehicle

In some cases, the driver and the owner of the at-fault vehicle are not the same person. Rather, the owner may give someone else permission to drive the at-fault vehicle, or the driver may be an agent or an employee of the vehicle owner. Unlike every other state in the country, Florida law imposes strict vicarious liability on an individual who lends a motor vehicle to someone else and who, thereafter, causes a collision. Under Florida’s “Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine,” the motor vehicle owner can be deemed liable for the accident simply by owing the at-fault vehicle.

In many instances, the owner of the at-fault vehicle can be determined simply by looking at the vehicle crash report or the police report. If the information is not available on the police report, you may be able to complete a Motor Vehicle Records Request and forward it to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in order to find out the identity of the vehicle owner.

In cases where an employer owns a motor vehicle and subsequently allows an employee to use the vehicle during the employee’s off-time, Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine also allows for the employer to be deemed liable for the employee’s negligent driving – and for causing the collision. This is true even where the employer specifically directed the employee to only use the vehicle for work-related purposes.

Limitation on Liability

Under the Florida statutes, when a motor vehicle owner lends the vehicle to someone, with permission, the vehicle owner’s liability for any damages resulting from an accident extends only to $100,000 per person and up to $300,000 per accident for bodily injuries – and up to $50,000 for property damage.

If the permissive user of the vehicle does not have insurance or is underinsured (i.e. has insurance with limits of less than $500,000 combined property damage and bodily injury liability coverage), then the vehicle owner’s liability may extend to up to an additional $500,000 in economic damages arising out of the use of the vehicle.

It is important to keep in mind that the owner’s additional liability for economic damages will be reduced by any recovery received from the at-fault driver and/or from any insurance policy which directly covers the at-fault driver. However, there is no liability limit on the vehicle owner for the owner’s negligence.

If you have sustained personal injuries in a Florida car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation under the law. The knowledgeable car accident lawyers at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. can review the facts and circumstances of your case, negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, or file suit on your behalf, helping you to obtain monetary compensation for your injuries, aggravation, and damages.

Contact a Miami Car Accident Lawyer Today for a Free Initial Consultation

Every Florida car accident case is different. The knowledgeable car accident lawyers at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. can ensure that all potentially responsible parties are brought into your case. Call or email us today to schedule a free case evaluation with an attorney.

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