My son recently caused a car crash and seriously injured others while driving my car. He has his own car and his own insurance so I am protected, right?
Author: Attorney Jason Macri
In Florida, a teenage driver can get their learners license at the age of 15 and can convert that license into an intermediate driver’s license by the age of 16. Though some teenagers are more mature than others, the truth is that there are many immature and inexperienced drivers on Florida’s roads. That immaturity and inexperience can surely lead to some devastating car crashes where people of all ages can become very seriously injured.
The parents of those newly minted drivers are often concerned with what may happen if their child causes a serious car crash. They are surely worried about the safety of all of the people involved but are also concerned about their own exposure. The question becomes; what happens if my child seriously injures someone else?
Under the “Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine,” Florida common law imposes strict vicarious liability upon an owner of a motor vehicle who voluntarily entrusts that motor vehicle to an individual whose negligent operation causes damage to another. This means that the owner of a motor vehicle could be held liable for damages caused by a person who the owner allows to drive their vehicle. This can be especially true if the owner of the vehicle knows or should know that the driver of the vehicle has the propensity to cause a crash.
Florida law follows the “Negligent Entrustment” theory as well. The negligent entrustment theory requires a showing that the entrustor (owner of the vehicle) knew or should have known some reason why entrusting the item to another was foolish or negligent. The law also states that some negligence in the initial entrusting process is necessary to make the subsequent damage foreseeable. This would apply in a situation where a parent allows their inexperienced child to drive their vehicle knowing or having a reason to know that the child is not a good driver and potentially dangerous to others. Clearly a bad driving record or a history of causing car crashes or even a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse may give rise to the idea that allowing that person to drive your vehicle may be foolish or negligent.
The bottom line is that parents need to do more than just place their child on a separate auto insurance policy or exclude their child as a driver on their policy. A parent needs to take it a step further and monitor their child’s driving history. If the child is known to be a bad driver or a risk taker then the parent should take every step to ensure that the child does not have access to the parent’s vehicle. If the parent does not take these steps and the child does something foolish or negligent while operating the parent’s vehicle, then the parent will be on the hook for those damages.