Can I be sued if my stepson is involved in an auto accident in a car I bought and which is still titled in my name?

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Can I be sued if my stepson is involved in an auto accident in a car I bought and which is still titled in my name?

My step son is 18 and going to college. I purchased a car for him to drive while he was in high school and he will be driving it while in college. HIs mother and I will be moving to another state. My name is on the title solely and I provide the insurnace for him. If he is involved in a accident, what is my legal exposure and may I be sued if he is in a bad accident?

Asked on August 7, 2012 under Accident Law, Florida

Answers:

Micah Longo / The Longo Firm

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The short answer is Yes;  Florida has a “dangerous instrumentality doctrine” which provides that the owner of an inherently dangerous tool is liable for any injuries caused by that tool’s operation.  

 

In 1920 the Florida Supreme Court extended that doctrine to motor vehicles, holding that owners may be held accountable for any damages suffered by 3rd parties as the result of the negligent operation of their vehicles, when they are driven by others with their knowledge and consent.  

 

This doctrine imposes strict vicarious liability upon the owner of the motor vehicle, who (a) voluntarily entrusts that motor vehicle to (b) an individual whose negligent operation causes damage to another.  


My advise is to immediatly title the vehicle in your son's name.  This will cause his insurance to rise, but it will limit your legal exposure.

Terence Fenelon / Law Offices of Terence Fenelon

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Typically, both the owner as well as the operator have liability for damages caused by the vehicle.  That's why we have insurance,

Even though you were blameless, if your grandson were negligent and caused injuries with your vehicle, the theory of negligent entrusyment would apply.


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