Florida Law – Automobiles as Dangerous Instrumentalities


According to Florida’s dangrous instrumentality doctrine, owners and possessors of inherently dangerous tools are liable for any injuries caused by the operation of those tools. This legal principle was applied to the realm of automobiles in Southern Cotton Oil Co. v. Anderson, 86 So. 629 (Fla. 1920). This means that if you own a car, you can be responsible for injuries caused by that car.

As a result of this watershed case, victims of car accidents occurring due to negligence may look to the vehicle owners for damages, regardless of whether it was the actual owner driving the vehicle or not. Likewise, employers may be pursued for the injurious acts of their employees under the theory of respondeat superior.

In order to be held liable, an owner must have the ability to exert control over his or her vehicle. For that reason, people whose cars are stolen may not be penalized for injuries involving their vehicles depending on the particular facts of the case. Furthermore, if an owner did not give permission to a driver to operate the car, the owner may avoid liability if he files a police report to show that the car was stolen at the time the injury was caused. These distinctions are critical for determining who needs to be brought into litigation via impleader and the bounds of a victim’s potential recovery.

Unsure of what all this means to you? Consult a personal injury attorney to learn the intricacies of the law!