What is the Dangerous Instrumentality?
Here is an interesting legal term: “dangerous instrumentality.” What does that mean and how does that apply to you, or any of us? In simple terms, a dangerous instrumentality is some item or thing that is so dangerous that it is misuse can cause great bodily harm. How does that affect you? Well, if you own a dangerous instrumentality, you are responsible for any harm or injury caused as a result of its improper use, even if you loan it to someone else and they are they one who used it improperly.
So why should you care about dangerous instrumentalities?
Because we see and use and interact with the most common one every day. Yes, your motor vehicle is the most common dangerous instrumentality around. And that means if you loan your car to someone else and they cause an accident, you will be liable for any damages or injuries. While that may not seem logical, it goes back to the time when motor vehicles first started to replace the horse and buggy. People thought they were dangerous in and of themselves. Many people were afraid of cars and trucks that could move about on their own without an animal to pull them. That fear led to analysis by the courts concluding that motor vehicles were dangerous instrumentalities. And with few exceptions, still today, the owner of a vehicle is responsible for any damage or injury caused by any driver.
Does that mean you can never allow anyone else to drive your car? Is there any way you can be protected if someone else causes a crash while driving your car? These questions are not as simple as they seem. The answer really is that if you are protected if you are driving and cause an accident, then you are generally protected if you let someone else drive your car and they cause an accident. That leads to the next question: what does it mean to be protected?
Most people ask, “doesn’t my insurance protect me?
I’ve got all the insurance the State of Florida requires!” Unfortunately, if you only have all the insurance the State of Florida requires, your insurance really does not protect you, no matter who may be driving your car. That is because Florida does not require a vehicle owner to have any liability insurance to cover injuries that may result from a vehicle crash. Florida only requires No-fault or personal injury protection insurance with a limit of $10,000, and property damage liability insurance with a limit of $10,000. What does that mean? Basically, required no fault insurance pays your own medical bills, and the medical bills of certain eligible people injured in a crash at the rate of 80% up to a limit of 10,000. One visit to the emergency room can eat that up pretty quickly. Required property damage liability insurance pays up to 10,000 for someone else’s property that you may damage. Considering the cost of vehicles and repairs today, hitting the wrong car can really leave you without protection and liable for lots more property damage as well as loss of license.
So, we really have to forget “required minimum insurance” and ask what we really need to be protected. Insurance serves two purposes. The first is to protect your assets in case you cause an accident. Without insurance, you can be sued, a judgment can be obtained against you, and you then may lose mush of what you have, or your future wages, until the judgment is paid. So to be protected, you should have enough liability insurance so that any injured party would rather look to your insurance company for the amount of insurance you have, rather than sue you for your personal assets. The insurance company will also have to pay for the legal costs to defend you in case of a lawsuit.
The second purpose for insurance is to provide for your own injuries in case you are in an accident caused by someone else. Since Florida does not require liability insurance, many people are on the road without any insurance, and frankly, without any assets to go after if they cause injury. So if you or a family member are injured by someone without insurance you can be covered if you have uninsured /underinsured motorist coverage. This type of insurance works somewhat like the collision coverage you can have on your car. If you have collision coverage, and you are in a crash caused by someone else, you can have your own insurance pay for the repairs, especially if the other party did not have enough insurance. With uninsured/underinsured coverage, if the other party did not have enough insurance, you can look to your own insurance company to pay for your injuries.
When it comes to insurance, you should always speak with a qualified insurance agent to determine what will be best for you. Just remember, if they say you do not need liability or uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance, they are just trying to sell you the cheapest policy that really does not provide the protection you need. Talk to another agent.
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For more information about insurance, dangerous instrumentalities, or other legal issues, give us a call. We do not sell insurance, but we do want you to be protected. There is never a charge to speak with one of our car accident attorneys on the phone.