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Florida’s Unique Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine


After an accident involving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) like a large truck or a passenger bus, anyone who has been injured due to another person’s negligence will likely be trying to figure out how best to seek compensation for their injuries. However, merely suing the driver may not lead to compensation, simply because drivers are often judgment proof (too poor to cover a jury award). One way an injured plaintiff can sometimes file suit against the driver’s employer is unique to Florida law, and is known as the dangerous instrumentality doctrine.

Cut & Dried

Originally, Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine was created from common law, and only used in cases involving “fire, water, and poisons,” but over time, automobiles and other vehicles (as well as several other objects) were added to the list via case precedent.  Essentially, a person or entity is liable for damages if they own a ‘dangerous instrumentality’ – in these cases, a CMV – and entrusts it to another person, who then injures a third party.

In some cases, this doctrine can make it easier for an injured plaintiff to recover, because (at least in theory), all the plaintiff needs to do to use the doctrine effectively is to show that the CMV driver was negligent. If they can establish this, the doctrine holds that the owner of the dangerous instrumentality is liable as a matter of law – no further discussion required. That said, it can sometimes be difficult to show that the CMV driver was negligent – this is where an attorney may need to step in.

Establishing Fault Is Crucial

It is sometimes hard to tell who may be more at fault for a CMV accident, particularly if the crash happens in a rural area with little to no possibility of witnesses or surveillance footage. However, it is generally worth it to try and recover, because Florida’s comparative fault law holds that even if an injured plaintiff played some role in causing their injuries, as long as they were not more than 50 percent at fault.

In addition, keep in mind that while they are rare, there are exceptions to the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. If the vehicle involved in the accident was stolen, if it was being driven by a repair shop employee during maintenance, or if the owner had sold but not formally completed the transaction, the doctrine will not apply – but as one can imagine, these will not often occur.

Contact A Tampa CMV Accident Attorney

If you have been involved in an accident with a commercial motor vehicle in Florida, it is likely that your injuries are quite serious, and money damages are important so that you can focus on healing. A Tampa truck accident attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group can help to shoulder the legal load so that you can take your time getting back to normal. Call our office today at (813) 831-9999 for a free consultation.



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