Determining Fault of a Car Sharing Accident
Car sharing involves car owners, drivers, and a marketplace (often online) which brings the two together. Florida law and some associated Florida Supreme Court opinions have dealt with liability and implemented regulations concerning rental cars and ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft. Car sharing, in contrast, is relatively new, so Florida case law and statutes do not directly address responsibility in car sharing accidents. For now, that leaves the question of liability in a car sharing accident at to Florida courts.
If you aren’t familiar with car sharing, you are thinking about using a car sharing service, or you are thinking about sharing your car through a service, this guide will describe the Florida laws, regulations, and precedents which might apply to the determination of liability after a car sharing accident.
If you need immediate legal assistance after a car sharing accident, contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, or Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) for a free consultation to discuss the specific circumstances surrounding your accident. Currently, Florida law has a significant amount of gray area where car sharing is concerned, so it’s in your best interest to hire an attorney to maximize your chances of recovering damages related to your accident and injury.
What Is Car Sharing?
Car sharing, also referred to as person-to-person or peer-to-peer car rentals, is the latest service to pick up speed in the automobile market. Car sharing has been around for a while with companies such as Getaround, but competitors such as JustShareIt and Turo (formerly RelayRides) have also entered the market. General Motors (GM), the first car manufacturer to enter the market, touts peer-to-peer car sharing as a way to offset large car payments.
From a logistics standpoint, car sharing is a cross between ridesharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, and home-sharing services like Airbnb. Car owners list their vehicle and rental rates with the company they choose and attract drivers who want to rent their car for an agreed upon period. Depending on the vehicle and the company, drivers can rent a car by the hour, day, or week. Car sharing gives added value to customers over standard car rentals because drivers can choose a specific vehicle. Plus, these services are convenient—drivers can reserve a car, pay and unlock the vehicle through their phone, and choose to pick up the car or have it delivered to them. GM’s service, Maven, provides stations around the cities where drivers can pick up and return vehicles, but they have not entered any Florida markets as of May 2019.
Florida No-Fault Insurance
Under Florida law, motorists who register a vehicle must carry a minimum of $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and a minimum of $10,000 property damage liability (PDL) coverage. When an accident occurs involving a personal injury, drivers must file a claim under their own PIP policy regardless of fault. This doesn’t cause any issues for minor fender-benders and accidents with minor injuries, but serious accidents often exceed policy limits leaving innocent drivers looking for ways to recover additional losses.
Additionally, Florida’s no-fault insurance is a requirement for Florida car registrants. People who use a car-sharing service in Florida might not have the required insurance because they’ve never registered a vehicle here or they are from another state where there is no PIP coverage requirement.
Florida law permits PIP coverage to extend to drivers who don’t have their own coverage. For example, if your friend, who normally rides her bicycle everywhere, asks to borrow your car on a rainy day and run some errands, your PIP coverage will extend to her if she is involved in a car accident with your vehicle, regardless of fault. But, it is not clear that the same coverage would apply to someone with whom you “share” your car through a car-sharing service.
Florida PIP insurance carriers only have to pay 80 percent of medical benefits and 60 percent disability benefits for lost wages under Florida law. Even in straightforward car sharing accident cases, most accident injury victims choose to seek additional compensation to recover all of their losses.
Company Sponsored Car Sharing Insurance
Florida, as well as some other states, has been at the forefront of implementing legislation to regulate ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft; but, no specific laws have been put into place to govern car sharing companies. For now, whether as a sales tactic or the desire to be proactive about regulations which are likely to come, many car sharing companies include insurance in their pricing. That coverage varies with each company, but here are some examples:
- Turo, in conjunction with Liberty Mutual Insurance, provides coverage for car owners and drivers. Owners’ cars are protected against “physical damage, up to its actual cash value, for collision and most comprehensive causes, including theft.” Additionally, Turo provides $1,000,000 in liability coverage for each owner. Much like a standard car rental, drivers who use the Turo app can choose to purchase coverage for a percentage of the trip price, or decline coverage.
- Getaround also provides owners with $1,000,000 coverage including liability, collision, property damage, uninsured motorist coverage, and theft. Their website states that all rentals come with insurance and 24/7 roadside assistance.
When a car sharing accident occurs in Florida, it’s likely insurance coverage beyond your PIP exists to cover damages, but liability will play a factor. Car accidents have many causes; sometimes poor roads or defective auto parts cause an accident. In these cases, the government entity who owns the road and the automobile/auto parts manufacturer are third parties who can be named in a lawsuit. Accidents resulting from the negligence of one or more other motorists complicate liability issues.
Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine
Florida courts tasked with the responsibility of determining liability in a car sharing accident might consider the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine, which provides the owner of a dangerous tool is liable for injuries caused by that tool. In 1920, Florida’s Supreme Court extended the doctrine to include motor vehicles in Southern Cotton Oil v. Anderson. The court revised the law to make any company or person who gives permission to another to drive their vehicle strictly liable for accidents.
Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine grants exceptions to car rental companies. Companies are not liable for a driver’s negligent use of their rental car, even though they technically own the rental vehicles. Under Florida law, all other owners are liable for up to $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident for bodily injury and up to $50,000 in property damage; however, if an owner grants permission to another person without insurance or with limits under $500,000, the owner might be liable for up to another $500,000 in damages.
Car sharing companies only match owners and drivers, so if a motorist sustains an injury in a car accident with someone who is car sharing, it’s not clear whether they can hold the car sharing company liable. If Florida courts apply the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine to car sharing drivers in the same way it is applied to rental car drivers, a negligent car sharing driver will be liable for any damages if he or she causes an accident. Similarly, a Florida Supreme Court in 2011 (Vargas v. Enterprise Leasing) affirmed the notion that rental car agencies are not responsible for a driver’s negligence. In this case, the son of one of Enterprise’s customers was operating the rental car when he struck the rear-end of Vargas’s vehicle. Vargas sued Enterprise claiming strict liability because they owned the car. The court maintained that Enterprise was not responsible for damages simply because they owned the vehicle.
Comparative Negligence in Florida Car Accidents
Florida courts apply comparative negligence rules to most personal injury cases, including those involving car accidents. Comparative negligence, sometimes referred to as comparative fault, assesses the extent to which a plaintiff might have contributed to an accident. If the court finds the defendant was negligent in a car sharing accident, it will assign a percentage portion of fault to each party named in the lawsuit. The court subtracts the claimant’s portion of fault from any damages it awards.
For example, suppose you were on your way home from work and a car ran a stoplight and caused a collision. When the police arrive they smell alcohol on your breath and ask you to take a breathalyzer test. You comply and register a .07 Breath Alcohol Content (BAC), meaning you’re just under the legal limit. It’s likely the court will place the lion’s share of the blame on the driver who ran the red light, but the defense will argue your BAC prevented you from reacting to the other vehicle—had you not been impaired, you might have been able to avoid the accident or at least mitigate the damage by putting on your brakes.
After hearing the entire case and finding the defendant negligent, the court decides you are 40 percent at fault for the accident. You have sued the car share driver and associated insurance company(s) for $1,000,000 in damages. The court rules in your favor, but Florida law permits you can only collect 60 percent, or $600,000.
Steps to Take After a Car Sharing Accident
If you have been involved in a car sharing accident caused by another driver’s negligence, you need to take some specific measures to ensure the best chances of recovering your losses. They include:
- Seek medical treatment. If you don’t take an ambulance ride to the nearest hospital, make sure a doctor checks you out as soon as possible. Some injuries don’t show immediate symptoms, so just because you aren’t in pain doesn’t mean you haven’t suffered an injury. Medical records serve as proof of injury your lawyer can use to negotiate with insurance companies or provide the court for evidence if your case goes to trial.
- Report your accident. Contact the car sharing company where you booked your car and report the accident as soon as possible. Some companies will deny insurance coverage if you delay reporting. You also need to file a police report. It’s best to have them come to the scene of the accident if they don’t arrive because of a 911 call.
- Don’t talk to insurance companies. You are required to cooperate with any accident investigations, but you should be careful what you say. Do not admit any portion of fault. Also, insurance adjusters will be waiting for anything you might say which they can use to devalue your claim. It’s in your best interest to contact an attorney as soon as possible and let them handle communications.
Contact an Experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorney After a Car Sharing Accident
Car accidents inflict physical pain, emotional trauma, and financial burden on victims and their families. If you are an owner, a driver, or another motorist in a car sharing accident, an accident results in a complicated case involving multiple parties, multiple insurance companies, and multiple claims. If you have suffered any injuries, you need to put your physical and mental energy into healing and recovery to return to a daily routine. Let an experienced personal injury attorney sort through the legal issues car sharing accident cases carry with them.
A skilled car accident attorney will investigate your case to determine liability and place a value on your claim. Additionally, your lawyer will navigate the complexities of your case and ensure you are holding the right party(s) accountable for damages. Insurance companies deny claims, downplay injuries, and try to get accident victims to sign waivers so they don’t have to pay large claims or settlements. Your attorney will handle communications and negotiations with insurance companies to ensure you have the best outcome for your individual circumstances.
If you have sustained severe injuries in a car sharing accident caused by another party’s reckless choices, Florida law entitles you to seek damages in civil court to recover losses not covered by insurance. With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) or through our contact page, for a free case evaluation.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765