Brannon & Brannon
Local Personal Injury Lawyers Who Don't Back Down
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google
  • LinkedIn
View Our Practice Area

IS YOUR NAME ON THE CAR'S TITLE? BETTER CHECK...

If the car really isn't yours, make sure your name isn't on the title.

"May a person who intentionally directs that title be issued in his name as co-owner, by completing a sworn application for title in conjunction with the purchase of a vehicle, avoid liability under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine by claiming that he never intended to be the owner of the vehicle and further claiming that he relinquished control to a co-owner of the vehicle?

The Florida Supreme Court said NO. Bowen v. Taylor-Christenson, So. 3d , 39 FLSW S 214 (Fla. 4-10-2014). In Bowen, a pedestrian's estate brought a wrongful death action against the driver and owner (the driver's ex-husband whose name was still on the car title) of the vehicle that struck and killed the pedestrian. Even though the ex-husband (1) did not have a key to the vehicle, (2) did not use the vehicle, (3) did not reside where the vehicle was garaged, (4) did not have access to the vehicle, and(5) did not possess a key to the vehicle, the ex-husband was still a co-owner of the vehicle. The Florida Supreme Court held that the ex-husband could be liable for the injuries and/or death caused by the vehicle.

Its decision was based on the dangerous instrumentality doctrine, which serves to ensure financial recourse to members of the public who are injured by the negligent operation of a motor vehicle. This is a form of strict liability placed upon the owners of vehicles (example of a dangerous instrumentality). The rationale is that a vehicle owner, who has control over the use of the vehicle, exercises his or her control by granting custody of the vehicle to another. An exception had arisen in case law, prior to the Supreme Court of Florida's decision in this case, wherein a titleholder to a vehicle could limit his liability, if he were able to show that he lacked the beneficial ownership of the vehicle and simply held "bare legal title". The Supreme Court of Florida held that "beneficial ownership is unrelated to the physical access to a vehicle, past use of a vehicle, or intent to use or not use a vehicle. Rather, beneficial ownership arises from legal rights that allow an individual to exert some dominion and control over the use of the vehicle. Thus, because a titleholder has legal rights in the vehicle and is in a position to exert some dominion and control over the vehicle, he or she is a beneficial owner." Id. Bowen.

Simply stated, don't get caught in the gap. If you don't consider yourself the owner of the vehicle, make sure your name isn't on the title. In this situation, the ex-husband should have obtained an Order in his divorce wherein the Court directed the ownership of the car to be placed in the ex-wife's name.

Title-1000-ffccccccWhite-3333-0.20.3-1.pngIf you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and you have questions about liability (i.e. who is responsible for your injuries), contact the law firm of Brannon & Brannon. You can send us a contact form through our website www.BrannonCanHelp.com or call 850-863-5297.

Injured? Need Help? Brannon Can Help!

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Father And Son Team Working Together To Serve Our Clients

Our legal team consists of attorney Wm. Dennis Brannon and his son C. Paul Brannon. We work together as a father and son team to provide our clients with exceptional service and solutions in motor vehicle accident claims and other personal injury matters.

Contact Us Today

We Handle Cases on a Contingency Fee Basis Tell Us About Your Case - Free Consultations

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information
disclaimer.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

close

Privacy Policy

Fort Walton Beach
975 Mar Walt Drive
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547

Phone: 850-659-2252
Fax: 850-864-4526
Fort Walton Beach Law Office Map

Defuniak
544 US Highway 90 East
Defuniak Springs, FL 32433

Phone: 850-659-2252
Fax: 850-864-4526
Map & Directions

Crestview
204 North Main Street
Crestview, FL 32536

Phone: 850-659-2252
Phone: 850-398-8776
Fax: 850-864-4526
Crestview Law Office Map

Review Us