People do not tend too think much of loaning their cars to friends and relatives. They probably should. Suppose you loan your car to a friend and they happen to pull out in front of a motorcycle causing an accident. Now you did your due diligence and made sure they were carrying insurance, but the issue becomes, do they carry enough insurance to cover the catastrophic damages to be expected in an accident like the one I have described? Unfortunately, the answer is probably no. However, the good news, at least for the injured biker is that YOU are also responsible for paying for his injuries because you loaned your car to the negligent driver who caused the accident between the motorcycle and the car.
Florida Limits Liability of the Owner of a Lent Car
Florida Statute 324.021(9)(b)(3) limits the liability of owner of a car which has been lent to another to $100,000 per person or $300,000 per accident. However, if the person to whom the car has been lent is uninsured or insured for less than $500,000 combined property damage and bodily injury, then the owner will be responsible for the difference between the $500,000 and the insurance amounts actually possessed by the driver of the vehicle.
Simply put, this means that you would be hook for $600,000 less the policy limits of your friend’s coverage. Your insurance will likely cover your portion to the extent that you have purchased a policy with limits high enough to cover the biker’s injuries caused when the car pulled in to his path. Any amounts in excess of your insurance coverage would be sought from you personally.
Youngblood v. Villanueva 
In 2014, Florida Second District Court of Appeals rendered a decision which provides an interesting twist to the damage limitations I just discussed. T. Patton Youngblood took his car to a vehicle consignment location so that it could be sold by Teddy Aponte and Extreme Auto Sales. Mr. Youngblood testified that he never intended to see the vehicle again.
Extreme Auto Sales specializes in the sale of high performance or classic cars. Teddy Aponte worked at Extreme Auto Sales and while driving the car for personal use was involved a car accident which claimed the life of Villanueva. After a jury trial, Villanueva’s wife was awarded $199,043.75. The Hillsborough County Court then applied Florida Statute 324.021(9)(b)(3) and capped the damages for which Youngblood would be liable at $100,000 and issued final judgment indicating the same.
Villanueva appealed stating that the statute should not apply because this situation was not a traditional loan situation. The Second District Court of Appeals compared it to a shared ownership situation, relying upon Mr. Youngblood’s statement he never wanted to see the car again. The court found that shared owners could not loan the car to one another as each had a legal right to use the car. Therefore, the limitations of Florida Statute 324.021(9)(b)(3) did not apply leaving Mr. Youngblood liable for the full amount of the damages awarded by the jury.
Long Term Loans or Sales
The Youngblood case would appear to leave owners who provide a long term loan or sell their car while accepting payments and retaining title pending the final payment without the protections of Florida Statute 324.021(9)(b)(3). Everyone will likely scoff at the possibility that they might sell a car without transferring title to the buyer, but I see it happen at least once a year. It usually involves two good friends or two people involved in a romantic relationship. One person will agree to sell the other the car and accept payments for a specified period of time. Once all the payments are made the person selling the car will transfer title to the purchaser.
The breakdown of this arrangement always occurs in one of three ways. One, the friends or romantic relationship ends and the purchaser refuses to continue paying or return the car. Two, the car breaks down and the parties begin fighting over who owes whom what. Lastly, the purchaser gets in a wreck. None of these outcomes is desirable. Therefore, the best rule is do not lend your car or sell it on consignment.
Contact a St. Petersburg Car Accident Attorney at Jones Law Group
Have you or a loved one been injured in a car accident? Contact an experienced St. Petersburg personal injury law firm today. When you contact our office we will immediately set an appointment where you will meet your attorney and be provided with his/her personal contact information. If you do not have transportation or you cannot drive, your attorney will travel to meet you and discuss your case with you.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a slip and fall, a car accident, a motorcycle accident, a bicycle accident or a pedestrian accident, you should immediately call an experienced personal injury attorney in St. Petersburg at Jones Law Group at (727) 571-1333 during regular business hours or (727) 753-8657 on weekends or after regular business hours. We will evaluate your case for free and you will never pay us a dime unless we recover compensation for your injuries.
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