Update on USF Scientist Killed by Hit and Run Driver
Police say that Shawn Lee Burton, 29, was driving the red Ford Explorer that allegedly struck the USF scientist and killed her. At the time of the accident, authorities believe that Burton borrowed the vehicle from his girlfriend's brother. They also say that Burton's license was suspended until February. While it is speculation as to whether Burton was intoxicated, perhaps Burton was simply afraid of the consequences of having his license suspended yet again. Notwithstanding, the owner of an automobile is always responsible. While that statement is commonly made, not everyone understands why. The real reason that the owner is always responsible is because the owner's insurance is primary before the driver's policy. This is so because of fairly standard policy language in insurance policies that make the driver who borrows a car an "insured" under the owner's policy and the way that both policies are worded. Another way to say this is that the owner's policy makes the driver an insured so that the owner is protected from liability caused by a driver who borrows the car. To not have this language in an automobile policy would increase the risk that coverage would not afforded to an injured person. With that being said, I have picked juries in cases before and the people sitting on juries have expressed an opinion that they want to hold the driver responsible and not necessarily the owner. While these juries feel sympathy for the owner because the owner did not control the driver, the law in Florida (rightfully or wrongfully) is that the owner is in the best position to prevent injury to another by not lending his car out (a dangerous instrumentality) or, he does lend his car out, then he should only lend to responsible people or else the owner is responsible. As such, the owner is always responsible and it would be unfair to put the burden on the injured person to prove that lending the car to the driver was irresponsible. Thus, it is a fairer system of justice (while not perfect) for owners to be the insurers for damage done by their dangerous instrumentality. A system of justice that does not do so would be reckless.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in the greater Central Florida area, please contact a personal injury or car accident attorney for legal advice. A consultation with a Central Florida personal injury or car accident lawyer with Moody Law is free.