If Your Name Is On A Car Title, You Have Exposure For Damages
Anyone whose name appears on a car title in the State of Florida could be on the hook for damages after a recent Florida Supreme Court decision in Christensen v. Bowen.
Apparently the Christensens were on the verge of divorce when they purchased a car together. As part of the eventual divorce, Ms. Christensen got to keep the car, but her husband’s name remained on the title to the car. Some period of time later, Ms. Christensen negligently operated the car and caused a crash that killed Mr. Bowen. Mr. Bowen’s family brought a wrongful death case against Mr. and Mrs. Christensen, as is permissible under Florida’s dangerous instrumentality law.
It was undisputed that the husband had no day-to-day control over the vehicle during the time that was being operated, so the Mr. Christensen originally attempted to have the claim against him dismissed.
After making its way through the trial and appellate courts, the case finally came before the Florida Supreme Court, which decided that because the husband’s name is still on the title, he could have exercised some control of the vehicle (even though he didn’t), and therefore should be held liable.
There are probably two important lessons to be learned by Florida consumers from the Christensen case. First, if you don’t want to be potentially liable for damages caused by a car, don’t let your name appear on the car’s title. Second, if you cannot get your name removed from a car title, make sure the person driving it has plenty of liability coverage on the car.
If you any questions regarding a Florida car accident, or about how this recent Florida Supreme Court opinion might affect your legal rights, please call Winter Park personal injury attorneys Kim Cullen and Robert Hemphill at 407-254-4901.