324.021 Definitions; minimum insurance required.—The following words and phrases when used in this chapter shall, for the purpose of this chapter, have the meanings respectively ascribed to them in this section, except in those instances where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:
(1) MOTOR VEHICLE.—Every self-propelled vehicle which is designed and required to be licensed for use upon a highway, including trailers and semitrailers designed for use with such vehicles, except traction engines, road rollers, farm tractors, power shovels, and well drillers, and every vehicle which is propelled by electric power obtained from overhead wires but not operated upon rails, but not including any bicycle or moped. However, the term “motor vehicle” shall not include any motor vehicle as defined in s. 627.732(3) when the owner of such vehicle has complied with the requirements of ss. 627.730-627.7405, inclusive, unless the provisions of s. 324.051 apply; and, in such case, the applicable proof of insurance provisions of s. 320.02 apply.
(2) DEPARTMENT.—The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
(3) OPERATOR.—Every person who is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle.
(4) PERSON.—Every natural person, firm, copartnership, association, or corporation.
(5) NONRESIDENT.—Every person who is not a resident of this state.
(6) LICENSE.—Any license, temporary instruction permit, or temporary license issued under the laws of this state pertaining to the licensing of persons to operate motor vehicles.
(7) PROOF OF FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY.—That proof of ability to respond in damages for liability on account of crashes arising out of the use of a motor vehicle:
(a) In the amount of $10,000 because of bodily injury to, or death of, one person in any one crash;
(b) Subject to such limits for one person, in the amount of $20,000 because of bodily injury to, or death of, two or more persons in any one crash;
(c) In the amount of $10,000 because of injury to, or destruction of, property of others in any one crash; and
(d) With respect to commercial motor vehicles and nonpublic sector buses, in the amounts specified in ss. 627.7415 and 627.742, respectively.
(8) MOTOR VEHICLE LIABILITY POLICY.—Any owner’s or operator’s policy of liability insurance furnished as proof of financial responsibility pursuant to s. 324.031, insuring such owner or operator against loss from liability for bodily injury, death, and property damage arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle in not less than the limits described in subsection (7) and conforming to the requirements of s. 324.151, issued by any insurance company authorized to do business in this state. The owner, registrant, or operator of a motor vehicle is exempt from providing such proof of financial responsibility if he or she is a member of the United States Armed Forces and is called to or on active duty outside this state or the United States, or if the owner of the vehicle is the dependent spouse of such active duty member and is also residing with the active duty member at the place of posting of such member, and the vehicle is primarily maintained at such place of posting. The exemption provided by this subsection applies only as long as the member of the armed forces is on such active duty outside this state or the United States and the owner complies with the security requirements of the state of posting or any possession or territory of the United States.
(9) OWNER; OWNER/LESSOR.—
(a) Owner.—A person who holds the legal title of a motor vehicle; or, in the event a motor vehicle is the subject of an agreement for the conditional sale or lease thereof with the right of purchase upon performance of the conditions stated in the agreement and with an immediate right of possession vested in the conditional vendee or lessee, or in the event a mortgagor of a vehicle is entitled to possession, then such conditional vendee or lessee or mortgagor shall be deemed the owner for the purpose of this chapter.
(b) Owner/lessor.—Notwithstanding any other provision of the Florida Statutes or existing case law:
1. The lessor, under an agreement to lease a motor vehicle for 1 year or longer which requires the lessee to obtain insurance acceptable to the lessor which contains limits not less than $100,000/$300,000 bodily injury liability and $50,000 property damage liability or not less than $500,000 combined property damage liability and bodily injury liability, shall not be deemed the owner of said motor vehicle for the purpose of determining financial responsibility for the operation of said motor vehicle or for the acts of the operator in connection therewith; further, this subparagraph shall be applicable so long as the insurance meeting these requirements is in effect. The insurance meeting such requirements may be obtained by the lessor or lessee, provided, if such insurance is obtained by the lessor, the combined coverage for bodily injury liability and property damage liability shall contain limits of not less than $1 million and may be provided by a lessor’s blanket policy.
2. The lessor, under an agreement to rent or lease a motor vehicle for a period of less than 1 year, shall be deemed the owner of the motor vehicle for the purpose of determining liability for the operation of the vehicle or the acts of the operator in connection therewith only up to $100,000 per person and up to $300,000 per incident for bodily injury and up to $50,000 for property damage. If the lessee or the operator of the motor vehicle is uninsured or has any insurance with limits less than $500,000 combined property damage and bodily injury liability, the lessor shall be liable for up to an additional $500,000 in economic damages only arising out of the use of the motor vehicle. The additional specified liability of the lessor for economic damages shall be reduced by amounts actually recovered from the lessee, from the operator, and from any insurance or self-insurance covering the lessee or operator. Nothing in this subparagraph shall be construed to affect the liability of the lessor for its own negligence.
3. The owner who is a natural person and loans a motor vehicle to any permissive user shall be liable for the operation of the vehicle or the acts of the operator in connection therewith only up to $100,000 per person and up to $300,000 per incident for bodily injury and up to $50,000 for property damage. If the permissive user of the motor vehicle is uninsured or has any insurance with limits less than $500,000 combined property damage and bodily injury liability, the owner shall be liable for up to an additional $500,000 in economic damages only arising out of the use of the motor vehicle. The additional specified liability of the owner for economic damages shall be reduced by amounts actually recovered from the permissive user and from any insurance or self-insurance covering the permissive user. Nothing in this subparagraph shall be construed to affect the liability of the owner for his or her own negligence.
1. The limits on liability in subparagraphs (b)2. and 3. do not apply to an owner of motor vehicles that are used for commercial activity in the owner’s ordinary course of business, other than a rental company that rents or leases motor vehicles. For purposes of this paragraph, the term “rental company” includes only an entity that is engaged in the business of renting or leasing motor vehicles to the general public and that rents or leases a majority of its motor vehicles to persons with no direct or indirect affiliation with the rental company. The term also includes a motor vehicle dealer that provides temporary replacement vehicles to its customers for up to 10 days. The term “rental company” also includes:
a. A related rental or leasing company that is a subsidiary of the same parent company as that of the renting or leasing company that rented or leased the vehicle.
b. The holder of a motor vehicle title or an equity interest in a motor vehicle title if the title or equity interest is held pursuant to or to facilitate an asset-backed securitization of a fleet of motor vehicles used solely in the business of renting or leasing motor vehicles to the general public and under the dominion and control of a rental company, as described in this subparagraph, in the operation of such rental company’s business.
2. Furthermore, with respect to commercial motor vehicles as defined in s. 627.732, the limits on liability in subparagraphs (b)2. and 3. do not apply if, at the time of the incident, the commercial motor vehicle is being used in the transportation of materials found to be hazardous for the purposes of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Authorization Act of 1994, as amended, 49 U.S.C. ss. 5101 et seq., and that is required pursuant to such act to carry placards warning others of the hazardous cargo, unless at the time of lease or rental either:
a. The lessee indicates in writing that the vehicle will not be used to transport materials found to be hazardous for the purposes of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Authorization Act of 1994, as amended, 49 U.S.C. ss. 5101 et seq.; or
b. The lessee or other operator of the commercial motor vehicle has in effect insurance with limits of at least $5,000,000 combined property damage and bodily injury liability.
(10) JUDGMENT.—Any judgment becoming final by expiration without appeal of the time within which an appeal might have been perfected, or by final affirmation on appeal, rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction of any state or of the United States upon a cause of action arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of any motor vehicle for damages, including damages for care and loss of services because of bodily injury to or death of any person, or for damages because of injury to or destruction of property, including the loss of use thereof, or upon a cause of action on an agreement of settlement for such damage.
(11) REGISTRATION.—Registration certificate or certificates and registration plates issued under the laws of this state pertaining to the registration of motor vehicles.
History.—s. 1, ch. 29963, 1955; ss. 13, 35, ch. 69-106; s. 1, ch. 71-59; s. 100, ch. 71-377; s. 1, ch. 72-297; ss. 1, 2, ch. 73-180; s. 1, ch. 76-266; s. 6, ch. 76-286; s. 1, ch. 77-118; s. 6, ch. 77-468; s. 135, ch. 79-400; s. 562, ch. 82-243; s. 2, ch. 83-200; s. 2, ch. 86-18; s. 3, ch. 86-229; s. 21, ch. 87-161; ss. 6, 7, ch. 88-370; s. 1, ch. 96-362; s. 28, ch. 99-225; s. 301, ch. 99-248; s. 9, ch. 2001-271; s. 1, ch. 2005-156; s. 1, ch. 2007-49; s. 42, ch. 2008-176.