Negligent Entrustment: What It Means And How It Can Be Proven In A Car Accident Injury Lawsuit

If you were involved in a car accident that wasn't your fault, it is important to know the driver of the other vehicle may not have been the only one negligent. In fact, there may be legally negligent individuals who weren't even present during the accident; regardless of their location, these individuals may still owe you compensation for losses suffered. This type of legal negligence is known as negligent entrustment, and according to civil law, negligent entrustment places these individuals in the same liability position as the negligent driver of a vehicle. Below is more information on negligent entrustment, as well as what elements need to be in place to establish negligent entrustment:

An introduction to negligent entrustment

Under the broad umbrella of torts, which are simply acts by another individual that cause harm, the legal principle of negligent entrustment holds that an actor isn't always the only one who bears responsibility when harm comes to another. Instead, negligent entrustment recognizes that a third-party who places an instrument of harm, such as a car, in the hands of an actor is also liable for whatever injury may befall the victim. Here are a few examples of third parties that may be liable due to negligent entrustment should an accident occur:

  • A parent who allows their underage, unlicensed teenage child to drive their car

  • A pizza restaurant that hires a delivery driver with multiple drunk driving convictions

  • A trucking company that permits a severely disabled individual to drive a tractor-trailer

The necessary elements of negligent entrustment

Before liability is established due to a third-party's negligence in the case of a car accident, there are several conditions that must be satisfied:

The third-party willingly allowed the person in question to drive the car 

A simple example can illustrate this point: If a car is stolen, then the driver was not authorized to operate the vehicle, and this element can't be established. However, should a parent leave their keys in the ignition of their car, knowing their 12-year old son has a history of starting the car, then this condition may be met by virtue of their lack of oversight.

The driver was not in a position of competency to operate a motor vehicle 

Competency includes a variety of dimensions, including physical, mental, emotional and age-related factors. There is no one size-fits-all approach to establishing competency; for example, some extremely elderly drivers may be completely competent to drive, while some 30-year old drivers may be highly incompetent behind the wheel.

The third-party knew, or should have reasonably been expected to know, that the driver was incompetent 

As an example, if a third-party hands over the car keys to a person who has a seizure while driving, but the third-party had no foreknowledge of the driver's propensity to have seizures, then they are not negligent.

The driver drove in such a manner that is defined as negligent 

While this may seem obvious, the driver must have been operating their vehicle in such a way that is negligent. Having an accident due to a blowout, for example, is not negligent entrustment and does not place a legal duty upon the third-party regardless of the other factors involved.

If any one of these factors are missing, then a court will not find that a third-party negligently entrusted their automobile to the driver.

What you should do

Negligent entrustment can be a complex issue, as you have seen above, and that is why it is vital to obtain the services of a qualified attorney. Your lawyer can help you work through each element and compare them to facts surrounding your car accident. Should negligent entrustment exist, they will help you find the proper grounds and develop a case that is more likely to help you obtain compensation. 

Talk to a lawyer at a law firm like Hornthal Riley Ellis & Maland LLP for more information.