What is Negligent Entrustment?

Most of the time, when a car crash takes place, the driver of the vehicle is the one liable for any damage or injury resulting from it. However, in some circumstances, the car’s owner can be held liable for the accident under the principle of negligent entrustment. In other words, negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle occurs when the vehicle owner entrusts it to a reckless, unlicensed or incompetent driver whose negligent actions result in an accident. Consequently, to avoid negligent entrustment, the owner of the vehicle must exercise reasonable care in ensuring that the driver will be safe while using it.

How to Prove Negligent Entrustment?

To prove negligent entrustment, three general requirements must be met and proven:

  1. The driver was not the owner or the co-owner of the vehicle.
  2. The owner of the vehicle allowed the driver to operate it despite knowing that the driver was not able to to it safely. For example, when the owner lets the driver operate the vehicle even though he or she does not possess a valid license.
  3. That negligence was the direct cause of the accident.

Proving that the owner was aware of the fact that the driver was not able to operate the vehicle safely is perhaps the most challenging criteria out of all three. The owner must exercise reasonable due diligence and ensure that the person who is going to drive his or her vehicle will do so safely. If the owner fails to ensure that the driver is sober, licensed, and competent, it may be a case of negligent entrustment. For instance, if a vehicle owner witnesses someone acting recklessly after consuming alcohol and still lets this person borrow the car and drive, the judge or jury may decide that this was a case of negligent entrustment.

Furthermore, it is important to remember that the term “vehicle” refers not only to cars, but also aircraft, bicycles, motorcycles, or boats. Additionally, negligent entrustment can occur during operating heavy machinery, such as a construction crane or an excavator.

Who Can Be Held Liable for Negligent Entrustment?

Most of the time, employers are the ones to be held liable for negligent entrustment, since they are usually the ones to “entrust” a person with a vehicle. Therefore, allowing an unqualified employee to operate a vehicle may result in a negligent entrustment claim against the employer.

In some situations, both the employer and employee may be held liable for the injury or damage. Such cases occur when the employee was aware that they were not qualified to perform the task or operate the equipment and proceeded to do so regardless.

What Are The Remedies For Negligent Entrustment?

Usually, the injured party will receive monetary compensation to reimburse them for losses caused by the injury. Such losses include, but are not limited to, pain and suffering, emotional distress, lost wages, or medical expenses. The damages award is paid by the defendant to the plaintiff. Lastly, in certain circumstances, the judge or jury may also award punitive damages that the defendant will also have to pay.

To summarize, negligent entrustment takes place when a vehicle owner allows someone to operate it, even though he or she is fully aware of the fact that this person is unqualified, reckless, or intoxicated. However, proving that the owner knew about the incompetence of the driver can pose a great challenge. If it is determined by the judge or jury that negligent entrustment occurred, the plaintiff will be likely awarded monetary compensation to reimburse them for the injury and/or damage.

If you’ve been injured by a car, truck, 18 wheeler, or company vehicle, call DeSouza Law today at (210) 910-HURT or (361) 799-2222.