Applying negligent entrustment to car accident cases

On Behalf of | Jan 4, 2021 | motor vehicle accidents

It goes without saying that a good deal of frustration comes with a car accident. Yet those in New York who experience such accidents often temper those frustrations with the understanding that they are just that: accidents. 

However, such understanding often vanishes when one learns that the person that caused their collision had a history of reckless or dangerous driving (or whose inexperience behind the wheel created an unreasonable risk to others). Indeed, their frustration can even prompt the desire to hold them responsible (as well as whoever entrusted them with a vehicle). 

Defining “negligent entrustment”

Yet can an accident victim include the latter party in a liability claim? The legal principle of negligent entrustment allows for just that. Per the International Risk Management Institute, this principle describes the act of failing to exercise appropriate care in entrusting another with a potentially dangerous chattel (motor vehicles certainly fall within that category). In such a scenario, people can hold one guilty of such a failure liable if the person they entrusted their vehicle to causes an accident. 

Meeting the standard for negligent entrustment

Yet not all cases where one causes an accident while in another’s vehicle fall under the umbrella of negligent entrustment. Rather, one’s case must meet the standard established statutorily by local state court rulings. According to a case recently ruled upon by the New York State Supreme Court, that standard includes a vehicle owner either knowing that the driver they were entrusting their vehicle to was incompetent or inexperienced, or would have known of that through the reasonable exercise of care. This may exclude cases where one used another vehicle without their permission; at the same time, however, it also allows for the application of negligent entrustment in cases where a vehicle owner did not know of a driver’s history (yet should have known).