What is negligent entrustment?

On Behalf of | May 19, 2021 | Firm News

Your first thoughts after experiencing a car accident in New York may not focus on taking legal action. Indeed, you likely have more pressing concerns to worry about (such as dealing with any injuries you or loved ones sustained, along with damages to your vehicle). Yet mounting expenses may force you to seek compensation beyond what insurance offers.

In such a scenario, immediate liability likely lies with the driver that caused your car accident. What if, however, you discover that driver had a poor driving history, and yet still someone entrusted them with a vehicle? Could you then extend liability to the vehicle owner?

Understanding negligent entrustment

The legal principle of negligent entrustment allows you to do just that. Simply put, negligent entrustment holds that a vehicle owner should share in the liability for an accident caused by a driver they entrusted their vehicle to without first taking proper care to ensure the driver’s fitness.

Meeting the standard set by the state

At first glance, this may imply that any case in which a driver was not in their own vehicle when causing an accident would fall under this principle. Yet that is not the case. For you to cite it, you must meet the standard set by local state courts. Recent rulings highlight two important elements in this regard: that a vehicle owner has a duty to not entrust their vehicles to anyone other than a driver that has demonstrated competence, and that the degree of the owner’s liability depends on the extent they knew of the driver’s potential to use the vehicle in a manner that might likely cause harm. This seemingly excludes cases where a driver took a vehicle without permission, or where the owner legitimately did not know the driver’s poor driving tendencies.