The law considers a car to be a dangerous tool that should only be handled by competent persons. Therefore, anybody who allows an incompetent person to drive their car can be held liable for any damages or injuries caused by the incompetent driver. This is known as the theory of negligent entrustment. Here are three examples of cases in which negligent entrustment can apply:
A Company Hires a Driver sans a Sufficient Background Check
Every business has the responsibility of ensuring that the people they hire to drive their vehicles are fit for the duty. The main way of doing this is to check the driving history of the driver, which is available at the applicable state's department of motor vehicles. A company that fails to do this can be held liable of negligent entrustment if their failure to perform the background check leads to an accident.
Consider an example where you are hit with a delivery truck. On further investigation, you realize that the driver was drunk, and has a history of drunk driving and has even had their license suspended over the same in the past. In such a case, you can hold the delivery company responsible for your injuries via the principle of negligent entrustment.
Person Loans A Car To A Friend They Know Is A Dangerous Driver
Negligent entrustment doesn't just apply to companies or businesses; it also applies to individuals who let others drive their cars. Therefore, when your neighbor requests to use your car for an errand, it's your duty to know whether they are likely to drive safely and to respond accordingly. This knowledge can either be actual knowledge, meaning that you know whether the neighbor is a dangerous driver, or constructive knowledge, meaning that you have reason to believe (though you aren't sure) that the neighbor can be a dangerous driver.
Consider an example where you are hurt in a car accident and realizes that the other motorist was driving their neighbor's car. If your investigations reveal that the other motorist had been charged with road rage on different occasions, you may use negligent entrustment to hold the actual owner of the car responsible for your injuries.
Parent Lends Car to a Minor
When it comes to minors, the law assumes that they are all dangerous drivers. Therefore, using the principle of negligent entrustment, anybody who lends a car to a minor can be held liable for any accidents caused by the minor. In this case, it's not necessary to prove that the minor was also a dangerous driver.
A good example is an uncle who lends a car to their niece, who is still a minor. If the niece's negligent driving results in an accident that causes you injuries, you can automatically hold the uncle liable for your injuries.
The above examples show that you shouldn't be fixated on the actual driver if you are hurt in an accident. Look for other people who may also be liable for your losses to maximize your recovery. Your car accident attorney will help you explore other legal options to help you increase your potential recovery. For more information, contact an attorney at a law firm like Fitzpatrick, Skemp & Associates LLC.