negligent entrustment

Negligent Entrustment and Third-Party Liability

At the core of every personal injury case is the question of liability: who is responsible for the victim’s injuries? In many cases, the answer is clear-cut. The person who drove the car, owned the property, or shot the gun is entirely liable for harm to the victim.

In other cases, it’s more complicated. Negligent entrustment is an excellent example, since it brings a third party and their share of liability into the equation. Learn more about negligent entrustment and when it applies, and when you are ready to move forward with your case, contact Zach Peagler Law Firm at (205) 871-9990 to set up a consultation.

What Is Third-Party Liability?

Third party liability refers to blame that lies with someone not directly involved with an accident. While negligent entrustment can refer to both automobile accident cases and firearms cases, we will focus on automobile accidents for this explanation. In many car accidents, liability lies with one or both drivers.

In some situations, a third party has some or all of the blame. The third party may be:

  • Manufacturer of a defective car
  • Manufacturer of a defective car component
  • Government agency responsible for unclear signage or poorly maintained roads
  • A passenger who distracted the driver or grabbed the wheel
  • In the case of negligent entrustment, the owner of the vehicle when the owner and driver are not the same person

Required Elements of a Negligent Entrustment Claim

To some, negligent entrustment seems fairly easy to claim. If the driver of a vehicle is not the same person as the owner, the owner must be negligent. That, however, isn’t true. For negligent entrustment to even be an option in a case, the victim and their legal team must prove four elements:

  1. The driver was incompetent and/or dangerous
  2. The owner of the vehicle gave permission, explicitly or implicitly, for the driver to use the car
  3. The vehicle owner knew or could reasonably have been expected to know that the driver was dangerous
  4. The driver’s incompetence directly led to or worsened the victim’s injuries

Defenses Against Negligent Entrustment

The majority of defenses against negligent entrustment focus on the fact that some of these elements are difficult to prove. If your attorney goes the route of negligent entrustment for your case, they will likely be prepared for these defenses against their claim:

The driver was not incompetent. While the driver may have made an error in judgment, they may not be completely incompetent. For a driver to be considered incompetent, there must be clear evidence pointing to this claim that existed prior to the accident. For example. A driver with six speeding tickets over the previous two years may be deemed dangerous. A driver with four DUIs may be considered incompetent. A driver who causes an accident but does not have a history of dangerous decision-making is unlikely to be deemed incompetent.

Permission was not given. A negligent entrustment case requires proof that the driver had permission to use the vehicle. If the driver stole the car or intentionally hid its use from the owner, it’s likely that they drove it without the owner’s consent. This would relieve the owner of liability.

The vehicle owner did not know of the negligence. The vehicle owner may claim ignorance of the driver’s history of dangerous driving behavior. To combat this, an attorney must prove that the owner knew or should have known about the driver’s risk profile. If someone lends a car to a casual friend, they may not know that the friend has a history of DUIs and speeding tickets. Then this defense may hold up. However, if someone lends their car to a sister whom they’ve driven to their DUI cases four times in the last five years, it’s obvious that they knew about the driver’s risk profile.

Why You Need an Attorney

Negligent entrustment cases are often extremely difficult to prove. Failure to prove any one of the elements listed above will lead to this part of the case being dismissed, limiting your ability to claim compensation. An attorney knows the uphill battle injured individuals face with a negligent entrustment claim, so they can create the strongest case possible if all of the provable elements are present.

Reach Out to Zach Peagler Law Firm Now

If you have been hurt in a car accident, you need an attorney dedicated to representing your best interests as you seek compensation. That is where we step in. Schedule a consultation with Zach Peagler Law Firm now by calling us at (205) 871-9990 or getting in touch with us via our contact form.

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