Applying negligent entrustment to car accident cases

Sadly, car accidents are an all too common occurrence in Southern California. Indeed, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety, there were 92,020 accidents that resulted in fatalities or injuries in 2017 in Los Angeles County alone.

Most people may understand the risks of car accidents, yet they take some degree of comfort in the knowledge that whoever caused their collision will cover their accident expenses. That expectation becomes less reliable, however, if the driver that hit them was not in their own vehicle at the time.

Holding vehicle owners responsible for accidents

Oftentimes a person is not driving their own car due to their being unable to secure a vehicle because of poor driving performance in the past. This prompts the obvious question of if they had a poor driving history, why would someone give them access to a vehicle? Such a seemingly irresponsible decision could even prompt the application of negligent entrustment to a car accident case. Negligent entrustment allows car accident victims to hold vehicle owners responsible when other people cause accidents using their cars.

Meeting the standard for negligent entrustment

However, the mere fact that one who caused an accident was not in their own vehicle at the time may not be enough to meet California’s standard for negligent entrustment. Per the California Civil Jury Instructions, that standard is:

  • The driver was negligent in operating the vehicle
  • The driver had the vehicle with the owner’s permission
  • The owner knew (or should have known) of the driver’s incompetence
  • The owner entrusted the vehicle to the driver
  • The driver’s incompetence was the proximate cause of the accident

This standard would exclude cases where vehicle mechanical failures caused an accident (or where a driver used a vehicle without permission).