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Paul D. Cramm

Accident While Friend Was Driving Your Car


This article shares some great advice from Phoenix car accident attorney, Aaron Crane from Cantor Crane with respect to when you let other people drive your vehicle.  Have you ever loaned your car out to someone, such as a friend or a family member? If you have, have you ever considered what consequences you may face personally if they were to get into an accident while operating your vehicle? The “What Ifs” after an accident with a friends car? The term assigned to describe liability as an owner, but not an operator, of a vehicle involved an accident is negligent entrustment.

Tort law is a body of laws most commonly associated with personal injury cases. Within tort law you will find the theory of negligent entrustment. A negligent entrustment claim arises when an individual is accused of negligently giving or loaning another person a dangerous instrument, also known in legal terms as a “dangerous instrumentality”, and said instrument in turn causes injury to a third party. These dangerous instrumentalities most commonly take the form of motor vehicles, but this is a term that can be used to describe a vast array of different items including, but not limited to: most heavy equipment, guns, explosives, and charged electrical lines.

In cases of negligent entrustment, one party is held liable when they have allowed someone else to use their dangerous instrumentality, despite the fact that they either know or should know that the person they are entrusting the item to could be dangerous while using it. For example, if a teenager has a history of driving dangerously, and their parents allow them to borrow their car in spite of this knowledge, then the parents may be held liable if their child causes an accident.

In order to successfully win a claim for negligent entrustment, one must be able to demonstrate all of the following:

1. The person accused of negligent entrustment knew, or should have known, that the other individual would be unsafe with the dangerous instrumentality. As mentioned previously, the dangerous instrumentality is typically a vehicle but this term is not limited exclusively to vehicles.

2. The person that the dangerous instrumentality was entrusted to is in fact incompetent and otherwise unfit to use the item.

3. The person accused of negligent entrustment, also known as the defendant, had actual reason to know that the person to whom they entrusted the dangerous instrumentality would not be able to safely use the item. It is not enough evidence to prove that they simply loaned the vehicle or other instrument out to another individual. There must be evidence that they had prior knowledge that the person to whom they entrusted the item could be a danger to themselves or to others.

4. Lastly, the injured individual, or plaintiff, must show that their injury would not have occurred if it was not for the negligence of the incompetent user. This is what is known as proximate cause.

Negligent entrustment is usually only successful when one can show a previous record of bad behavior from the person who was entrusted with the dangerous instrumentality. This bad behavior would be proof that the owner should have known not to entrust the item to that individual. For example, if a pedestrian is struck by an individual who is driving a company vehicle and not their own, then the employer of that individual may be held liable under negligent entrustment if their driving record was known to the employer or would have been easy to obtain. Their driving record should have already been made known to the employer as part of the hiring process if they were hired for a position that required use of a company car.

Negligent entrustment can also have applications in criminal matters. In the case of Bennis v. Michigan, 516 U.S. 442 (1996), the U.S. Supreme Court held that negligent entrustment of a vehicle to a person with a criminal history was sufficient evidence to support the state’s seizure of that vehicle as a penalty for negligently entrusting it to someone who used it in the commission of a crime. This case is unique in its findings because most crimes require intent, and that is not always the case with negligent entrustment.

Similar to negligent entrustment is vicarious liability. The difference between the two is that with negligent entrustment, one must demonstrate that the person entrusting the item was negligent. With vicarious liability, an employer can be held liable for the torts of an employee regardless of whether or not the employer had any fault in the injury to the plaintiff.

If you believe that you may have a claim for negligent entrustment, you should speak with a personal injury lawyer who has experience in handling personal injury cases.

If you have been accused of negligent entrustment, you should contact your insurance provider, if applicable, as well as an attorney who is experienced in handling personal injury cases.

These cases can be quite complicated, and they require a deep understanding of complex evidence laws. These are the types of cases that should be handled only by experienced attorneys.   Contact Cantor Crane today at (602) 254-2701 for a free initial consultation.

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About the Author

This practice has been exclusively devoted to all levels of criminal defense from misdemeanor offenses in municipal court to felony matters in the Federal courts of Kansas and the Western District of Missouri. Paul D. Cramm is qualified to provide defense in Capital and Death Penalty cases.

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