Negligent Entrustment of a Motor Vehicle

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The owner of a vehicle may be found liable under the theory of negligent entrustment as a result of an accident caused by another person who was driving the vehicle with either his direct or implied permission.   State law governs the elements a plaintiff must prove in order to win a personal injury case based on the theory of negligent entrustment. Generally, however, the elements which must be proven are:  

  • That the owner entrusted the vehicle to the driver;
  • That the driver was incompetent, reckless, or unlicensed;
  • That the drive knew or should have known that the driver was incompetent, reckless, or unlicensed;
  • That the driver was negligent in his operation of the vehicle; and
  • That the driver’s negligence was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries and/or damages. 

Can an Employer be Sued Under a Negligent Entrustment Theory?

Anyone, including an employer, who entrusts a vehicle to another may be liable for negligent entrustment if the driver is involved in an accident.  Employers may also by liable under the theories of respondeat superior and negligent hiring. 

The theory of respondeat superior makes an employer liable for the conduct of his employees while they are acting within the scope of their employment.  An employer may be liable for the conduct of an employee under the theory of negligent hiring if he did not exercise due care in his hiring and retention practices. 

Damages for Negligent Entrustment

If an owner of a vehicle is found to have negligently entrusted it to a driver who caused an accident, he may be liable for compensatory damages and pain and suffering.  Compensatory damages are meant to compensate an accident victim for his actual losses as well as the losses he is reasonably expected to suffer including: 

  • Medical bills;
  • Prescription costs;
  • Lost wages; and
  • Property damage. 

Damages for pain and suffering, also known as non-economic damages, are meant to compensate a victim for the physical and emotional pain associated with the injuries he suffered as a result of the accident.  Pain and suffering generally includes: 

  • The physical pain endured by the plaintiff as a result of his injuries and the treatment for his injuries;
  • The emotional pain and trauma caused by the accident, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • The psychological and emotional impact of permanent disfigurement and scarring or the loss of a limb; and
  • The potential shortening of life. 

If the owner of the vehicle is found to have recklessly entrusted the vehicle to the driver, he may also be liable for punitive damages. 

Getting Legal Help

If you have been injured in an accident and believe you have a claim for negligent entrustment, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney.  A personal injury attorney will review the facts of your case, advise you of your legal rights, and represent you in settlement negotiations and, if necessary, at trial.

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