In most cases, an owner of a vehicle has the right to entrust that vehicle to another person. However, the situation becomes problematic if the owner of the vehicle loans that vehicle to someone who should not be driving. While negligent drivers are usually held accountable for the damage they cause in an accident, when the owner of the vehicle is aware that the driver should not be driving, the owner can be found guilty of negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle.
When a vehicle is involved in negligent entrustment, it is usually because the owner of the vehicle is aware or should have been aware that the driver is unable to drive. When the driver is impaired or has a history of drinking and driving, the owner of the car may be accountable for the accident since the owner knows of the driver’s history of recklessness or incompetence. Proving negligence is much easier if the owner hands the keys to someone who is already impaired or otherwise unable to drive. Proving negligent entrustment is more difficult when the borrower is sober when he or she receives the car but later stops at a bar to drink.
Commercial businesses may also be guilty of negligent entrustment. For example, a trucking company that provides a truck to a driver who is not properly licensed may be found guilty of negligent entrustment if an accident occurs.
Elements of Negligent Entrustment
Negligent Entrustment must include the following elements:
(1) the entrustment of a vehicle by the owner;
(2) to an unlicensed, incompetent, or reckless driver;
(3) that the owner knew or should have known to be unlicensed, incompetent, or reckless; and
(4) the driver was negligent on the occasion in question; and
(5) the driver's negligence proximately caused the accident and plaintiff's injuries.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Mayes, 236 S.W.3d 754, 758 (Tex. 2007); Schneider v. Esperanza Transmission Co., 744 S.W.2d 595, 596 (Tex. 1987); Williams v. Steves Indus., Inc., 699 S.W.2d 570, 571 (Tex. 1985).
If all elements are in place, the driver, the owner, or both may be found liable for damages.
Proving responsibility in these cases may be a challenge. An attorney who is experienced with personal injury litigation is crucial when prosecuting or defending a negligent entrustment case.
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