Cranwell & Moore P.L.C., Attorneys at Law

What is negligent entrustment?

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While you may not realize it at the moment, you take a risk anytime to choose to drive on Vinton's roads and highways. That risk may not necessarily arise because of your own driving skills, but rather from the lack of skill (or simple negligence) of others. Perhaps nothing is more frustrating than learning that a driver that hit you had a history of poor driving performance. Even more infuriating than that can be the knowledge that someone allowed such a poor driver to continue to have access to a vehicle. 

Could such an action also be viewed as a form of negligence? A legal principle exists known as "negligent entrustment," which allows you to assign vicarious liability to a person who permitted a driver that was known to drive recklessly (or was just an overall bad driver) to use their vehicle. It may seem odd placing blame for a car accident on one who was not physically present when it actually occurred, yet a strong argument might be made that allowing a reckless driver access to a vehicle is further enabling their dangerous behavior. 

Yet the simple fact that a driver that caused an accident was loaned the vehicle they were in does not mean that negligent entrustment applies to a case. The standard for citing it was set by a 1991 ruling issued by the Supreme Court of Virginia. It established that the "test of liability is whether the owner knew, or had reasonable cause to know, that he was entrusting his car to an unfit driver likely to cause injury to others." Notice how emphasis is placed on the owner knowingly entrusting a vehicle to another. Thus, if the driver that hit you was using another's vehicle without that person's permission. negligent entrustment would not apply. 

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