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Are you Liable for Allowing A Drunk Person to Drive Your Car?

Negligent entrustment is the type of thing that one would generally associated with a younger, less experienced adult. negligent entrustment is when a person allows a person to take control of a vehicle when that person is in no shape to operate it. That usually means the person taking control is drunk or otherwise intoxicated. The liability arises when there is a resulting car accident, injuries, and damages.

Picture the likely scenario. A group of twenty-somethings are partying at a football game. They're tailgating before the game, drinking throughout the game, and then having a few more after the game at the car. The owner of the vehicle does not feel he's able to drive safely. Another party asserts that he is well able to operate the vehicle and so the owner gives him the keys. Unfortunately, the non-owner driver is intoxicated and in no shape to operate the vehicle. In driving out of the stadium parking lot, he's strikes a significantly injures a pedestrian. The injured then sues the party who owns the car and "entrusted" it into the possession of his intoxicated friend.

There are other plausible scenarios, of course, and this is just one. The law says that in order to establish negligent entrustment, a plaintiff has the burden of proving (1) that the defendant had control of the vehicle in question; and (2) that the entrustor had actual knowledge of the unfitness of the entrustee.

Without the experience of litigating these cases, you might naturally be thinking that the party who owned the car didn't necessarily know the driver was intoxicated because he (the owner) had been drinking, too. Well, that's probably not going to fly as an excuse from the jury's perspective, particularly since the owner apparently became voluntarily intoxicated with no realistic plan of a sober driver getting them home.

It's important that you understand that the purpose of seeking a negligent entrustment action is to extend liability to the owner of the vehicle, instead of just the driver. It also may be relevant to your case to know that these cases do include action outside of intoxication.

Think, for example, about this hypothetical. An individual is simply an awful driver. Every time he gets behind the wheel, he's caused an accident. This has resulted in his driver's license being suspended. Nonetheless, he needs something at the store and asks his friend if he can borrow his car. The friend, knowing how terrible of a driver he is and also that his license is suspended, feels bad for him and, knowing the store is less than a mile away, agrees. Then the unlicensed friend hits a pedestrian who was crossing the street in a crosswalk. Again, same analysis.

This theory is helpful to understand from all perspectives. If you are a party who has been injured in a car accident, you will need to do some research as to who actually owns the vehicle. If a person who owns the vehicle is a different person than who was driving the vehicle, there may be an additional insurance policy to identify against which you may be able to submit a claim and recover.

If you're the owner of a vehicle, it's helpful to know that by letting someone driver your car who is not able to drive, you put yourself at risk of someone getting injured in a car accident and then seeking damages from you. And, lastly, if you 're one who is intoxicated or simply a horrible driver, you put your friend at risk when you ask to drive their car. When someone is subsequently injured, your friend may be liable.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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