For car accident victims in California, the desire to seek legal action against those responsible for their collisions is often overshadowed by their immediate needs to deal with their injuries and/or the damage to their vehicles. Yet often the expenses associated with the latter require them to revisit the former.
A problem arises, however, if and when they discover that the drivers that caused their accidents were not in their own vehicles at the time. This may speak to the drivers’ abilities to compensate them for their accident expenses. From this dilemma comes the inevitable question of whether accident victims can then hold the owners of the vehicles liable.
The definition of negligent entrustment
Thanks to a legal principle known as “negligent entrustment,” one might indeed do that. According to the International Risk Management Institute, negligent entrustment is the failure of a vehicle owner to exercise appropriate caution when loaning their cars to another. That failure then qualifies the owner for liability should the one entrusted with their vehicle subsequently cause an accident.
California’s negligent entrustment standard
One might read this and immediately assume that any accident in which the responsible party is not in their own vehicle falls under this principle. Yet that is not the case. Each state establishes its own standard for applying negligent entrustment to car accident cases. Per California’s Civil Jury Instructions, a plaintiff citing this principle must prove the following:
- The responsible driver demonstrated negligence in operating the vehicle
- The driver drove the vehicle with the owner’s permission
- The owner knew (or had reason to know) of the driver’s dangerous driving tendencies
- The owner still permitted the driver to use the vehicle
- The driver’s negligence was a proximate cause of the accident at issue
This standard would exclude any case where one drove a vehicle without the owner’s permission.