Negligent Entrustment of a Motor Vehicle

Negligent entrustment occurs when a party entrust their own property like a car, for example, to a person known by the loaner to be a danger to himself or others when using that property. Negligent entrustment attorneys are the legal professionals that handle these particular types of lawsuits. Basically, these are cases that involve the owners consigning certain types of property.

Crashed police vehicle.
Photo of sheriff's vehicle after a car crash.

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It could be a gun that you entrust to a mentally ill person. Or it could be a school child where an administrator trusts a child molester with kids. And sometimes it involves a private or commercial vehicle entrusted to a known reckless person.

In that case, an owner assigns the individual with the use of the vehicle for a temporary period. During this time, the actual owner of the motor vehicle has no use of it.

But then a third party gets injured by the loaned vehicle. In that case, the driver is usually responsible and not the owner.

  • But exceptions can apply.

First of all, we have to understand that California is a "permissive use state." So this means that anytime someone takes your car, with or without permission, they are deemed to have rights to drive it. So insurance should cover that vehicle up to the insurance policy limits.

Of course, as with any rule, it can be abrogated. Examples include cases like when the auto gets stolen. In a situation like that, the thief does not become covered.

Employer/Employee Liability Distinguished.

Exceptions can also apply in cases of master and servant liability. In some cases, liability attaches to a vehicle owner as a real party in interest.

For example, in a delivery vehicle case, the delivery person is often an employee. Also, the vehicle is usually a company car as well. So in that case, the owner becomes liable for the actual acts of the employee in the course and scope of employment.

Insurance covers up to policy amounts. But the company is also at risk beyond policy limits. So in that case, the owner becomes liable for the actual acts of the employee in the course and scope of employment. Insurance covers up to policy amounts. But the employer is now at risk beyond policy limits.

How Do You Contrast Negligent Entrustment?

Contrast employer-employee rules with a private party loan case. In that case, a friend lends a friend a vehicle. The car owner is only liable up to his vehicle policy amounts. Hence, the case against the loaning friend gets dismissed.


What if the vehicle owner knew or should have known the driver had a suspended license? What if the owner got the driver drunk and handed the driver the keys with conviction?

In cases like that, we have a problem. Because the owner knew of the danger, the vehicle owner negligently entrusted the vehicle after knowledge of risk. So in that case, injury lawyers often seek to obtain dollars beyond the policy amounts.

Often there are catastrophic injuries to clients when a nut is allowed to get behind the wheel. Sometimes if it is reckless enough, courts may even allow extraordinary damages for the transference. So these types of lawsuits have extra teeth in them.

And this is due to the fact the owner helped cause the damage by loaning out the injury causing device.

Understanding Negligent Entrustment Lawyer Duties.

Negligent entrustment attorneys handle lawsuits involving the owner of certain types of property. For example, we sue the owner of a motor vehicle who consigns a dangerous individual with a car.

But before the conveyance, the owner must know the person is a reckless driver. During this time a third party gets injured by the vehicle, and that is when we run into these problems.

Negligent Entrustment Lawsuits EXPLAINED.

This type of lawsuit will be against a negligent party. So here, the plaintiff (injured party) must show proof. Plaintiff's burden is to prove the truth of the matter asserted. The definitions are under the general principals of negligence.

They must demonstrate a theory of negligent entrustment. So Plaintiff must show the owner knew the individual driver was careless or reckless.

What are the Two Theories of Negligent Entrustment?

There are two fundamental theories of entrustment. Either method can establish liability. But these may depend on what state the injured party resides.

These theories include:

  • Actual Knowledge: Using this theory the plaintiff will need to show proof. So it had to be to an individual they knew unable to operate the motor vehicle safely. To prove this, it had to be a temporary loan. But the plaintiff must show the individual had a mental capacity issue. So it had to be something preventing them from operating a vehicle safely. But it could also be proof the driver was inexperienced or had a poor driving record.
  • Constructive Knowledge: This theory does not require the vehicle owner to have prior knowledge. So direct, particular notice of reckless or careless tendencies is not mandatory. Instead, this focuses on if it is a commonly known fact in the community. When this gets proven, the owner may then still become liable for giving over the car.

How Do You Find a Great Negligent Entrustment Attorney?

When you or a loved one has gotten into in a motor vehicle accident, many things are at play. The first thing you must do is find out who has money to pay. But this type of case is complicated.

The personal injury advocate will be able to evaluate the circumstances of the accident. Next, they can determine if the actual owner is liable under these legal requirements.

Call a personal injury lawyer at Ehline Law Firm to learn more at (213) 596-9642.


CNA Risk Control Bulletin