Many auto accident cases are more complicated than they seem at first. While some involve just the drivers of the vehicles that crashed into each other, others involve third parties that did not directly cause the accident. One common situation in which this may be the case is when an individual is driving someone else’s car. In such cases, it may be possible to hold the owner of the vehicle liable under the legal theory known as negligent entrustment.
Georgia law allows a plaintiff to hold an individual or business liable for an injury or death in which that party was negligent in allowing someone to drive their vehicle whom they knew was unfit to operate the vehicle safely. Determining liability in an auto accident case in which there are multiple parties involved can be very challenging, however, and in a case like this, it is important for an injured individual to get an experienced attorney involved early on after the accident, so they can go to work immediately to build the strongest possible claim.
Proving a Negligent Entrustment Claim in Georgia
In order to succeed with a negligent entrustment personal injury action, several elements must be proven:
- The defendant (who is accused of negligently entrusting the vehicle to another individual) owned or had control over the vehicle in question.
- The driver of the vehicle was incompetent, incapable, or otherwise unfit to operate the vehicle safely.
- The defendant had actual knowledge of the driver’s inability to operate the vehicle in a safe manner.
- The unsafe driver’s actions were the proximate cause of the crash that injured the plaintiff or killed the plaintiff’s family member.
Most often, proving that the driver was unfit to safely operate the vehicle is among the most challenging aspects in a case like this. Here are some examples of individuals that might fall into a category like this:
- A person who lacks the experience and/or training to be operating the vehicle.
- A person who does not possess a valid driver’s license.
- A person who has a medical condition (such as epilepsy) that makes them susceptible to seizures while driving.
- An elderly individual.
- A person who has a history of driving recklessly.
- A person who is intoxicated and/or has a history of driving while intoxicated.
The doctrine of negligent entrustment often comes into play with drunk driving accident cases. Intoxication is clearly a physical impairment that renders an individual incapable of safely operating a vehicle. So, if a vehicle owner allows someone who they know is intoxicated to drive their vehicle, they can be held liable for any injuries or deaths that result from a crash caused by the drunk driver.
Negligent entrustment might also be used in a case in which the owner of a vehicle loaned the car to someone who they know has a history of habitual drunk driving or reckless driving, even if the individual was not intoxicated at the time they gained control of the vehicle. It may be more difficult to connect the dots in a case like this, but if it can be shown that the owner had direct knowledge of the driver’s history, then there is a good chance that they could be held liable.
Negligent Entrustment and Commercial Vehicle Accidents
The doctrine of negligent entrustment is often used in cases in which there is an employer/employee relationship between the owner and the driver of the vehicle. For example, if the driver of a large commercial truck (that is owned or leased by a trucking company) crashes into another vehicle and causes catastrophic injuries, the careless actions of the truck driver might be just one of several contributing factors.
Upon further investigation, it might be found that the driver was not adequately trained for the job and/or that individual had a prior record that should have precluded them from being hired in the first place. So ultimately, responsibility for the accident could fall upon the negligence of the trucking company that hired the driver.
Contact a Skilled and Knowledgeable Georgia Car Accident Attorney
If you or someone close to you suffered injury in an auto accident in Georgia, there might be more than one party that could be responsible, and there could be other factors that make the case more complicated. Before dealing with the insurance company for the other driver, it is very important to at least speak with an experienced attorney to review your case and discuss your legal options.
At Stein & Fox Accident Attorneys, we have several years of experience successfully representing car accident victims in Atlanta and nearby communities. Our firm is focused exclusively on personal injury law, and we work closely with our clients, taking the time to thoroughly investigate their claims and exploring every potential legal avenue toward recovering maximum compensation.
For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, message us online or call our office today at (770) 961-1700. We look forward to serving you!