Employer Liability for DWI Accidents Part 2: Negligent Entrustment
Negligent entrustment of a vehicle basically means that car owner allows an unsafe driver to use the car. When that driver causes an auto accident, the car owner is responsible for the harm caused. This applies to all owners and innocent victims including employers and employees.
Basic Requirements for Negligent Entrustment Claim
The requirements are seemingly pretty straightforward of a negligent entrustment claim. However, as in all legal claims, the devil is in the details. Here are the basic requirements
- There was an accident caused by the driver,
- The owner permitted the negligent driver to use the vehicle, and
- The owner knew or should have known that the driver would operate the vehicle in a negligent manner causing unreasonable risks to others.
Each of these can get more complex and contentious when it comes to proof that these requirements have been met.
Proof of Negligent Entrustment
To prove negligent entrustment, you must show that both requirements have been met. The first need not be discussed since it may be presumed that an accident occurred which is the basis for the negligent entrustment claim.
Permission to Use the Vehicle
Permission to use the vehicle is essential to a claim for negligent entrustment. If the driver took the car without the owner’s permission, there is not negligent entrustment. Permission can get a little tricky to prove.
For instance, in the case of an employer, there may be restrictions or outright prohibitions on driving the car. In that case, there probably no permission. On the other hand, there can be implied permission when there is a pattern or practice that deviates from those restrictions. Implied permission can come in a number of ways.
First, if the restrictions or prohibitions are routinely violated, then implied permission would apply. Second, the nature of the business and purposes of the driver may indicate a reasonable expectation that the vehicle would be driven in an unsafe manner. Although there are many possibilities here, the best example for both of these is DWI driving following company outings or business entertainment. Finally, permission may be implied from conduct, including a lack of objection.
Knew of Should Have Known Driver Was Unsafe
Proof that the owner of the vehicle knew or should have known must be proved as well for negligent entrustment. It may take some coaxing but there are many cases where the owner knew and admits to knowing the driver was unsafe.
On the other hand, there are those that will deny the plain truth. This is where the “should have known” standard comes in. Proving the owner should have known of the dangerous driving habits of the driver is quite a bit easier than proving knowledge in those cases where the owner is dishonest or perhaps just clueless.
Proof of this element can be done through some investigative research on the driver’s driving history, the driver’s history of alcohol and drug use, prior accidents and DWI’s…, and the relationship between the owner and the driver that would suggest knowledge or awareness of the dangers.
Seek Legal Guidance
The elements of proof can get complicated. Trust that the insurance company is going to fight each element. Trust also that the insurance adjuster is not your friend and is not looking out for you. It is important to seek the guidance of an attorney experienced in auto accident and personal injury law.
For cases involving serious personal injuries or wrongful death in New Mexico, Collins & Collins, P.C. can help. We can be reached online or by phone at (505) 242-5958.