When a vehicle owner allows another person to use the owner’s car, the owner may be held to be civilly liable if the person causes an accident if certain circumstances apply. California recognizes the doctrine of negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle. In cases in which the circumstances fit the law, the vehicle’s owner may be named as a co-defendant with the driver to whom the owner loaned the car. This can help to maximize the potential recovery by having additional sources.
California case law indicates that a person is not allowed to let another person drive his or her vehicle if the owner knows or should know that the borrower is likely to place others at an unreasonable risk of danger because the driver is incompetent or unfit to drive. An example could include loaning a vehicle to a friend who has had multiple drunk driving convictions, numerous speeding tickets or who has no valid license. Several specific prohibitions are outlined in the California Vehicle Code at sections 14606 – 14608.
In order to prove negligent entrustment in an auto accident case, the plaintiff must be able to show that the owner gave permission to the driver to use the vehicle. He or she must also show that the owner either knew or should have known that the driver was incompetent or unfit to drive. The plaintiff must then prove that the driver’s incompetence resulted in an accident and that the plaintiff’s injuries directly resulted from it.
If a driver is uninsured or underinsured, the ability to name a vehicle’s owner as a defendant in the lawsuit may help an injured plaintiff to recover damages for his or her losses. Even if the negligent driver is insured, having additional sources of coverage may help when the policy limits are not sufficient to cover all of the losses caused by the accident. This may help an injured victim to secure fair compensation for his or her losses.